"But how can you live and have no story to tell?" Fyodor Dostoevsky
"In rejecting biology, the postmodernists have decided that gender is a choice."
I'm on a journey of discovery. I'm seeking to understand why a polarised world has emerged recently. So many of the conventions that underpin society face rejection or disdain. It's a slow process, but I'm beginning to understand why this confused state has arisen.
One possibility, and it's disturbing, is the pernicious nature of postmodernism. What I find most troubling is this may be happening before our eyes as we sleepwalk into it. You may argue these are Ivory Tower issues confined to college campuses. And yet, we know what happens in colleges spills into broader society within ten years. Many folks don't understand how it arises, but they will have seen its consequences. In this article, I seek to unpick these issues.
There is a school of thought that postmodernism is the most significant threat to civilisation. Professor Jordon B Peterson, a clinical psychologist, is at the forefront of warning us. Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins go with him. So we'd better sit up to take note when such esteemed thinkers are pointing out the peril. As postmodernism creeps into all aspects of life, it profoundly impacts evolved cultural norms, primarily as the law enforces its precepts.
We already see the consequence of postmodernism in the gender debate. The postmodernists have driven this one hard to enact laws in some jurisdictions. For example, today in Canada, it's a hate crime to criticise someone's fashion choices. That's a result of the misappropriation of the legal system to prevent people from feeling offended. This is so dangerous. Harnessing the legal system to support subjective opinions that have no basis in evidence is wrong.
How did this come about? Postmodernism has its origins in the failure of Marxism. Doctor Stephen Hicks, an American philosopher, makes the case in his book "Explaining Postmodernism." In many ways, postmodern philosophy is a lineal descendant of Marxist theory. It arose as the left sought to reconfigure their ideas as the awful truth of the Soviet Union's disastrous Marxist experiment emerged. In short, the revolution failed. It left millions dead from torture and starvation. For example, collectivisation wiped out the productive farmers in Ukraine, plunging millions into poverty. Enforced doctrine rather than pragmatic evolved systems prevailed.
It dawned on the leftists in the late 1950s and early 1960s that their narrative was no longer sellable. At the same time, capitalism improved the lives of the working man in the West. As Marxism floundered, the Chinese dropped the principles, opened their economy, and stood back. The human capital released from doctrine then transformed the country.
Scrambling to keep some credibility, the European leftist philosophers pulled a trick. They switched the 'control of economic issues' that underpins Marxism to 'power oppression.' But for that to work, you need an oppressor. The white man fitted the illegitimate mould the postmodernists created from nothing.
Jacques Derrida, the French philosopher, in part drove this process. His 'destruction' theory challenged everything without thought of the consequences. That led to the collection of ideas now known as 'postmodernism.'
The belief that the world is a battleground between identity groups is at the centre of these ideas. Defining these groups is race, gender and ethnic lines. The postmodernists assert that the 'white man' sits at the pinnacle of society. He directs all actions and controls policy to keep his dominance. Further, they contend there is no truth, just personal narrative.
Postmodernists seek to dethrone this mythical 'white man'; then push him to the margins. They will then claim the centre, although exactly who, when or how this works is never stated. Given the view that all that matters is race, gender or ethnic grouping, they will likely replace one power group with another. It's lost on them that these absurd ideas achieve nothing. Noam Chomsky asserts it's all meaningless. He notes it adds zero to human knowledge or experience.
Of course, the fact that postmodernists focus on one group as the enemy is racist. In their minds, any white man is responsible for the evils committed down the aeons. It is of no consequence to them that you were not born then, only that you are guilty of being white and a man. This statement captures the evil at the heart of postmodernism. Group guilt is the central pillar.
A grave concern is legal systems supporting the postmodernist agenda. The postmodernists hijacked judicial systems by stealth and in support of their causes. In Canada and parts of the United States, they gained laws that impose minority views on the majority.
But don't expect the postmodernist to debate their ideas. They reject such debate as useless. Language and words are the creations of the white man, used to dominate those at the margins.
Even a child can invent thought experiments that erode postmodernist ideas. When you point out that in Japan, it's Asian men that dominate, the postmodernists remain mute. In some Pacific island nations, females dominate society. Postmodernism crashes and burns when measured against these cultures. This comparison exposes the falsehood and deceit of postmodernism. After all, using skin colour and gender to define your nemesis means postmodernism is a snake eating its tail.
Over time postmodernism has morphed into a philosophy of victimhood. You can hear that lament in the rants of the social justice warriors.
At the extreme of the postmodernist movement are those who reject science. Again, all evidence-based ideas and even human progress are artificial constructs. For instance, we know that biology determines gender. Overwhelming DNA evidence supports this assertion. The postmodernists argue that science is just one version of the truth. To that, there is only one response - their ideas are foolish. Science works, planes fly, and magic carpets don't. Gravity is not a version of the truth; it's a fact. If the postmodernists doubt it, you should invite them to jump off a building.
In rejecting biology, the postmodernists have decided that gender is a choice. This approach has spiralled into a multitude of invented sexes. I have no issue with what folks wish to call themselves. However, you can't use the law to impose these ideas on the rest of us. That is unacceptable.
Moreover, history tells us that the outcomes can be awful when you use the law to change values. The Soviet Union sought to use rules to create a utopian world. It was all done with noble intent. But, in no time, the consequences unfolded as mass detentions, death camps and pogroms. Millions suffered terrible deaths as a result.
We must guard against the bleak nature of the postmodernist. They seek to overturn the enlightenment, science and evidence-based debate. What is surprising is that these ideas are spreading from university campuses. Usually from the soft subjects, such as the social sciences and 'gender studies.' Meanwhile, in craven capitulation, university administrators have surrendered to this nonsense.
Students at US universities sought exemption from exams citing their ethnicity. Then, asserting themselves as victims, they pushed colleges to give them degrees without sitting exams. That's how postmodernism is spreading.
While the primary focus of attack for the postmodernists is the 'white man', that's not the only target. For example, they had no qualms about going after Germaine Greer, a leading feminist. She earned their wrath when she dared to challenge the postmodernist view on transgender people. They banned her from universities, shutting down free speech in the process. This incident highlights their perfidious intent. No debate, no questions allowed.
This action is not because they cannot debate or fear shame. On the contrary, the underlying motive is much more sinister. The radical postmodernists don't believe consensus between different identity groups is possible. Thus discussion or debate is irrelevant. For them, the only option is conflict.
Studying these issues, you begin to get a perspective on the bizarre mindset of postmodernists. Their distorted ideas are emerging into the public domain with gender issues, safe spaces and laws imposed on the majority. At its core, postmodernism is anti-science, anti-reasons and anti-logic. Unless we stop this nonsense, an insane tyrannical postmodernist world awaits.
Walter De Havilland was one of the last of the colonial coppers. He served 35 years in the Royal Hong Kong Police and Hong Kong Police Force. He's long retired.