Leftist Values?

The contemporary Left is postmodern. Postmodernists say there are no values (or that there can be no hierarchy of values). So isn’t it an oxymoron for someone to say that they have Left-wing values? Wouldn’t this come into conflict with their postmodernism?

Of course, this is an issue not just with the postmodern Left, but with the postmodern Right as well. You may recognize the postmodern Right by another name: neoliberals.

Our contemporary culture is dominated by anti-value postmodernism. And Trump is the President of that movement. He is everything the postmodernists, Left and Right, have been saying they wanted. But now that they have him, we get the same old aw: “But that’s not what we meant!” Of course it’s what you meant, just like Stalin is what Marx meant. Fortunately, postmodernism has no principles with which to justify directly murdering millions, so there is that.

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An Introduction to Frederick Feirstein

For those who have a just complaint against inaccessible, unpoetic, navel-gazing, hyper-academic l’art-pour-l’art postmodern poetry, I give you the poetry of Frederick Feirstein. Just knowing he edited the anthology Expansive Poetry: Essays on the New Narrative and the New Formalism gives one an idea of what kind of poet Feirstein is. His poems tend to be longer, more narrative in structure, always formal, and occasionally rhyme. He is strongest in his rhyming poetry, where he is more apt to give us something unexpected in the poem. In each poem we get a little story about people, characters we can recognize and relate to. These characters, always interesting, are heroic –- most often in defeat, or despite defeat. A fine example of this can be seen in the last four lines of his poem “The Hero”:

His business ventures always somehow failed
Either from moral niceties or luck.
Yet he died a hero when his train derailed.
His body cushioned someone when it struck.

Feirstein is Jewish and from New York, and his poems are very much reflective of these facts – but for that very reason are resonant even for those who are neither. His poems are the very image of being universal in the particular. Consider the following lines from “The Street”:

We’d be so bored, we’d learn to talk to ducks
—And they would say we were a pair of schmucks
To leave Manhattan Island as we know it.
Island? Thank God the concrete doesn’t show it.

Could anyone other than a Jewish New Yorker write lines such as these? And yet, who has not felt such boredom? Who has not felt that, if there were someone else out there who could talk to us about what we, as humans, do, that we would be called foolish? And who has not felt glad that reality is sometimes masked? The grayness of the world comes through in his images of New York, the endless images of concrete in his poems, the gray images, the constant concern with aging and death. There is a concern with dirt and cleanliness – images of washing and water abound. And no one in these poems are resigned to their fate. They are always on the move, legs are always moving. The city, for Feirstein, indeed never sleeps. But this is not a city of unknown and unknowable people. This is a city of individual characters, who love and hate, give birth to and raise children, who have parents themselves who are aging and dying. These are not soulless New Yorkers – these are New Yorkers who go to Temple or Church, who seek the infinite in the quite finite lives they live. His city imagery, the choices he makes, his ability to see the city as he does in “Mark Stern Wakes Up”:

My eye is like a child’s; the smog is pot.
Shining cratefuls of plum, peach, apricot
Are flung out of the fruit man’s tiny store.
Behind the supermarket glass next door:
Landslides of grapefruit, orange, tangerine,
Persimmon, boysenberry, nectarine.
The florist tilts his giant crayon box
Of yellow roses, daffodils, and phlox.
A Disney sun breaks through, makes toys of trucks
And waddling movers looks like Donald Ducks
And joke book captions out of storefront signs:
Café du Soir, Austrian Village, Wines.
Pedestrians in olive drabs and grays
Are startled by the sun’s kinetic rays,
Then mottled into pointillistic patches.
The light turns green, cars passing hurl out snatches
Of rock-and-roll and Mozart and the weather.

The light turns red. Why aren’t we together?

create a strong sense of New York that is nonetheless a new vision of the city. Yet it is also a city we all belong to, seen through the eyes of a narrator who is just like us.

I do not wish to suggest that Feirstein only writes narrative poetry, or that it is exclusively, even if it is, more often than not, formalist. Consider his poem “Artificial Light”:

Heavy rain
Darkening
The wysteria.
I draw the blind
And with a flashlight
Show David
How God
Once amused his soul.
After a while
He scribbles
His reflections
On the ceiling.
On the other hand
My father
Who sold coal
And has no energy
Except, I pray,
His soul’s
Lies in the
Dark
Like a fossil.

Here we have a free verse poem that is more reflective than narrative. But whether the poem is the rare free verse or the more usual formalist poem, the emotional power, the ability to create strong moods, is there.

And Feirstein is a master of imagery. Consider, for a moment, Feirstein’s use of water imagery. He gives us “the wet sun, the bluejay / Splashing among the branches.” (New and Selected Poems, 3) We get cold and yellow sweats, falling snow (lots of snow, apropos New York), sitting by the water’s edge, “The wind taking shape from my face / As water takes shape from a fish;” (12), “slush soaking his shoes” (15) –- here, the alliteration creating the sound -–, April rain, spraying water, swimming pools, water hoses, ponds, toy boats and rafts, etc. Water is exploded and made interesting and new throughout Feirstein’s collection of poems, as are the color gray, the images of the city, including concrete, and human relations, especially among family and lovers (past and present).

In his poems, Feirstein has brought new life to New York, to being Jewish, to family life, and to the art of poetry. By being a formalist poet, whether in blank verse or in rhyme, whether with his narrative or his lyric verse, Feirstein has renewed the art of poetry, given it back to the people by giving them something they can understand and relate to, without sacrificing in the least his intelligence. He does not insult his readers by being either too simplistic or too obtuse and hyper-academic. His poems have a beauty and depth to them that had been lost among the more well-known poets, whose poetry only leave you unsatisfied once you manage to figure out what simplistic ideas are hiding under the obscurity. Anybody can read and enjoy Feirstein’s poems. Those who do not typically study poetry can read and enjoy his poems and get a great deal out of them. And those who do study poetry can find an endless depth of meaning in the poems, rich as they are in imagery and connections.

Some Comments on Postmodernism

The exclusively digital approach to aesthetics, ethics, and politics is better known as postmodernism, pluralism, and multiculturalism (this last a strange kind of digital-collectivism, where everyone in a given society are the same digit). While this approach has been a necessary corrective to the analogical world view, if we take the digital view to its logical conclusion, and reject the analogical as a constituent part of the world, all it can do is create alienation—among different races, different cultures, between men and women, and, if we take Quine’s view that we never actually understand one another, among each and every individual. If we take what Quine says in a very limited way, he has a point, but an extreme view makes the mistake of thinking that if there is any noise—ambiguity—in communication, we cannot communicate; whereas information theory says we need noise if we are going to have any communication at all.

An analogical view may lead us to collectivism, including communism, but an exclusively digital view leads to the alienation found in postmodern radical individualism. The consequence of this digital world view is postmodernists telling us we cannot understand one another. Men cannot understand women, and vice versa. Different races and cultures cannot understand each other, we cannot understand anything that happened in the past, and there is the suggestion that we cannot really understand each other. The consequence of this is an increasing fragmentation of society, creating warring factions (men vs. women, minorities vs. majorities, secular vs. religion), and increasing distrust among people.

Many postmodern theorists have observed that one of the features of modern Western culture is its increasing fragmentation and alienation, a favorite theme of many Marxists. But it is this alienating ideology that creates these conditions. And it is further ironic that some of these same critics are the very people making the problem worse. If we cannot understand one another, we are incapable of projecting ourselves into another’s situation. While this is literally true in a factual sense, it is in another sense not true at all. We can and do have empathy for others, basing that empathy on related experiences. While I may not understand perfectly an intellectual woman’s complaint that most men do not take her seriously as a thinker, I do understand the sting of not being taken seriously, especially when I know I know more about a subject than the person who is not taking me seriously as a thinker. Only if we can place ourselves in another person’s situation can we develop the empathy needed to be moral or to effect any sort of positive social change.

Studies show orangutans, a distant cousin to humans, can putting themselves into others’ minds. If food is placed out of reach of a caged orangutan, and a person is brought in with a bucket on his head and placed near the orangutan’s cage, without hesitation the orangutan will take the bucket off the person’s head and physically point the person in the direction of the food. The orangutan knows the person cannot see the food if he has a bucket on his head. How could the orangutan know this if it could not project itself into the mind of the person with the bucket on his head? This is a cognitive feature of the great apes, including humans, whose ability to do this developed even more with the advent of language. “One of the common ancestor species of all the living great apes and humans was the first in which individuals realized that others had viewpoints and knowledge different from their own, and could build up novel sequences of actions” (Richard W. Byrne, Tree of Origin, 169).

This ability is why were are capable of telling stories—including fiction. To say we cannot (or should not) do this is to say we are (or should be) cognitively less complex than the other great apes and place us on the cognitive level of monkeys. This attitude goes beyond being merely anti-human, to being anti-great ape. It is anti-language since “Evolution of language would be impossible in a species in which individuals could not imagine that other individuals know things that they do not know themselves” (Byrne, 172). The consequence of this anti-theory-of-mind view for literature has been the creation of a shallow sort of minimalism that avoids letting the reader know about anything more than the actions of the characters, on this theory that we cannot know what others think – so the author should not bother to tell us what his characters think, since he cannot even know. If they think at all.

Postmodernism creates social ruptures—it is anti-social in nature. It puts up barriers between men and women. Postmodernism’s radical individualism says there is an abyss of difference between men and women. The collectivism inherent in the Franco-German individualist tradition, whose egalitarian individualism attempts to eliminate all difference, suggests there is no difference between men and women. Specifically, women have been told they should be more like men. This has created an identity crisis in many women. They are told by their culture (which has been influenced by the pro-masculinizing gender feminists) they should be one thing, and by their biology and psychology they should be something else. I fear American women will soon face a tragic crisis, which can only be headed off if women are allowed by this culture to be women in the fullest sense, and not made into either men or relegated into some sort of submissive role, as we had in the past, and as we still find in many cultures around the world.

Postmodernism, far from being a solution to this crisis, only makes the problem worse. And gender feminism, by insisting that there are no fundamental behavioral differences between men and women, only reinforces the prejudice that differences are inherently bad and unequal. It is those feminists who perpetuate the belief that femininity is inferior. Despite what they think, it is not. American culture in particular is sorely lacking in femininity—not the cultural myths we once held about how women should act, but natural femininity, which can come about in a more inclusive, open culture – this lack is primarily the fault of the gender feminists, who insist that our genetic differences make no difference. This is creating the groundwork for a tragic situation, where women are pushed by culture to go beyond their own physis without even trying to understand their physis (vs. the myths of their physis). One hopes we learn the outcome through works of literature, including plays and film, rather than within society itself.

This anti-social element is found not only in relations among men and women, but among races and cultures too. I welcome the emphasis on multiculturalism, as it creates the potential for a much richer, more complex American (and world) culture, but the way postmodernism practices it creates a number of problems. What are we to do with a culture that practices clitorectomy? Or oppresses women? Or practices genocide? Are we to just consider these a legitimate part of the rich tapestry of humanity?

Postmodernism’s insistence that we cannot judge anyone—particularly other cultures—puts us in a serious dilemma in considering these situations. I think there are few who support genocide, but how can one come to say genocide is wrong if one does not make some sort of judgement, or insist there is some sort of universal we should be guided by? I asked Cynthia Haynes (a self-identified postmodernist) this question, and she told me the only thing she does not tolerate is intolerance. But isn’t the intolerance of intolerance itself a universalizing view? One assumes she (and other postmodernists) wishes everyone was intolerant of intolerance. But if one wishes for such an overarching view, one’s entire postmodern world view collapses (of course, the very fact that postmodernism is a world view and, thus, a grand narrative, makes it collapse, imploded by its own hypocrisy).

Postmodern multiculturalism will not work. But we should not return to a “melting pot” view either. Why not a mixture of the two, maintaining cultural identity while integrating everyone into, for example, the American (or, better, world) culture? This view presumes there are more than two societal levels—the individual and the culture/state—which goes against the Franco-German philosophical tradition leading to postmodernism. It is possible—I would say preferable—that there is more than just the individual and her culture. Why can’t a person be an individual, a member of a family (nuclear and extended), a member of a community, a subculture, an organization (if not several), including churches, clubs, schools, etc., an overarching culture, and a citizen of a state, a country, and the world? If there are this many levels between an individual and the government, the government’s power over that individual is weakened, and the influence of that government (and any who wish to influence that government, the culture of a country through the government, etc.), is greatly weakened—which may explain why many pro-statist postmodernists oppose this view.

Postmodernism’s anti-social view of humanity makes it anti-human. Humans are a social species, like all the great apes (even the apparently solitary orangutan will socialize when food is abundant), most monkeys, lions, elephants, dolphins, and wolves. Social species are different from and have more complex behavior than herd or schooling species, like antelope, sheep, or sardines, in that there is little to no bonding among the members of the herd. Individual members are less likely than social animals to aid unrelated or distantly related members of the herd. It seems postmodernists wish to make us act more like herd than social animals.

Review of Richard Wolin’s The Seduction of Unreason

With the notable exception of the rise of the alt.right, calling someone a “fascist” or a “Nazi” has become mostly meaningless. All you have to do is disagree with anything a leftist believes, and you are immediately slapped by them with one of those labels. However, this is not what Richard Wolin is doing in his book The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism.

In this book Wolin is looking at historical fascism, and the influence of fascism on much of what passes as philosophy nowadays. He identifies fascism with counter-enlightenment thinking. Since Wolin is clearly a scholar of Continental philosophy, Enlightenment philosophy is for him primarily that of Voltaire, Diderot, and the other thinkers of the French Enlightenment. The reaction to the Enlightenment came in several forms, from Romanticism to various forms of racism and nationalism. It is when the Nietzschean form of Romanticism (or, at least, sections taken out of context) were combined with ideas of racism and nationalism (one cannot really object on the grounds of reason that this is a contradiction, since Nietzsche both hated anti-Semites and nationalism, since the people who combined them were enemies of reason) that the various forms of fascism were born—the most commonly known being Italian fascism and Nazism. The author does an excellent reading of Nietzsche as the 20th century thinkers have misread him, noting only at the end of his chapter on Nietzsche that they were in fact misreading him.

Wolin spends each chapter covering different thinkers. But before we get to the ones he does cover, I think I should mention the one thinker he does not cover at all in his own chapter: Martin Heidegger. It may seem odd that Heidegger, who said that reason was an adversary to thought, was an actual member of the Nazi party, and who never recanted his Nazism nor apologized for what the Nazis did, should be left out, especially considering the fact that it is Heidegger’s ideas that have influenced postmodern thinking more than any others – including perhaps Nietzsche’s. However, Wolin is interested in exposing those we do not normally see as fascists. And besides, Heidegger’s associations with the Nazis are well documented—such as in Charles Bambach’s book Heidegger’s Roots.

So let us talk about those Wolin does talk about.

The first unexpected name to arise is Carl Jung. It may seem odd as first glance to include Jung, who was, after all, Freud’s handpicked successor at one time. However, Wolin shows several of Jung’s writings that were explicitly anti-Semitic. Further, Jung had a 10% quota on the number of Jewish psychologists who could join his Analytical Psychology Club of Zurich as regular members, only doing away with it in 1950. Jung also apparently thought of his famous ideas of the archetypes as being specifically Aryan in nature, and that Jews especially do not have them, or at least have them only weakly. The reason for this was that Jung saw the archetypes as essentially pagan in origin. Further, Wolin points out that “Jung eagerly cooperated with the Goring Institute for Psychological Research and Psychotherapy, accepting the presidency of the Nazi-run General Medical Society for Psychotherapy and serving as editor for its journal, the Zentralblatt fur Psychotherapie” (74). The fact that Jung headed a Nazi society for psychotherapy and cooperated with Nazi psychological research should concern anybody. It’s no wonder he was considered for war crimes after World War II.
The next surprise – and even more surprising – is the case of Hans-Georg Gadamer, whose mentor was none other than Heidegger. Certainly, this association is hardly enough. Karl Jaspers was a friend of Heidegger, but did not join the Nazis in any way. But Gadamer apparently decided to associate himself with the Nazis just to further his career (which only raises the question of who should be condemned more – Heidegger for actually believing in Nazism, or Gadamer for using what the Nazis were doing to further his own career), by signing pro-Hitler petitions, voluntarily enrolling in a Nazi political reeducation camp, joining the National Socialist Teacher’s Association, and volunteering to give lectures in Nazi-held Paris in order to help convert the French intellectuals (who were not given any other choice but to attend). This is most damning when we consider the fact that one did not have to become a member of the Nazi party, or associate with them at all, to work in the universities.

Wolin begins his section on the French thinkers’ associations with fascism with a chapter titled “Left Fascism,” which deals with the ideas of Georges Bataille. Bataille, whose influences included Nietzsche and the Marquis de Sade, is considered by many to be the father of poststructuralism, out of which we get postmodernism. Bataille was closely associated with Left Fascism, which he identified as his ideology, and which seeked to unify fascism with an even stronger version of socialism. He was anti-reason, anti-civilization, anti-ethics, pro-violence, and promoted the most perverse, unreproductive sexuality (these things are not hidden or hinted at, but are explicitly stated by Bataille, or explicitly shown in his fictional works).

The next two figures Wolin covers are less clearly associated with fascism.
Maurice Blanchot was a writer, who wrote articles against what he called the “inhuman Declaration of the Rights of Man,” and who saw the “only solution to a dysfunctional republicanism” as a “fascist-type insurrection” (192). He also thought there was an “international conspiracy of communists, Jews, and capitalists” (Heidegger said that Germany was caught in the pincers of capitalism on one side, and communism on the other, both of which he said were metaphysically identical). His literary theories also became one of the cornerstones of poststructuralism – joining him with Bataille.
The most interesting person included in this work is Jacques Derrida, whose idea of deconstruction has led us into the postmodern era. Leaving aside Derrida’s attempts to deconstruct the Nazism of both Heidegger and Paul de Mann (to show they weren’t really all that fascist after all), and the fact that Derrida’s primary intellectual influences are Nietzsche and Heidegger, the connection to fascism seems, at first glance, weak. Certainly, Derrida is anti-reason. But for a long time, deconstruction was accused of being nonpolitical. Derrida’s response to this is what is interesting. He first responded by saying that deconstruction is in fact “hyper-political,” particularly in its critique of democracy. His attacks on natural law also undermine the very foundations of democracy, on which democracy is founded. He also opposed the ideas of Law and Justice, saying that “justice, as opposed to law, always pertains to the case at hand in its irreducible individuality” (234). While there may be something to this, this should not, as Derrida suggests, mean we should do away with law. What is most interesting is that Derrida gets this idea form the Nazi jurist Carl Schmitt, who proclaimed that “the exception is more interesting than the rule” in his book Political Theology. He wants justice that is not grounded in law – which means he wants the rule of man, not the rule of law. Another problem with dealing with justice through the lens of the exceptional is that what we end up with is crisis “justice,” which allows precisely for dictatorial decrees.

Wolin ends his book with a chapter on anti-Americanism, which he identifies precisely with anti-Enlightenment thinking. America is everything Europe was not: it has no racial foundations, the laws are based in reason rather than tradition, there is no nation to speak of, but rather federation with a fluid hierarchy (as opposed to the strict egalitarianism supported on the Continent, which has resulted in the periodic desire to eliminate those who will not fit into the egalitarian ideal state), it is a liberal capitalist state, individualistic, and free. Some of these things are still true. Wolin identifies current anti-Americanism in Europe with Heidegger’s, whose ideas on America were so purely intellectual, that they had no basis in reality. Certainly, Heidegger never traveled to America to learn anything about it. And because America is capitalist, and in Europe Jews are associated with capitalism, the anti-Semitism that still runs through Europe contributes to anti-Americanism. We see anti-Americanism in the present day, among postmodern thinkers such as Baudrillard, who claims that in America we believe in a “hyperreality” made up entirely of media-generated images, which have replaced reality. He sees America as a negative utopia. He has also expressed a great deal of joy over 9-11, and he is joined in this sentiment by Slavoj Zizek, who claimed in his book Welcome to the Desert of the Real that “America got what it fantasized about,” in our movies. In other words, we got what we had coming. Neither is concerned with morality in their commentaries—only with their interpretations of things. Which all too often have nothing to do with reality—and almost never have anything to do with reason. Anti-Enlightenment thought, which reached its worse manifestations in Nazi Germany, continue on in postmodern thought and its offspring in identity politics of literally every sort, right and left—but with Wolin, it is no longer unchecked or unchallenged.

After Postmodernism: Epistemological Ecosystems

The economy is an epistemological ecosystem. It is not the only one, but the kind of knowledge created through the unimpeded price system makes it a very efficient and effective one. Some epistemological ecosystems–such as art, literature, philanthropy, philosophy, and others–suffer from the ambiguities inherent in reputation as the primary medium of value-exchange. Science works better than these with its peer review, but is still not quite as efficient and effective as is money-mediated trade. Technological innovation participates in the economy precisely because its winners and losers are chosen through the price mechanism. That fact also makes technological innovation effective, efficient, and wealth-producing.

All of these are knowledge-producing activities. To refuse to trade therefore means one is purposefully trying to remain ignorant, and to make sure that others too remain ignorant. Reducing trade–whether through trade barriers, wage and/or price controls, taxes, and so on–increases ignorance. We cannot know what would be the best use of raw materials, capital, capital goods, or human capital any time prices are distorted. Price distortions not only include the list above, but also include subsidies, regulations, and monetary inflation/deflation (real inflation/deflation, on the other hand, communicated information more accurately).

Insofar as postmodernism is a kind of radically skeptical epistemology, denying the existence of an objective reality (or at least an objective social reality), insisting that all knowledge is merely constructed and can therefore be deconstructed, denying any sort of human nature, and therefore that knowledge itself is impossible, we can see that postmodernism is an active denial of the very existence of epistemological ecosystems. It is not that it’s not true that there is an element of knowledge-production (or else how could one even have an epistemological ecosystem), but rather that for there to be an ecosystem of any sort, there has to be foundational organisms to interact with each other and co-evolve. The ecological equivalent would be for postmodernists to deny the existence of organisms or species because there is evolution.

If knowledge-production is in one sense impossible, and in another sense nothing but imposition of power/power-relations (another postmodern claim), then any sort of structure is as valid as any other sort of structure. What matters, if knowledge is nothing more than the imposition of the powerful on the non-powerful, is who has power. We can begin to understand pretty much every postmodernist position from that perspective.

If free markets are simply ways business people create power relations that benefit themselves at the expense of others, and business people are bad (for some reason or other that seems to involve “greed”–never mind that postmodernists are also supposed to be radically skeptical of moral “facts” as well, meaning we could just say “greed is good” and accept that for just as much or little reason as anything else), then we need a system that benefits some other group of people instead. The most popular are the victim classes–which seems to somehow include something like 90% of the world’s population–as those who somehow properly deserve the reins of power. It all thus becomes a bunch of arbitrary choices being made by self-appointed secular saints who are all somehow right-thinking, even though if they were consistent with their own postmodern epistemology, there could not be any such thing as right-thinking.

If knowledge truly were power, I’d be President now and not Donald Trump. Those who hold power in our governments around the world are the surest falsification of postmodern epistemology possible. But postmodernism means never having to say you’re wrong.

The understanding that there are in fact epistemological ecosystems helps us retain the insights of postmodernism while evolving well beyond their nihilistic conclusions. It’s not a choice between structuralism and poststructualism, but both simultaneously. It’s not a choice between The Truth and radical skepticism, but rather truth as a strange attractor, with truth statements coming closer or moving a bit away, but always circling, circling–and often generating more truth attractors. This is how all ecosystems–natural or epistemological–exist over space and time. Yes, we create knowledge, but that doesn’t mean the knowledge we create isn’t true. Yes, there is socially constructed knowledge–which makes that knowledge useful rather than denying its existence–but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t facts in the world which we must live with, by, in, and through.

What comes after postmodernism? It’s already been around for a while. Epistemological ecosystems is what comes after postmodernism. Given that people like Hayek and Michael Polanyi developed this idea, it’s a bit ironic that the postmodernists were already behind the times when they came up with their ideas, since their replacement was already being developed before they even came on the scene.

Suggested Reading:

Michael Polanyi:

Personal Knowledge

The Art of Knowing

Knowing and Being

Meaning

The Tacit Dimension

The Logic of Liberty

F. A. Hayek:

Individualism and Economic Order

Law, Liberty, and Legislation

The Fatal Conceit

Illiberal Education in Our Universities

The people complaining about the illiberal tactics of the postmodern opponents of learning anything at all about Western civilization are no longer just the conservatives. Some on the left are finally joining in. It turns out left-wing professors who happen to think there is in fact something valuable to be learned from Western ideas, art, and literature don’t like having their voices excluded, either. As well they shouldn’t.

Postmodernism has been fundamentally illiberal from the beginning. It is, after all, a synthesis of two illiberal ideologies: Marxism and fascism. It fuses Marxists like Marcuse and the Marxist Frankfurt School with the Nazi philosopher Heidegger and those he influenced. We should thus not be surprised that the end-result of postmodern ideology (vs. postmodern ideas, some of which are in fact valid) are illiberal attempts to shut down speakers with whom one doesn’t agree and opposing freedom of speech.

Worse, many go so far as to say that speech is violence. The problem of course is that equating speech and violence makes real violence acceptable. If someone is violent against you, you can defend yourself with defensive violence or get the police to engage in retaliatory violence on your behalf. In other words, equating speech with violence justifies attacking people just for speaking, or sending the police in to shoot them because you disagree with what that person has to say. This is the very foundation of dictatorship.

Our universities are guilty of creating citizens ready for dictatorship—not just ready, but demanding such actions from the administrations of the universities and, eventually, of the government itself. It’s a long, complex history, but it may not surprise people to learn that its roots, like Marxism and National Socialism, are to be found in Germany. The U.S. has adopted German/Prussian educational structures, and those structures are the roots of many of  our problems. Institutions matter, and if we’re going to change our culture to overcome the problems beginning to arise in our, we’re going to have to change many of those institutions. Our education, k-12 and the university system, is at the core of what needs to fundamentally change.

If there’s any good news, it’s that many more outlets and ideologies are fighting against the rise of postmodern illiberalism and recognizing the poison that is postmodern ideology on our campuses. But I promise you, the fight has just begun. And unfortunately, there are other illiberal elements arising to fight postmodern leftism. The alt.right, for example, is proof that the enemy of your enemy can definitely be your enemy. Fighting fire with fire will burn the entire forest down.