Acts of violence in the form of rioting and looting have been erupting across the United States over the past six months, while the pandemic has exacerbated underlying tensions that have steadily escalated since the 2016 election. The anarchy unfolding on the front lines of this civil unrest is the result of an adoption of radical ideas that were once the antithesis of America’s promise of liberty. Although Canada may seem insulated from the more extreme expressions of this trend, we should be wary of the trials of our southern neighbour, bound as we are in proximity and ideology.
Fringe elements are emerging from the shadows, emboldened by biased media and the autonomy of masks, both literal and figurative. The result is an America divided against itself, spurred on to fervour and rage, unable to empathize with the other side of the ideological fence. The escalation of violence has given credence to the hypothesis that the country is inching toward civil war, replete with the anger and hatred resulting from the fracturing of society across ideological lines.
From the chaos of Seattle’s short-lived Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone to mass rioting and looting in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Portland, sincere protest has turned violent and destructive, directed by bad actors keen to capitalize on the underlying tensions brewing across the country for their own purpose of undermining Western democracy and values. Pre-pandemic Canada had a taste of this turmoil in the rail blockades that effectively paralyzed the country’s major supply chain earlier this year.
The College Connection
Once bastions of higher learning and debate, universities and colleges have abandoned the pursuit of truth for the pursuit of justice. On the surface these two concepts may seem congruent, but this shift in focus away from higher learning has created an intolerant student body whose ideas are increasingly fostered and bolstered in a vacuum.
Universities have taken a very hard turn to the left over the past half century and students, once encouraged to learn and think independently, are increasingly groomed as activists for perceived ills and social justice movements. This framework of activism is embedded within academia, especially in the humanities where fields like critical theory advocate a worldview that reduces human interaction to a mere contest for power—a fundamental struggle between the oppressor and oppressed.
This trend of activism over education has evolved in recent years where conservative events featuring the likes of Ben Shapiro and Jordan Peterson are routinely preceded by student riots. At Toronto’s Wilfrid Laurier University in 2017, teaching assistant Lindsay Shepherd was chastised and disciplined by the university’s administration for showing a three-minute clip of Peterson’s appearance on “The Agenda” with Steve Paikin. It was a watershed moment that made national news and pulled the lid off Laurier’s efforts to limit free speech.
The fevered and dogmatic insistence that conservative ideas have no place in institutes of higher learning has been met with little resistance among faculty and administration, who seem either pleased with this turn of events or are too fearful to speak out. As for students, there is no attempt on their part to engage in any level of discourse or debate—only an insistence that conservative thought be banned from the public sphere. In a bait-and-switch move, the ideas that emboldened this activism have been insulated from challenge or critique, rendering their proponents absolute in their moral superiority.
Invigorated by their newfound power, these radicals capitalized on the implicit permission granted by authorities and expanded their demands to society at large. This narrow worldview has now spilled into the streets of America, where violence has been encouraged and condoned in the name of social justice.
Propensity for Violence
America seems to be becoming increasingly comfortable with violence as a means to either right historical wrongs or punish those who are on the incorrect side of the political divide.
Many social movements have roots in valid concerns that stem from long-standing inequality and oppression. The death of George Floyd and the ensuing outrage was undeniably representative of the impact slavery and segration has left on the United States. This is dark history that should not be ignored or cast aside
But addressing legitimate grievances is not served by reactionary activism that disavows the inherent complexity required to resolve these problems in truly meaningful and sustainable ways. While our baser natures lean toward violence and tyranny, our rational and logocentric instincts promote broadmindedness, reflection, and productive action. It is alarming to see how readily we are teetering toward the former.
A Better Way Forward
It is imperative to take a sober look at the forces that seek to divide society along ideological lines be they political, racial, or otherwise. These forces divide people while decimating the fragile cohesion of democratic nations that have found a system of government that rarely relies on force to control its citizens.
The recipe for this type of unethical activism has been refined over a century of revolutionary struggle, the kind that engulfed Eastern Europe under the communist block. Marxists refined their tactics through repeated struggles to overthrow capitalist systems of government. Where they succeeded, bloodshed, poverty, and civil strife ensued. History is conclusive on this point.
In order to successfully navigate this period of history we must put an end to the arbitrary divisions being promulgated by the media, educational institutions, and government, and recognize the motivations of those who would see the American ideal disintegrate.
At its roots and according to its Constitution, America is the land of the free. But that freedom requires nurture and decisive action when under threat. It demands the courage of the individual to question the status quo presented by media and institutions who have fallen prey to ideologies antithetical to the values of democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity, and equality. In these trying times, it is individual citizens who will bring us back from the precipice and instil a greater sense of rationality into the discourse. There is nowhere else to turn when the collective mob has failed.
Ryan Moffatt is a journalist based in Vancouver.
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.