Saturday, November 7, 2015

Our authoritarian future

Among our many great accomplishments -- good restaurants and craft beer have to rank high -- we baby boomers have a lot to atone for, at least in the raising of our children. Especially those children whose heads we filled with mush and dispatched to elite universities.

This morning brings a sadly believable "social justice" moment from Yale. In brief, a group of administrators sent out a very inclusive email over a bunch of signatures imploring students to be careful not to offend anybody by dint of their Halloween costume. A professor responded quite reasonably with what is actually a lament:

Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition.
The response, suffice to say, has been massive demonstrations, and demands that both the professor and her husband -- who did his duty and stood up for her -- resign their positions at Yale. Click through the link and read the whole thing.

This is not an isolated moment. The great organization FIRE has documented many such cases. And the response today is usually the same -- some combination of increasingly partisan outrage and counter-response, and some tut-tutting about "kids today." Both responses entirely miss the issue.

Your blogger is vastly more worried about the strong authoritarian impulse that seems to beat within the heart of today's undergraduates, at least at elite universities. Their first response when confronted with something they don't like is to appeal to authority. In doing so, they demand that the authorities impose a punishment on the target of their ire calculated not only to redress the particular perceived offense, but to intimidate third parties. In the linked case, they are demanding the termination of two professors because one of them voiced objections to a university policy, and the other one defended his wife. Seriously?

The term we would have used back in the day to describe these impulses -- and that is what they seem to be -- is fascistic.

The common response of my generation is "these delicate flowers are in for a real shock when they enter the real world."

I am more worried the effect this generation of students will have on the real world. We are breeding a generation whose first impulse is to appeal to power, and to demand that "the Man" crush people that the local majority finds offensive, or out of step, or in some undifferentiated way non-conforming in their ideas.

What are we going to do when these very bright and hard-working elite students become our judges, regulators, prosecutors, and politicians? Do we actually believe they are going to change in this fundamental respect? Highly unlikely. In the absence of a transforming catastrophe, like a world war, our basic generational sensibilities and impulses do not seem to change very much.

We have a lot to atone for, and if we live long enough, most of us with the inclination to express our opinions will feel the lash of this new authoritarian generation. The fascist impulse is back.


Guildofcannonballs said...

"Among our many great accomplishments -- good restaurants and craft beer have to rank high -- we baby boomers have a lot to atone for, at least in the raising of our children. Especially those children whose heads we filled with mush and dispatched to elite universities."

Luckily easily for you all you have to do is simply start with separating day from night, good from evil, my children (non-existent) from yours, your accomplishments of the production and creation of good restaurants to good restaurants that you would admit are not you or "your generations's" accomplishment, if any are possible conceivable.

It is extremely difficult, but considering the amount of humans that died without the capability to cogitate beyond "us" and "me" your blessings are quite seemingly infinite today. Viewage of the profound effects acting toward evil stoutly and courageously, Breitbart opposition, and supporting Truth and decency with humility potentially influence, yes indeed, "our" advantage advancing other-than the lack of God.

Because I know bad people do not want God advanced and work with an admirable amount of effort if the toil's map-determination is ignored, I would feel terrible if I combined the good and bad as one entity for ease-of-argument's potency.

Anonymous said...

TH, I don't believe these totalitarian impulses (and, since this "outrage" isn't really thought out, I call it an impulse) are really widespread among the young. Certainly many schools show up as worrisome on FIRE's reports, but the number of offenders within the schools seem small. Obviously I lack factual evidence in saying this, though, and a survey would be helpful. But it is true the Academy is over-concerned with offending fluidly-defined victim groups, or at least one hears the stories constantly.

A few prophylactic expulsions might put a lid on these really ugly incidents (I'm referring to the unhinged Yale girl) and the impulsive craziness would diminish, but a revival of civic education is the ultimate solution. The lefty definition of civic education (SJW focused, like my children endured at a Sacred Heart elementary school) isn't what I mean either, I'm referring to old-style "three branches of government and the Bill Of Rights" focus.

TigerHawk said...

I hope you are right. However, if the press accounts are accurate, around 10% of the Yale undergraduate population (ballpark) participated in the protests. That suggests that several times that number agree with the protests (since most people at such schools are hard to get out of the library). So I do think these attitudes are very common at elite universities. That said, I strongly suspect that far fewer undergraduates at even strong non-California elite state universities (e.g., Michigan, Wisconsin, UVA, UNC, UT-Austin, and so forth) think this way. But Ivy League grads are increasingly wired (by our increasingly credentialized society) to assume out-sized influence as adults. So I remain worried.

Phelps said...

The good news is that the kids who constantly run to the Man to assuage their fragile egos never actually become the Man.

The kids who run to tattle on the bullies never grow up to be cops. The bullies do.

Ib1netmon said...

"In the absence of a transforming catastrophe, like a world war,"

"Gotcha covered, there, buddy!" - Obama.

Rivenshield said...

I lived and worked in Silicon Valley for almost two decades, and watched the horrifying culture change take place.

I call them blue-state fascists for a reason, and will continue to do so.

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