Back in the heyday of conservatism, Bill Buckley would often say you can know everything about a person’s politics from their options on abortion and Israel. It was true to the extent that it put them one side or the other of the consensus. By the late 20th century, the ruling consensus in Washington was pro-abortion and pro-Israel, but not publicly enthusiastic for either. These two issues were useful proxies for foreign policy and social policy at the time.
Something similar can be said of race and culture. Those who deny the reality of race are on one side of the great divide, while those who accept biological reality are on the other side of the divide. There is no middle ground. Those who think culture is a manufactured good are on the side of biology deniers, while those who think culture is the product of biology and time are on the side of the realists. Again, these are mutually exclusive positions that cannot be reconciled.
That is what makes this post over at the American Mind interesting. According to their website, “The American Mind is an online publication of the Claremont Institute dedicated to the ideas that drive our political life.” Claremont was founded in 1979 by four students of political theorist Harry V. Jaffa, the man responsible for the second founding thesis. He is also why so-called conservatives preach the glories of Lincoln to their mostly Southern supporters.
The title of the post is the first clue that the writer is not only on the denialist side of the great divide, but in their left-wing camp. The first sentence sounds like something from a grievance studies paper. It is pure cultural Marxism. “The fabricated black race should never have been born. It was confected out of false biological taxonomies by Europeans to justify a system of human physical bondage that, paradoxically, brought black people into the historical process.”
Whenever you see the phrase “historical process” you are almost always dealing with a man of the Left. This is right out of the Young Hegelian view of history that was allegedly rejected by Strauss. If there was any doubt as to the views of the author, the next sentence clears it up. “It was a cruel, artificial construct, and blacks have suffered enough under it.” When someone speaks of race as a social construct, they do so not to clarify, but to obscure the reality of biology in human affairs.
A further example of that desire to obscure reality in the fog of rhetoric is this sentence further down in the post. “A taxonomy that makes human distinctions based not on cultural differences—which can objectively be defined as the set of dominant beliefs, customs, and traditions of a homogenized or non-homogenized group—but based on race, which none of the conceptual markers that allow us to predict or pick out any moral characteristic of a human being, is valorized by most blacks.”
This is another habit of the far-left. They conflate issues so that the easy to defend can be blended with the impossible to defend. In this case, he claims cultural differences can be quantified. This is true to a point. Then says racial differences tell us nothing about moral characteristics of people. This is also true, but it is incorrect to compare culture with morality in this way. It is a false comparison. Further, race helps us explain cultural differences and is quite useful at predicting them.
Then we get this sentence. “Holding a racial identity turns one into a practicing racist. White supremacists of all stripes, either of the North American variety or the Nazi counterpart, have given us ample evidence of the nefarious nature of strong racial identities, especially when they are wedded to a political ideology that demonizes racial/ethnic minorities such as blacks or Jews.” That is jargon right out of the grievance studies department of a state university.
It is tempting to dismiss this as irrational ranting or maybe a display item used by the Claremont people to show they are not racist. The conventional Right has always loved putting the intellectual version of a lawn jockey on the pages of their publications to own the Left by being to the left of them on race. Donald Trump spent a good deal of his presidency celebrating his gifts to people who hated him just to prove that he was not the evil racist his enemies claimed.
Beyond that, it suggests that the path of civic nationalism, the sort preached by people like Ben Shapiro, must end up in cultural Marxism. Once you deny that biology is real and has a real impact on social organization, you are left with a problem. How does culture come into existence, if it is not a function of blood and soil? The answer they are left with is that it is a product imposed on people by other people. Culture is just ideas, and they can be anything you like.
There is nothing more Marxist than this interpretation of culture. The cultural Marxist seek domination of the institutions for this reason. They believe culture is the product of societal institutions. If you control them, you can control the culture. The civic nationalist, like Strauss, believe there is an ideal culture. If you get that right, then the institutions fall into place. In both cases, the underlying assumption is that the nature of man plays no role in the final outcome.
To deny that biology is the prime mover of both history and culture inevitably leads to man declaring himself the prime mover. This is what we see here. The writer assumes humans can be talked out of their racial identity. There is a short hop from there to thinking that humans must be compelled to abandon their natural identity. This is the same path that all such thinking takes. If man is free of nature’s god, then he can recreate himself and his fellow man by his own lights. He becomes man’s god.
The end of most journeys is determined by the starting point. It is why intellectuals of all types talk about first principles. It is that starting framework that lays out the path forward and ultimately sets the destination. When the first principle is a denial of observable and measurable reality, the road suddenly opens up to wherever the imagination can conjure. So far, all of those imaginary destinations have not been the utopia, but rather a hellish bloodbath of murder and mayhem.
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