I realize this deviates somewhat from the normal topic of this blog, but as an ex-academic who sees many of these issues overlapping I feel it belongs here.
Brian Cox’s decision to boycott Warwick University gives me an idea. The hypersensitives overrunning and ruining academia today are a group of people who generally lack creativity, critical thinking skills, and the capacity for new and original ideas. Largely, they are just parasites badly co-opting the arguments of others and capable only of upholding the conservatism of their suburban backgrounds but with a thin coat of supposedly progressive paint. One does wonder if jealousy motivates them deep down. Not to mention that politicians are getting in on the action too like a pack of vultures.
Like their liberal precursor, Tipper Gore, they believe that the inherent corruption of ‘bad attitude’ in the public sphere will somehow compromise their righteous virtue, ignoring that being exposed to something is just as likely to make one reject it as accept it. It is, ironically, a remarkably evangelical attitude to have. After all, the rising crime rates and youth suicides of the 80s were quite obviously caused by the rampant neoliberal structural adjustment of the decade as well as a rough transition out of the last vestiges of the security of the industrial economy. Not to mention the revving up of the Drug War which did nobody any good. You know, actual real life factors. Politicians helped create that political environment but never once thought to blame themselves but rather shifted the blame to the entertainment industry.
Tipper once proclaimed herself indignantly to Jello Biafra as ‘a proud liberal Democrat.’ And she was right. Now, on the internet and festering in certain universities we see the new version of that type of ‘progressive’ stultification. The crisis of contemporary liberalism clearly illustrated. Unable to admit their ideology is now nothing but a group of intellectually bankrupt status-quo centrists trying to defend a philosophical and political program increasingly long in the tooth and clearly running out of ideas, as well as lacking the will to come up with new ideas or admit their mistakes, they resort to greater and greater levels of witch hunting in order to construct the fantasy that they are the only real moral option left. Everyone else is compromised because they don’t acknowledge your feelings like the liberals do. You special, special snowflake you.
But a future filled with austerity, increasing environmental emergency, the failure of populist movements to increase living situations in the post Arab Spring world or bring about actual change in the case of Occupy Wall Street, and little to no remaining desire on both the once euphoric right and left alike for using great power politics to enforce some idealist program of universal human rights, it must be said that the reality of the situation is that liberals of all stripes, right, left, and center, have shot their load. The conditions that enabled their delusions such preeminence in the 90s are passing and what you see now in both the neoconservative remnants of the establishment as well as the youthful enthusiasm of Tumblr is its death rattle. No wonder 90s nostalgia is so popular in my generation-people pine for a time when they could believe they were the center of the universe and ignore all the negatives of such a time period.
So, getting back to the point at the start, what if the ‘ideas class’ boycott universities who cave to hypersensitives en masse? Having no ideas of their own, and being the unwitting dupes of institutions and a political system hostile to different ideas, the student councils and universities would break before the people seeking speaking fees would. And considering how profit motivated universities are these days, that would be the necessary incentive for them to stop kowtowing to middle class teenagers whose life experience consists of pressing ‘reblog’ and thinking its noble to shelter themselves from ideas they don’t like.
Whether one likes it or not, the present consensus is breaking down. That doesn’t mean we can control what comes next. We can’t. We aren’t the center of a ‘narrative’ be it of progress or anything else. We are creatures that respond to external stimuli with instinct that we rationalize later. But what that does guarantee is that the future is full of painful truths who only the adaptable and intellectually self-critical and self-challenging will survive and thrive in.
So let’s end on a note that hypersensitives and Tipper Gore alike would hate!