Ed Driscoll

Of Campus Utopians and Leftwing Fruitopians

“Today’s liberals have a utopian impulse but it only comes out in hints and nods. If you look for it, you won’t find it. But if you relax your eyes, like with one of those posters showing hidden spaceships, it will emerge in plain sight,” Jonah Goldberg writes in his latest G-File. “I think the current model for liberal utopianism is the college campus,” a “Potemkin existence” that’s “only possible because of a vast network of wealth-generating forces off campus and under-appreciated hard-working people on campus:”

There’s a certain kind of elite student who takes himself very, very seriously. Raised on a suite of educational TV shows and books that insist he is the most special person in the world — studies confirm that Generation Y is the most egocentric and self-regarding generation in our history — he is away from home for the first time, enjoying his first experience of freedom from his parents. Those same parents are paying for his education, which he considers his birthright. Shelter is provided for him. Janitors and maids clean up after him. Security guards protect him. Cooks shop for him and prepare his food. The health center provides him medical care and condoms aplenty. Administrators slave away at finding new ways for him to have fun in his free time. He drinks with abandon when he wants to, and the consequences of his bacchanalia are usually somewhere between mild and nonexistent. Sex is as abundant as it is varied. If he does not espouse any noticeably conservative or Christian attitudes, his every utterance in the classroom is celebrated as a “valuable perspective.” All that is demanded of him is that he pursue his interests and, perhaps, “find himself” along the way. His ethical training amounts to a prohibition on bruising the overripe self-esteem of another person, particularly a person in good standing with the Coalition of the Oppressed (blacks, Latinos, Muslims, women, gays, lesbians, transsexuals, et al.). Such offenses are dubbed hate crimes and are punished in a style perfected in Lenin’s utopia: through the politicized psychiatry known as “sensitivity training.”

But even as this sensitivity is being cultivated, the student is stuffed to the gills with cant about the corruption of “the system,” i.e., the real world just outside the gates of his educational Shangri-La. He is taught that it is brave to be “subversive” and cowardly to be “conformist.” Administrators encourage kitschy reenactments of 1960s radicalism by celebrating protest as part of a well-rounded education — so long as the students are protesting approved targets, those being the iniquities of “the system.” There is much Orwellian muchness to it all, since these play-acting protests and purportedly rebellious denunciations of the status quo are in fact the height of conformity.

“The elite college kids I have in mind are the most dependent people in the world, the beneficiaries of every kind of affluence, financial, social, even civilizational and yet they think they are independent free-agents,” Jonah adds. Read the whole thing, including the passage before the above-quoted material, on the origins of JFK and RFK’s signature phrase, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why . . . I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

No wonder the Illinois-based Evanston Now news site reports that “Neighbors said to fear ‘transient academics”:

Plans for an extended stay hotel in downtown Evanston are drawing fears from some that it will attract the wrong kind of academics as guests.

The Southeast Evanston Association, in an email message to its members, says neighbors need to assure that the establishment will carry “a hotel brand that will maintain a high quality of business, and not devolve into cheap housing for transient academics.”

Eschaton immanentizing utopian hobos armed with slide-rules are the scariest of all. (Perhaps seven years of the Big Bang Theory also put local Evanston residents off of the idea of transient academics huddling in their midst.)

Of course, any ideology that seeks to immanentize the eschaton and build the impossible — heaven on earth — has a huge religious component to it, and we’ll explore some of the zany sub-religions of leftism, right after the page break.

One question I have — and I’m not sure if there’s a definitive answer: is leftism one giant religious substitute as Dennis Prager has argued, or does it contain within its fasces numerous sub-religions and cults?

I’m leaning towards the latter. The late Michael Crichton perceptively noted the similarities between environmentalism and religion. Several conservative pundits, particularly Jamie Glazov, who wrote a book on the topic, have spotted the similarities between the left and Islamofascism. (Osama bin Laden’s post-9/11 lifespan was bracketed by Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) praising the terrorist mastermind in 2002 for “building schools, building roads, building infrastructure,” and the Washington Post noting “Osama bin Laden embraces his inner Al Gore” in late 2010 shortly before OBL was DOA.)

Beyond those religious interminglings, as far back as 1937, George Orwell was commenting — in discerningly negative terms — on the vegetarian obsessions of his fellow leftists. This passage from The Road to Wigan Pier reads like it could have been written yesterday:

The first thing that must strike any outside observer is that Socialism, in its developed form is a theory confined entirely to the middle classes. The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is either a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage and been converted to Roman Catholicism; or, still more typically, a prim little man with a white-collar job, usually a secret teetotaller and often with vegetarian leanings, with a history of Nonconformity behind him, and, above all, with a social position which he has no intention of forfeiting. This last type is surprisingly common in Socialist parties of every shade; it has perhaps been taken over en bloc from the old Liberal Party. In addition to this there is the horrible —- the really disquieting —- prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism’ and ‘Communism’ draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, ‘Nature Cure’ quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.

One day this summer I was riding through Letchworth when the bus stopped and two dreadful-looking old men got on to it. They were both about sixty, both very short, pink, and chubby, and both hatless. One of them was obscenely bald, the other had long grey hair bobbed in the Lloyd George style. They were dressed in pistachio-coloured shirts and khaki shorts into which their huge bottoms were crammed so tightly that you could study every dimple. Their appearance created a mild stir of horror on top of the bus. The man next to me, a commercial traveller I should say, glanced at me, at them, and back again at me, and murmured ‘Socialists’, as who should say, ‘Red Indians’. He was probably right-—the I.L.P. [Independent Labor Party] were holding their summer school at Letchworth. But the point is that to him, as an ordinary man, a crank meant a Socialist and a Socialist meant a crank. Any Socialist, he probably felt, could be counted on to have something eccentric about him. And some such notion seems to exist even among Socialists themselves. For instance, I have here a prospectus from another summer school which states its terms per week and then asks me to say ‘whether my diet is ordinary or vegetarian’. They take it for granted, you see, that it is necessary to ask this question. This kind of thing is by itself sufficient to alienate plenty of decent people. And their instinct is perfectly sound, for the food-crank is by definition a person willing to cut himself off from human society in hopes of adding five years on to the life of his carcase; that is, a person out of touch with common humanity.

Flash-forward over 75 years later, and you realize time stands still for the “Progressive” left. A recent Acculturated post by Abby W. Schachter declares “Veganism: The Religion of the Left.” Perhaps it’s not the religion, but one of many alternate religions that make up the utopian rubric of leftism:

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt wouldn’t be surprised, though. He’s done the research and found that there is a prevalent “liberal tendency to moralize food and eating, beyond its nutritive/material aspects.” He explains that “[w]hile the political right may moralize sex, the political left is doing it with food. Food is becoming extremely moralized nowadays, and a lot of it is ideas about purity, about what you’re willing to touch, or put into your body.” And Mary Eberstadt explains that mainstream culture now treats “eating as a way of life” much as religious rules used to function and that underneath specific food choices – vegan, organic, no-GMOs – is the effort to define food as governed not by taste but by universal moral law.

The producers of Chopped, though are making a mistake not too consider both religious and liberal orthodoxies as equally worthy of respect and deference. For how can it be that veganism is morally superior to eating halal or kosher food? Besides, the program is about entertainment. Rather than “challenge” kosher and halal chefs to forgo their ethics to cook prohibited food, why not challenge chefs who don’t abide by such restrictions to cook a kosher or vegan meal? At least that way no one would be asked to give up their principles to win $10,000.

And speaking of the left and food, David Thompson serves up “A Dining Room Comedy”:

Part of the issue with the word “serve” isn’t just that it’s sexist, it’s also linked to all the invisible work we take for granted and often don’t appreciate – from slavery to the waiters we don’t like to tip.

One for our collection of classic sentences, I think.

I felt like my wife was offering to perpetuate the very sexist ways that women have and continue to supply invisible and undervalued labour. And I wanted no part in that.

The bearer of these sorrows, David Dennis, has apparently spent an awful lot of time fretting about his wife putting food on his plate. I mean literally putting food on his plate, as when serving a typical meal. Given Mr Dennis’s rather pronounced Guardianista tendencies, it’s scarcely surprising that he’s also been fretting that other people, possibly people much like himself, may subsequently judge him for this patriarchal trespass, as if he and his wife were dreadful throwbacks to a darker, more primitive age:

The problem seems to arise when other people outside our marriage project their criticisms and expectations of gender onto our actions. Typically, they might only observe one action – like making the Thanksgiving plate – and make assumptions, much as I initially had. Usually, the assumption was that my wife and I were living some sort of twisted Stepford Wife life.

Will nothing short of a clearly visible gender-balanced serving rota stem this flow of tears? Or perhaps a mechanised buffet?

Is it the act of “serving” itself that makes people uneasy, or is it that the service is done while conforming to oppressive gender norms? Would my wife be viewed as any more or less “subservient” if she did something for me like rotate my tires, instead of the more stereotypical female act of making up my plate?

At home, when either of us cooks, neither of us thinks in terms of being subservient. Likewise, when a female friend or relative dishes up fine vittles, no-one present is acting out a theatre of oppression or compliant womanhood. That just isn’t the dynamic, not by a long chalk.

Don’t miss the end of Thompson’s post — the punchline is a hoot.

As the quote inevitably but incorrectly associated with G.K. Chesterton warns, “When a man ceases to believe in God, he doesn’t believe in nothing. He believes in anything.”

And one last item on the intersection of the left and food that indicates one huge roadblock — beyond reality, of course — preventing the eschaton from being immanentized anytime soon: as in Orwell’s time, the various factions of the left can’t stand each other, let alone their common enemy on the right: Jon Gabriel of Ricochet spots a leftwing “community organizer” chasing Trader Joe’s out of Portland, Oregon, via a combination of greed and racialist demands — and the otherwise bobo-friendly supermarket chain was happy to rhetorically flip the bird to them on the way out:

After a few months of racially tinged accusations and angry demands, Trader Joe’s decided it wasn’t worth the hassle. “We run neighborhood stores and our approach is simple,” a corporate statement said. “If a neighborhood does not want a Trader Joe’s, we understand, and we won’t open the store in question.”

Hours after Trader Joe’s pulled out, PAALF leaders arrived at a previously scheduled press conference trying to process what just happened. The group re-issued demands that the now-cancelled development include affordable housing, mandated jobs based on race, and a small-business slush fund. Instead, the only demand being met is two fallow acres and a lot of anger from the people who actually live nearby.

“All of my neighbors were excited to have Trader Joe’s come here and replace a lot that has always been empty,” said Nghi Tran. “It’s good quality for poor men.” Like many residents, Tran pins the blame on PAALF. “They don’t come to the neighborhood cleanups,” he said. “They don’t live here anymore.”

“There are no winners today,” said Adam Milne, owner of an area restaurant. “Only missed tax revenue, lost jobs, less foot traffic, an empty lot and a boulevard still struggling to support its local small businesses.” The store was to be built by a local African American-owned construction company.

Artist Kymberly Jeka insisted “this is not what the neighborhood people want. This is terrible.” Grayson Dempsey looked out of her window at the vacant lot: “I appreciate that (PAALF) is trying to talk about the origins of gentrification. That’s really essential, but they can’t stand up and say, ‘As residents of the King neighborhood, this is what we want.’ The residents of the King neighborhood want this to happen.”

Sometimes a community doesn’t want to be organized.

As Jim Treacher adds:

A successful business and its customers are punished for daring to practice capitalism unfettered by a bunch of left-wing demands. The people who would’ve built and operated the business in that neighborhood now won’t have those jobs. Job creation, hello? People living nearby will have one less place to buy affordable food. (Remember this story the next time some lefty complains about “food deserts.”) Inevitably, the victims of this stupidity are the ones who’ll be blamed for it somehow.

And all they get in return is a stupid press conference from a bunch of pompous, corrupt, racebaiting morons who have no idea what they’re talking about, complaining about something they destroyed.

It’s 2014 America in microcosm. Congratulations. Welcome to the future!

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why. I look at things that never were, and try to explain what idiocy on the left prevented them from happening.