Andy Divine doesn’t begin his latest essay here, but it is framed by the authorial duo of Haidt and Lukianoff and the title of their book uses an expression, that anyone who lived through the American ’60’s will recognise, as the purest kind of shaming Conservative agitprop: ‘coddling’. It also pays homage to that self-appointed Platonic Guardian Allen Bloom, whose book The Closing of the American Mind was once the urtext of another generation of Conservatives and Liberals, whose reason d’etre was to attack ‘Students’ as a cover for their failed policies and politics.
Haidt and Lukianoff note how humans are constructed genetically for this kind of tribal warfare, to divide the world instinctively into in-groups and out-groups almost from infancy. For homo sapiens, it is natural to see the world, as Rabbi Jonathan Sacks put it, as radically “divided into the unimpeachably good and the irredeemably bad.” It is much harder to see, as Solzhenitsyn did, even after he had been sent to the gulag by his ideological enemies, that good and evil run through every human heart.
And it’s this reflexive, reptilian sorting of in-group and out-group that has now been supercharged by social media, by Trump’s hideous identity politics, and by campus and corporate culture. There seem to be just two inalterable categories: the oppressors or the oppressed; elite globalists or decent “normal” people. You are in one camp or the other, and, as time passes, those of us who don’t fit into this rubric will become irrelevant to the discourse, if we haven’t already got there.
After a while, the crudest trigger points of tribalism — your race, your religion (or lack of it), your gender, your sexual orientation — dominate the public space. As Claire Lehmann, the founding editor of the refreshingly heterodox new website Quillette has put it, “the Woke Left has a moral hierarchy with white men at the bottom. The Alt-Right has a moral hierarchy that puts white men at the top.” The looming midterms will not be about health care or executive power or constitutional norms (although all these things will be at stake). They will primarily be about which tribe you are in, and these tribes are increasingly sorted racially and by gender. The parties are currently doing all they can to maximize these tribal conflicts as a way to seek power. This isn’t liberal democracy.
That the political center in America is defined by the alliance between the Neo-Liberals and the Neo-Conservatives, exemplified by Hillary Clinton and Wm. Kristol. Mr. Divine is the perfect citizen of that political center.
Greg Lukianoff is president of Foundation for Individual Rights in Education which is funded by :
Adolph Coors Foundation: $45,000 (2012, 2015)
Bradley Foundation: $1,490,000
Charles G. Koch Foundation:$955,561 (2008-2014)
Claude R. Lambe Foundation: $740,000 (2005-2007)
DonorsTrust and Donors Capital Fund: $1,372,500 (2012-2015)
Jaquelin Hume Foundation: $235,000 (2001-2011)
Randolph Foundation: $62,000 (2009-2011)
Sarah Scaife Foundation: $355,000 (2012-2014)
Searle Freedom Trust: $300,000 (2008-2013)
The evidence is clear what Mr.Lukianoff’s politics are, but what does Social Psychologist Jonathan Haidt offer? He provides a new expression of Determinism based on a pastiche of Neuroscience, that appeals to those in search of an unquestionable, ineluctable explanatory frame for human behavior. Yet each ‘new’ instantiation of Determinism is eventually put to question.
Mr. Divine is simply looking for another rationalization for one of his many obsessions, the prima facae apostasy of Students. That devolves, in the last quoted paragraph,into the speculation that the American political parties will exploit ‘tribalist conflicts’ to win the coming election. Nixon once opined about ‘The Silent Majority’. Mr. Divine’s political memory does not reach back that far into American history.