Ed Driscoll

Cinco de Nihilism

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

As President Obama, most Democrats, and most of the media proclaim it racist to enforce immigration laws, five students were sent home from school in Morgan Hill, California because they wore American flag bandannas and t-shirts, and refused to take them off or hide Old Glory. School officials considered the flag display provocative.

— “Students sent home for wearing American flag on Cinco de Mayo,” the American Thinker, May 6. 2010.

Northwestern University continued to stumble over diversity issues this week as Mexican students voiced disagreement with a campuswide letter that advised students not to celebrate Cinco de Mayo by engaging in racially-offensive activities, such as eating tacos and drinking tequila.

— “Latino student group says eating tacos is offensive to Mexicans,” the Daily Caller, yesterday.

Back in March, after a seven year old was suspended because he chewed his Pop Tart into the shape of a gun, Glenn Reynolds, the author of The Higher Education Bubble and The K-12 Implosion wrote:

In The K-12 Implosion, and also in these pages, I’ve noted that government-run public schools are facing a problem: There are more and more alternatives. It’s not so much that the public schools are getting worse, I’ve argued, as that the alternatives are getting better and more attractive.

But now I’m starting to wonder. Maybe the public schools are getting worse. At least, to judge from recent news reports, they seem to be getting crazier.

Ace has written extensively about the “the new aristocracy,” who build much of their power on the arbitrary nature of political correctness. PC can trump both law and common sense, and creates a series of bureaucratic fiefdoms, particularly in, but not limited to, the field of higher education. What is acceptable behavior in one fiefdom is anathema in other. It  keeps the commoners on their toes and gives the local PC burgomeister his power.

(It’s no coincidence, as several pundits have observed, that Barack Obama’s worldview was steeped in this milieu, and he wishes that the American government operated the same way as a college campus does. In other words, in his heart of hearts, he wishes he was America’s headmaster, not its president. See also: Wilson, Woodrow.)

As with many bad ideas, it’s been a staple of socialist Europe for a century or so. It took a while for it to arrive in the US, but back in 2010 Janet Daley of the London Telegraph wrote, “American politics has caught the British disease. Under Barack Obama, the phenomenon of class resentment is a live political issue:”

What is more startling is the growth in America of precisely the sort of political alignment which we have known for many years in Britain: an electoral alliance of the educated, self-consciously (or self-deceivingly, depending on your point of view) “enlightened” class with the poor and deprived. America, in other words, has discovered bourgeois guilt. A country without a hereditary nobility has embraced noblesse oblige. Now, there is nothing inherently strange or perverse about people who lead successful, secure lives feeling a sense of responsibility toward those who are disadvantaged. What is peculiar in American terms is that this sentiment is taking on precisely the pseudo-aristocratic tone of disdain for the aspiring, struggling middle class that is such a familiar part of the British scene.

Liberal politics is now – over there as much as here – a form of social snobbery. To express concern about mass immigration, or reservations about the Obama healthcare plan, is unacceptable in bien-pensant circles because this is simply not the way educated people are supposed to think. It follows that those who do think (and talk) this way are small-minded bigots, rednecks, oiks, or whatever your local code word is for “not the right sort”.

The petit bourgeois virtues of thrift, ambition and self-reliance – which are essential for anyone attempting to escape from poverty under his own steam – have long been derided in Britain as tokens of a downmarket upbringing. But not long ago in America they were considered, even among the highly educated, to be the quintessential national virtues, because even well-off professionals had probably had parents or grandparents who were once penniless immigrants. Nobody dismissed “ambition” as a form of gaucherie: the opposite of having ambition was being a bum, a good-for-nothing who would waste the opportunities that the new country offered for self-improvement.

But now the British Lefties who – like so many Jane Austen heroines looking down on those “in trade” – used to dismiss Margaret Thatcher as “a grocer’s daughter”, have their counterparts in the US, where virtually everybody’s family started poor. Our “white van man” is their Tea Party activist, and the insult war is getting very vicious. It is becoming commonplace now for liberals in the US to label the Tea Party movement as racist, the most damaging insult of all in respectable American life.

Both England and America may have gotten it from the initial same common carrier…

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…Though not to go all Hillary on you, ultimately, what difference does it make how the mental illness of PC was initially transmitted, now that it’s gone pandemic? As William F. Buckley once said, “In the hands of a skillful indoctrinator, the average student not only thinks what the indoctrinator wants him to think . . . but is altogether positive that he has arrived at his position by independent intellectual exertion. This man is outraged by the suggestion that he is the flesh-and-blood tribute to the success of his indoctrinators.”