Monday, June 17, 2013

The Victims' Revolution by Bruce Bawer

I read The Victims’ Revolution by Bruce Bawer right after reading The E.J. Dionne book, Our Divided Political Heart. After the multiple logical fallacies involved in Dionne’s book, it was refreshing to read a book that followed a reasoned flow. His subtitle explains the premise of the book, “The Rise of Identity Studies and the Closing of the Liberal Mind.” He investigates the changes that have been taking place in the university over the last 20 plus years, especially in the realm of Identity Studies. Since these courses are now required at many colleges, it is especially important for parents to know what they are paying for their students to learn.

He organizes the book into a study-by-study format beginning with Women’s Studies (or if you prefer Womyn’s Studies). He traces this department back to the beginning of the Feminist movement. What started off as bra-burning, “I am woman” and Ms. Magazine would elicit a yawn today. The movement has morphed into an unrecognizable and almost unpronounceable collection of concerns centered on the holy trifecta of race, gender, and class. The focus is on hegemony and the idea that sexism, racism and myriad other -isms are worse today than ever before because they are hidden and underground. The sexism you don’t know about is worse than blatant sexism because, well... because you DON’T KNOW ABOUT IT! We have moved from first-wave feminism and it’s focus on on suffrage, to second-wave and the revolutionary argument that women were the equals of men, to the third-wave dogmatic views represented in talks such as the one titled, “Situated feminisms, Production of Knowledges & Transnational Feminist Challenge to U.S. Rescue Narratives of Women.” It doesn’t have to make sense, in fact they have rejected reason itself as the legacy of a patriarchal society. This man-hating, victim-creating ideology has seeped into our society to such a degree that it now seems somewhat normal. Scary.

The second Studies department he delves into is Black Studies. Bawer begins with an interview with Shelby Steele, one of the founding members of the Black Studies programs who now laments what they have become. What started as an opportunity to explore Black culture and contributions to society has become yet another victim-creating ideology. Even at the outset, red-flags were going up. Kids, in their early 20s were designing the programs. Whites acquiesced out of white, liberal guilt despite the lack of coherence or meaning or intellectual heft in the new departments. True intellectuals steered clear of such a train wreck, only the hustlers and con men remained. In Steele’s words, “It was just a joke from the very beginning.” It became about power, money, nationalism, and the supremacy of the black race. Although not as rigidly dogmatic as Women’s Studies, there is still very little room for dissent. 

Bawer, himself, is gay. So his take on Queer Studies was personal and highly relevant. In Queer Studies, gay, women’s, and blacks’ interests intersect into one convoluted mess. The founder of Queer Studies is a middle-aged white, heterosexual woman living a traditional, quiet life with her husband. Yet she celebrates all that is out of the mainstream and pushes for ever more "queerness". Seeing as her own life is extremely normal, Bawer can’t help but observe that it seems as if she is mocking those who don’t fit in and using them for her own career advancement. The discipline (if it can be called that) encompasses both fascism and communism, fights for rights to normalize certain groups while at the same time rejecting that normalization, celebrates Communism while in the midst of those most harmed by Communism, and wallows in inarticulateness and mindless ramblings in search of a point. Queer studies has an unfortunate handicap in that it includes both victims and victimizers. Disabled lesbians of color constitute the bottom-most rung on the victim ladder, but every group above them constitutes an oppressor of some sort. So a white male homosexual is almost at the top of the ladder and therefore feels the sting of guilt even within the department ostensibly created to delve into the history and culture of the gay community. Yet, Bawer states, “Queer Theorists... continue to try to reinforce the idea that gays are strange, marginal, anti-establishment, contrarian, and rebellious.” This celebration of the outcast and insistence on pushing “queers” to identify as outside the norm makes you wonder whose side are they on? Are gays victims or victimizers, normal or strange, included or excluded. Yes.

As described by Bawer, Chicano Studies is the saddest of them all. Started as a revolutionary movement dedicated to retaking Aztlan back from the colonialist United States of America, the department has devolved into a bunch of second and third-generation immigrants who just want to be successful American. What chutzpah! I love the irony pointed out by Bawer. “... the demand by Chicano activists for an academic discipline of their own was rather illogical from the outset, given that the academy was a part of the very establishment that they viewed as their enemy and claimed to want to overthrow or secede from.” Of course that didn't stop them from cashing the paychecks. Like Black Studies, this one was created by power-hungry, revolutionary students. Like Women’s studies, they rejected objectivity and rationality because both were part of the oppressive, patriarchal, biased society in which they found themselves. While Women’s Studies and Queer Studies bask in their inclusion of various races and the celebration, if not outright demand, for homosexuality, Chicano Studies hardly reciprocates. They make it clear this department is a bastion of straight, testosterone-charged, although thoroughly Marxist, males. 

Bawer ends the book with a discussion of the smaller “Studies” departments and paints them as similarly destructive to Western Civilization and the American experiment. He lists: Cultural Studies (culture as a hegemonic force), Disability Studies (challenging the existence of disabilities), Fat Studies (fat people as victims), Men’s Studies (patriarchal oppression by men), and Whiteness Studies (racist oppression by whites). It’s easy to see that all of these “Studies” programs have in common the idea of the white, male oppressor. All seek to extend the “victim” label into ludicrous territory. All have their own hierarchy of victimization. All find oppression in every word, glance, and thought. 

What a sad world.