Progressivism Madness by Way of Cultural Relativism or Multiculturalism
Scott Allen goes on to demonstrate how the next “core doctrine” of progressivism builds on the first. Postmodernism denies the existence of transcendent, objective truth or morality, so each identity group defines its own reality and morality, not subject to critique by outsiders. This is known as cultural relativism, or multiculturalism.
Even something as simple as enjoying food, clothing, or music from another ethnic group is taken to be an “act of oppression,” or in the parlance of the new religion of progressivism, “cultural appropriation.”
If a particular Muslim group practices female genital mutilation or honor killing, multiculturalism forbids any value judgment from outside that culture. After all, it is their culture—it is their reality. Who are we to judge? Somali-born Ayaan Hirsi Ali routinely challenges this belief.
At many American universities today, any critical examination pertaining to Islam, including Shariah and the treatment of women in Islam, is declared to be out of the realm of scrutiny. Examinations (i.e., freedom speech) frighten universities more than the litany of honor killings and wholesale abuse of women in so many parts of the Islamic world. Religion madness!
If some racial or ethnic groups suffer from higher rates of poverty, unemployment, drug addiction, or divorce, multiculturalism disallows laying blame on the beliefs or actions of those within the group. In keeping with the first “core doctrine” of group identity, individual belief or action isn’t available for consideration. Justice madness!
Rather, the blame must, by default, lie in the larger historical, social, or structural forces. This is why the new religion is seemingly obsessed with “systemic or structural” oppression or racism. To attribute negative outcomes to the beliefs or actions of those within the community is “blaming the victim,” the cardinal sin in the new religious orthodoxy.
Western Civilization as the Ultimate Source of Oppression
There is one major exception to the non-judgmental approach demanded by cultural relativism. The Judeo-Christian belief system comes in for very harsh critique, usually in the form of attacks against “Western civilization.” Because America’s history is part of the larger story of Western civilization, this explains the overwhelmingly critical view that adherents of the new religion of Progressivism have towards America and its history. American madness!
American history and culture, rooted in Judeo-Christian beliefs, is viewed as uniquely oppressive. That is the third “core doctrine,” or unquestioned given of the new religion. If this seems inconsistent, it will make more sense when you realize that this particular view is grounded less in postmodernism, and more in a neo-Marxist ideology. We’ll explore this further in the next section.
As Allen explains: To see the world through the lens of Marxism, either in its old or new form, is to see the world exclusively in terms of power relationships—a merciless, zero-sum world of domination, subjugation, and oppression.
In its original form, Marxism was framed in economic terms. The oppressors were bourgeois property owners and capitalists, and the oppressed were the subjugated “workers of the world.” The newer form of Marxism thriving today on university campuses worldwide identifies Western civilization, rooted in a Judeo-Christian belief system, as the ultimate source of oppression. After all, it was this particular culture that gave rise to the capitalist economic system viewed by Marxists new and old as rapacious and destructive.
Western civilization (including the history and culture of the United States) is held by adherents of the new religion to be uniquely oppressive, imperialistic, colonial, racist, sexist, classist, and patriarchal. It has created (in the words of a student activist at Claremont’s Pomona University), “interlocking systems of domination that produce the lethal conditions under which oppressed peoples are forced to live.” Third World madness!
You might think he’s describing life in North Korea, but you’d be wrong. He’s talking about life for minorities in America, from his vantage point as a student at one of America’s most elite institutions. Progressivism madness!
Redemption is Available, But Only Under Certain Conditions
If you happen to be a white, Christian (or Jewish), cisgender, heterosexual male, and you have anything positive to say about the contributions of Western civilization to human flourishing, expect to be labeled a “white supremacist.” You are imbued with a deep-seated cultural superiority and subconscious racism, sexism, and host of “phobias.” You have “privileges” that people of “marginalized identities” do not share, and you continue to enjoy these privileges at their expense. Racism madness!
You must confess and renounce your unconscious racism and white privilege. You must denounce America for her oppressive and violent history, and commit to working for her fundamental transformation, a sort of reverse pledge of allegiance to the flag (or at least a refusal to participate in that exercise which, for generations, marked the beginning of every school day). You must also actively “ally” with America’s many oppressed victims. This is what was seen in the 2020 Democratic Party debates and primaries. Democratic Party madness!
Everyone who is not a white, Christian, heterosexual male, is by definition, an oppressed victim. Women, Muslims, “people of color,” LGBTQ+ identity groups—all are victimized in a multitude of ways by the stealthy and diabolically oppressive systems and structures imposed by Western civilization. And while all non-white groups are oppressed, they are not oppressed equally. Diversity madness!
“Intersectionality” is the trendy new word coined to describe the complex matrix of oppression. A white woman is oppressed (because she is a woman), but she is not as oppressed as much as a black woman. A black woman who is also a lesbian is still more oppressed still.
According to The Hudson Institute’s Heather MacDonald, “individuals who can check off multiple victim boxes experience exponentially higher and more complex levels of life-threatening oppression than lower-status single-category victims.” And because victimhood accrues a host of benefits, including status and power, there is a kind of perverse competition—a “victimhood Olympics”—to be seen as the most oppressed of all.
As with all worldviews, this new religion defines a source of evil—Western civilization. Fighting against it gives adherents a sense of purpose, a mission that brings meaning to their lives. That brings us to the final “core doctrine” in next week's posts.