In the British sit com Dad’s Army Private Fraser, the gloomy Scottish undertaker, has a catch phrase, ‘We’re doomed’.
It is easy to despair and think that we are doomed and that progressives have taken over the Western world.
Our media is painfully politically correct and relentlessly pushes a progressive agenda. If politicians utter a word out of line they are quickly brought to heel by a braying Twitter mob. When students demand safe spaces and trigger warnings and university authorities hasten to appease them it’s apparent our universities have become havens of progressivism.
Does this mean that progressivism has won the day? Not necessarily. If you succeed in shutting down public debate it could mean that you have won. It could also mean that you are well on the way to losing.
The remarkable thing about today’s public debate is that one side wants to stamp it out and enforce conformity of expression. Contrary views are met with cries of ‘No platform’. Even progressive warriors like Germaine Greer and Peter Tachell can fall afoul of the mob. The Index Librorum Probibitorum of the Roman Catholic Church was never half as effective as Twitter.
Last year, knowing that an invited speaker might criticise the concept of a ‘rape culture’ some students at Brown University demanded a safe space in which to shelter. This was to give students who might find comments ‘triggering’ a place to recuperate. The room was equipped with biscuits, colouring books, bubbles, Play-Doh, calming music, pillows, blankets and a video of frolicking puppies, as well as carers trained to deal with trauma.
One student who left the sanctuary and popped into the lecture hall to see what was going on had to retreat to the safe space. ‘I was feeling bombarded by a lot of viewpoints that really go against my dearly and closely held beliefs,’ she said. Thus we find that a student at a prestigious university was traumatised by hearing contrary views.
This is not the behaviour of an all conquering ideology. It is a sign of an ideology which sees the need to cocoon itself in a bunker of ideological conformity.
Producing people unable to engage in thoughtcrime may be the aim of progressivism. The result, however, will be a generation unable to engage in thought at all. Entrenched progressive dogma protected by Play-Doh and frolicking puppies is approaching breaking point.
Universities should exist not just so students can absorb facts or their lecturer’s opinions. A vital part of educational development is sharpening the student’s thought processes in the cut and thrust of debate, and broadening their vision. If people never have to engage with contrary ideas they will never learn to see the world through the eyes of others, and will be intellectually and socially stunted.
What happens when progressives emerge from their safe spaces and encounter reality where frolicking puppies can be in short supply? What will be their reaction when they have to meet contrary opinions? To change the world you have to learn how to engage the world. If you are unable to engage the world you live in an ineffectual intellectual ghetto.
Having abandoned the culture, traditions and moral norms of Western society progressives have nothing with which to replace them but contentless buzz words like, ‘social justice’, ‘cultural diversity’, ‘flexibility’ and ‘critical thinking’. Their very goals are self-defeating. The goal of multi-culturalism has morphed into a relentless drive to fillet Western cultural inheritance. The commitment to diversity results in a de-cultured standardless homogenisation.
The seeming triumph of progressives actually spells their defeat. The progressive elites in universities and the media are producing a generation of intellectual infants. These students think of themselves as radical progressives, the cutting edge of goodness in a corrupt society. In truth they are the willing foot soldiers of an elitist repression of thought.
If you can’t say it pretty soon you can’t think it. In Britain street preachers have been arrested for quoting the Bible on homosexuality. In France Brigitte Bardot, now an animal rights activist, was fined 30,000 euros for saying Islamic ritual slaughter was barbaric. In the USA 59% of college campuses restrict free speech. The silencing of legitimate expression is aimed at the enforced conformity of the unwilling.
The new orthodoxy seems on the surface to be all-conquering. Historically monolithic thought systems which shun reality have a habit of collapsing so completely that onlookers are astonished. The Scottish reformation was a remarkably peaceful event in a blood-soaked century. This was not because the Reformers were all powerful but because the seemingly impregnable established church collapsed when pushed. The totalitarian Soviet Union with its demand for total ideological conformity seemed impregnable, right up until it shattered.
Elites are by their nature isolated and open to self-delusion. Attempting to impose dogma doesn’t get people to agree, it only succeeds in getting everyone to mouth the acceptable slogans. This is no guarantee that everyone either understands or accepts them. Shutting down public debate may ensure that you win in the short term, but behind it all is the realisation that you have already lost.
Those who value the traditions and standards of Christian based Western culture need not despair. Progressivism is a façade, another empty shell ready to crack open.