The progressive lengthening, if not necessarily deepening, of education in North America and Western Europe has had at least one surprising effect: it has greatly increased the number of people with a totalitarian cast of mind. Our youngsters emerge from their education so heavily indoctrinated that they view the world though an ideological distorting lens ever afterwards.
The ideology du jour may change somewhat, but the monomaniacal mindset remains, like the grin of the Cheshire Cat. What the ideological obsession will be in ten years’ time is anybody’s guess, but we can be sure that, whatever it is, it will be promoted with ferocity and vengefulness towards those who do not accept it, or even mildly question its premises.
At the moment, a person’s attitude to transsexualism (as it used to be called) is the touchstone, at least for the intelligentsia, of his political virtue—which has become the only kind of virtue that counts these days, such trivial matters as private personal conduct being of no moral significance whatever.
Anyone nowadays who denies that a transsexual woman is a woman in precisely the same sense that, say, Jackie Kennedy was a woman, or denies furthermore that she was a woman from the day of her birth, appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, or believes that biology contributes anything whatever to the difference between men and women, is held to be almost indistinguishable, morally, from a Blackshirt or a member of the S.A.
As by now is well-known, revolutions tend to devour their young, and changing fashions in political orthodoxies tend to leave the previous generation of radicals and activists behind, to be treated in their turn as fascist reactionaries.
The believers in the latest orthodoxy think that that they have at last found the absolute political truth, and that their current point of view will impose its own mental thousand-year Reich on succeeding generations, only to be outflanked in an ever-decreasing period of time by a new radical doctrine.
As Stalin’s henchmen (or should I say henchpersons?) were executed in turn, so do radicals become reactionaries in the eyes of their successors.
Ostracized by the Guardian
A recent victim of this tendency is Suzanne Moore, a British journalist who calls herself a left-wing feminist. She has written for many years for the famous newspaper, the Guardian, that has increasingly become the Pravda of the British intelligentsia.
In response to one of her articles, 338 members of the newspaper’s staff signed a letter of protest to the editor, as a result of which she resigned. Who wants to work for an organization more than a third of whose staff complain about you to the boss?
But what was it that she wrote that was so offensive to the 338 delicate plants of the Guardian that they felt impelled to denounce her to her employer? The offending words were the following:
“The radical insight of feminism is that gender is a social construct—that girls and women are not fated to be feminine, that boys and men don’t have to be masculine. But we have gone through the looking-glass and are being told that sex is a construct. It is said that sex is merely assigned at birth, rather than being a material fact—actually, though, sex is recognisable in the womb (which is what enables foetal sex selection). Sex is not a feeling. Female is a biological classification that applies to all living species. If you produce large immobile gametes, you are female. Even if you are a frog. This is not complicated, nor is there a spectrum, although there are small numbers of intersex people who should be absolutely supported.”
It seems to me distinctly odd that anyone, let alone 338 members of the intelligentsia, should be so outraged by these deeply banal words that he or she was moved to protest them in such a way as to make life unpleasant for their author. The protest against them stated the following:
“We are… disappointed in the Guardian’s repeated decision to publish anti-trans views… the pattern of publishing transphobic content has interfered with out work and cemented our reputation as a publication hostile to trans rights and trans employees.”
In other words, to suggest that differences between male and female have any biological determinant is to be personally hostile to persons who wish to change their sex—a wish that in the view of most people can never, for biological reasons, be wholly satisfied, and therefore has a tragic dimension.
The suffix phobic has become an instrument of intellectual intimidation. It no longer means having an irrational fear of something, as in, say, claustrophobic, the suffering from an irrational fear of being in an enclosed space.
It has come to mean having the unreasoning and uncontrolled hatred of something, a hatred that will sooner or later lead to a Kristallnacht against the thing or people hated.
One does not discuss with the perpetrators of pogroms, one fights against them, and since prevention is better than cure, one prohibits them from even airing their views before they can pass to action.
One can easily imagine what the world would be like if the 338 little Lenins of the Guardian gained control of the world, the control that they no doubt think that they deserve and ought to have because of their own moral grandeur.
Lenin, be it remembered, thought that any derogation, however slight, from the true doctrine—that is to say, the doctrine that he himself elaborated—was utter betrayal of the cause. This is precisely the mindset of the 338 signatories of the letter of de facto denunciation to the editor of the Guardian.
As it happens, I am no great admirer of the work of Suzanne Moore, either in the matter of form or content. But that is not the point. I am old-fashioned liberal enough to defend her right to say what she thinks, and to defend her against the would-be Savonarolas (to change the historical analogy) of the Guardian, whose ambition is to fashion the world in their own image, and according to their own latest moral whim or enthusiasm.
What is more worrying is that our educational system seems to be churning out more and more such types, without any central direction to do so.
Theodore Dalrymple is a retired doctor. He is contributing editor of the City Journal of New York and the author of 30 books, including “Life at the Bottom.” His latest book is “Embargo and Other Stories.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.