Breakdown of the Left: Safe Spaces, Feminism, Social Justice and Communism / by Sam Abelow

"Young Communist Society for Equality - Only in America" | Original illustration in gouache paint and ink pen.

The far Left has also been seeking to redefine sexuality and gender, as well as enforcing broad, politically correct language.

With Bill C-16 emerging in Canada, which seeks to enforce the political agenda through language policing, it has become imperative to counter these well-intentioned steps towards limiting free speech.

Progressive narratives, when taken out of the classroom can become messy. The emerging tendency of the far Left to renounce any criticism and isolate itself from intellectual debate goes against the foundation of our democracy. This goes beyond identity, beyond any other ideal; this is about the basic ideal of an open and liberal society, which tolerates all views no matter how repulsive.

It is salient that the intellectual inception of intolerance for opposition has its sources in the post-Marxist thinker Herbert Marcuse. As much as I can, I’d like to be on the side of progression in society. But, understanding the historical ways academia has sloppily influenced culture can help guide our views moving forward.

Shame Those Who Don’t Agree

A German-born man, who worked mostly in America, Marcuse was the leader of the post-Marxist Frankfurt School. He theorized that because the proletariat had been unwilling to galvanize against capitalism and institutions that were oppressing them, it was the role of artists and other cultural figures to be the catalyst for the masses.

Marcuse added to this strategy in his work "Repressive Tolerance," which compelled those with radical Leftist views to reject any opposition, on the basis that, "Tolerance strengthens the tyranny of the majority against" oppressed masses.

Today, thanks to Marcuse, Left-dominated campuses have largely warped into places of extreme censorship, with a climate of hostility towards open discussion. Oftentimes, as radical Leftists, trained in the humanities departments, leave the classroom, they can be seen denouncing the free-speech of opposition, which is a denial of the central tenets that liberalism is founded upon. This is why many popular Liberals, such as Richard Dawkins and Bill Maher, have called this subsect “regressive.” 

Motivated by the altruistic principal ideal of equality, desired social change is achieved by defining people by their identity. Grouping people by race and gender into separate politically charged factions reduces people to tribal mentality and hinders sober conversation and action.

Academic Quackery Becomes Real World Nightmare

The college classroom, historically a place for ideas to be challenged and debated, has widely been reduced to a paranoid dynamic of professors afraid to lose their job by offending the feelings of the most sensitive student in the room. This has been reported to be mostly true in the humanities departments, but not yet in the sciences.

The invention of campus “safe spaces,” is intended to provide minority or oppressed groups with a place to discuss their issues. In theory, this may seem appeasing and compassionate, but in practice, it turns into the segregation of people based on identity, which tends to spill out onto the streets, where young students see the world in terms of identities -- skin color, sexual orientation -- rather than the ideals and values individuals hold.

The concept of “micro-aggressions” takes speech and makes it a form of violence. Training young people to see words as harmful and traumatizing encourages a victim mentality. This conflation of ugly speech and outright aggression deflates the experience of authentic violence. Furthermore, those trained in this dichotomist view tend to reduce all speech on sensitive topics to aggressions, including the necessary cultural experience of comedy and intellectual debate. Chris Rock stated in an interview in New York Magazine, “I stopped playing colleges” because they’re to restrictive. If the radical Left is allowed to censor these forms of free expression, which are necessary releases of tension, our society will be stifled to the brink of violence.

There is no doubt that minorities in the United States have been oppressed and deeply traumatized in many ways. The desire to have people of all identities feel free to express their psyches openly is the direction we should all hope to head in. But, the idea that speech can recreate and reinforce trauma and is a form of aggression must be avoided, for the sake of broad democratic values -- which can potentially transcend identity.

The brilliant Christopher Hitchens predicts the social trends back in 1994.

A Little Confusion Goes a Long Way

For the fall semester 2016, The Wall Street Journal reports that Chicago University administrators, “do not condone the creation of intellectual ‘safe spaces’ where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.”

This hint of enough-is-enough from administrators is refreshing, especially after a particularly childish tantrums over Halloween costumes last year. A reaction from one particular girl and her appeal to authority indicated a serious, fundamental misapprehension of what college is all about. The irate student shrieked, “It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? It’s about creating a home here. You are not doing that!”

The Atlantic commented that this incident reveals an “illiberal streak that flows from flaws in their well-intentioned ideology.”

The point here is not that Halloween costumes, in some cases, may be incredibly offensive, but that the student felt it appropriate to have administrative authority involved in her personal dispute. Even worse, if students are trained in “microaggressions” and a world view of “oppressors” and “the oppressed", they begin to see things in a black and white way, which amplifies the acts of the ignorant and distasteful.

In the public setting, these terms and ideas reduce interactions and divide people from potentially productive conversations. It’s this cultivation of hypersensitivity that counters the entire purpose of a college education, as Obama has pointed out.

Regardless of these missteps, the progressive drive towards equality of minority groups will prove successful. But, this positive change will only be impeded by the binary effects of a narrative that labels some groups oppressors and others victims.

Sweeping Theses, Impact Everyday Life

Although a critique from a Marxist-Feminist view has it’s insights, the sweeping blame of all oppression as reduced to patriarchy comes off as paranoid. This view, combined with baseless, yet pervasive, concepts such as cultural relativism -- the anthropological view that all cultural values are equal and it is only bias which accounts for differences. It also connects to social constructivism -- a psychological framework insisting that the cultural environment ("nurture") accounts for the all the differences between individuals, including the genders. All of this is the academic substantiation behind Social Justice extreme egalitarianism. 

With this basket of ideas, a modern woman seeks to equalize herself with desires and behaviors typical of a man. Joni Mitchell summarized it best when interviewed in 1973 : “So much for free love. Nobody knows more than me what a ruse that was. That was for guys; It was hard to get laid before that.” "The feminism in this continent isn’t feminine, it’s masculine. Our feminism isn’t feminism, it’s masculinism.” She foresaw the casual sex of today, when she said that it's a matter of emulating what the men want.

Interestingly, it was Herbert Marcuse who gave the intellectual substance for the Sixties sexual revolution. Marcuse's landmark book, "Eros and Civilization" sought to unleash the repressed libido that Freud identified. 

I must clarify: I am in full support of women being equal in their integrity, options and opportunity in all areas of social and private existence. This, for example, includes recognizing the necessity of paid maternity leave. I just believe we need to acknowledge the biological and psychological differences between the sexes, because only from that consciousness we can make correct policy decisions and mature into a fuller expression of humanity.

As an example: it is my view that men need access the typically feminine disposition towards valuing the emotional importance of sexual encounters. I think all genders would be better off cultivating a sense of honor for their bodies, as more than a pleasure-seeking object.

So, it saddens me to hear New York Magazine’s sex columnist and podcaster Maureen O’Connor, or the Guys We Fucked Feminist comedians, Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, glorifying utterly adolescent, sexual self-disrespect and libidinal lawlessness -- ironically, the fantasy of a white-privileged, frat-guy of an earlier generation.

I am all for the the progression of society, including the reconfiguration of traditional (and racially determined) underclass and upperclass. The pursuit of a movement towards self knowledge and acceptance -- whether that be homosexuality, bisexuality, gender-fluidity, polygamy, or transgressive interests in breaking taboos -- is also a necessary social evolution. But, I fear the ceasing of an intelligent discourse of oppositional views will delay, or even abort, the dialectical process of collective growth.

Renounce Ideology and Uphold Freedom of Thought

The suppression of ideas and speech, whether it be from the Left, or the Right, from Social Justice, Trump-USA, or the NSA, is an all-too-clear path towards totalitarianism.

A free, open and fair society will be obstructed by no-one other than ourselves, whether from reactionary populism, by self-imposed, much less institutional censorship and nihilism towards political process, or possibly most of all by divisive ideology.