Ed Driscoll

How the West was Lost

“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,” – William F. Buckley Jr. wrote in his 1959 book, Up From Liberalism, as Stacy McCain quoted in a 2013 post titled “Kafkatrapping’ and the Left’s Mental Assault Against America’s Future.”

And they’re certainly ushering in a grim Kafkaesque future, as these quotes and the left’s ongoing nuclear assault on small-town pizza parlor owners, florists and wedding photographers illustrate:

For the modern university tries to cater to students regardless of religion, sex, race, or cultural background, even regardless of ability. It is to a great extent a creation of the state and is fully signed up to the statist idea of what a society should be—namely, a society without distinction. It is therefore as dependent on the belief in equality as Cardinal Newman’s university was dependent on the belief in God. Its purpose is to create a microcosm of the future society, just as Cardinal Newman’s college was a microcosm of the gentleman’s world. And since our inherited culture is a system of distinctions, standing opposed to equality in all the spheres where taste, judgment, and discrimination make their claims, the modern university has no choice but to stand opposed to Western culture.

Hence, despite their innate aspiration to membership, young people are told at university that they come from nowhere and belong to nothing: that all preexisting forms of membership are null and void. They are offered a rite of passage into cultural nothingness, since this is the only way to achieve the egalitarian goal. They are given, in place of the old beliefs of a civilization based on godliness, judgment, and distinction, the new beliefs of a society based in equality and inclusion; they are told that the judgment of other lifestyles is a crime. If the purpose were merely to substitute one belief system for another, it would be open to rational debate. But the purpose is to substitute one community for another.

But what is the alternative? If the universities do not propagate the culture that was once entrusted to them, where else can young people go in search of it? Some thoughts in answer to that question were suggested by experiences that began for me in 1979. The writings of Foucault, Deleuze, and Bourdieu were then beginning to make waves at the University of London, where I taught. My students were being told on every side that there is no such thing as knowledge in the humanities and that universities exist not to justify culture as a form of knowledge but to unmask it as a form of power.

—Roger Scruton, “The End of the University,” First Things, April 2015 issue.

Madison was making this case not in the context of arguing for permitting the free exercise of religion but rather in the context of arguing against the establishment of any religion by law. His point was that no one ought to be compelled to affirm as true a religious tenet he took to be false and that no one should be compelled to participate in a religious rite that violated his own understanding of his religious obligations. This is not exactly an extension of the traditional Anglo-American case for toleration. It is a Madisonian correction to the Lockean ideal of religious toleration in a society with an established church.

But this is also the essence of the argument that a wedding vendor who wants to remain free to refrain from participating in a same-sex wedding would advance. The question of the definition of marriage is, for many people, a fundamentally religious question. It is, of course, also a civil question in our country. But some religiously orthodox wedding vendors are finding themselves effectively compelled by the civil authorities to affirm an answer to that question that violates their understanding of their religious obligations. They would like to be relieved of that compulsion, but they are being told they can’t be because the larger society’s understanding of the proper answer to the question should overrule the answer prescribed by their religious convictions, and if they want to participate as business owners in the life of the larger society they must give ground.

They are in this sense more like religious believers under compulsion in a society with an established church than like believers denied the freedom to exercise their religion. Liberals are in this respect right to say they’re not trying to kill religious liberty. They’re trying to take it back to something like the form it had in the Anglo-American world when the Anglo-American world had a formal state religion—except now the state religion is supposed to be progressive liberalism.

“The Church of the Left,” Yuval Levin, NRO, today.

Rape, of course, is an indisputably heinous act; because it forces a woman to engage in something she does not want to do, it must always be roundly decried and despised by all sane people.

But, that being the case, what shall we make of the fact that, for the most part, the very same entities who (disputed “rape culture” claims aside) quite rightly insist that a woman should never, ever be forced to engage in acts against her will, have pivoted toward Indiana to demand that “other” people be forced to engage in acts against their wills?

Should governments, or news agencies, or pundits for that matter, really be positioning themselves over people and telling them that if they do not submit to what is demanded of them — and engage willingly — then they will be forced to take it, and like it?

Doubtless someone will say, “these two issues are not at all the same.”

I’d argue that to the people being shoved down, they look exactly alike.

“How is the RFRA Issue Like the Rape Culture Issue?”, Elizabeth Scalia, The Anchoress, April 1st, 2015.

As Jonah Goldberg writes in his latest G-File, in 1944, poet W.H. Auden forecast the culture the left would assemble remarkably well:

Reason will be replaced by Revelation. Instead of Rational Law, objective truths perceptible to any who will undergo the necessary intellectual discipline, Knowledge will degenerate into a riot of subjective visions . . . Whole cosmogonies will be created out of some forgotten personal resentment, complete epics written in private languages, the daubs of schoolchildren ranked above the greatest masterpieces. Idealism will be replaced by Materialism. Life after death will be an eternal dinner party where all the guests are 20 years old . . . Justice will be replaced by Pity as the cardinal human virtue, and all fear of retribution will vanish . . . The New Aristocracy will consist exclusively of hermits, bums and permanent invalids. The Rough Diamond, the Consumptive Whore, the bandit who is good to his mother, the epileptic girl who has a way with animals will be the heroes and heroines of the New Age, when the general, the statesman, and the philosopher have become the butt of every farce and satire.

It didn’t happen by accident.