Postmodern Anarchism – and Atheism
FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2020
I don’t like it when I hear that a person is non-binary – in other words, that the person is neither male nor female. But I chalk that up to mental illness, and I feel sorry for such a person, and I hope that he/she/it gets help.
I dislike it even more when really up-to-date people, out of respect (so they claim) for non-binary persons, refuse to use the pronouns “he” or “she” when referring to such persons. Instead, they try to use whatever pronouns the non-binary person prefers. These up-to-date people are not mentally ill, at least not usually; and only rarely, it seems to me, are they acting out of genuine respect for non-binary persons when they consent to use their lunatic pronouns.
What, then, motivates these up-to-date people? A hatred of civilization, I suspect. They are linguistic vandals. Not the petty vandals who spray-paint walls, break windows, and set fires to vacant buildings. More like the Vandals who in the 5th Century invaded and largely wrecked the Roman Empire in the West.
But can we ruin a civilization by using silly pronouns? Yes – at least if these silly pronouns are part of a larger pattern of reality-hating behavior. For this is what these modern Vandals are. They don’t hate the Roman Empire. They don’t simply hate American capitalism (although they often tell us that they do). They hate reality itself.
And they don’t hate current socio-economic reality in the name of some better reality, a Utopian reality that lies in the more or less distant future (although, again, they often tell us that it is this Utopian reality they are working toward). No, they have a grievance against reality itself. Hence, their commitment to destruction.
These people resemble, not just the Vandals who invaded the Empire, but the revolutionary anarchists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. In contrast to Communists, who held that the party of revolution (they themselves) would have to hold power for years and decades (and perhaps even centuries) after destruction of the old regime in order to build a new social order, the anarchists held that the party of revolution (they themselves) could close up shop the morning after the old regime has been destroyed.
For once the people have been liberated from the oppressions of church and state and capitalism, the fundamental goodness of human nature – Rousseau type of natural goodness – will be free to manifest itself. A new and better social order will spring spontaneously from the hearts and minds of the people.
This theory of the natural goodness of human beings was the justification offered by anarchists for their strategy of mere destruction. But it was an excuse, and a spurious one at that; not a true justification.
What motivated the typical anarchist was not a hope for a better world, but a hatred of the present world of church and state and private property. The truth behind anarchism was revealed in a flash in the early days of the Spanish Civil War. It was in July of 1936 when courageous and furious anarchists who, more than anybody else, defended Barcelona from the forces of Franco and the other generals bent on overthrowing the republic.
But what did the anarchists do during those July days in the hours when they were not fighting against the generals? They were murdering priests and nuns by the hundreds, and they were destroying churches and other buildings owned by the Catholic Church.
They were good at killing. And so, were they good soldiers in the civil war that followed? Well, they were brave soldiers, and bravery is one element of a good soldier, but not the only element.
You can’t run an army on anarchist principles; to be effective, an army must follow an iron discipline. You cannot, for instance, have soldiers electing their officers in August and then shooting them in September; you can’t have individual soldiers taking the initiative to eliminate an officer.
Eventually, the Communists, who understood the importance of discipline, had little choice but to take charge and purge the anti-Franco forces of anarchists.
Our present-day anarchists are like that, but even more so. For it isn’t this or that regime that they hate; it is reality itself that they hate. They exhibit this hatred by denying certain common-sense truths.
For instance, they deny that an unborn baby is a human being. And they deny that nature “intends” males and females to have sexual relations with one another, as opposed to males having sex with males and females having sex with females. And they deny that a boy is by nature a boy, and a girl is by nature is a girl; no, they say, you’re a girl only if you want to be a girl, and you’re a boy only if you want to be a boy. (And they may add: You’re transgender if your ultra-fashionable mother wants you to be transgender. “Look how cool I am,” your mother says, “I have a transgender kid.”)
You may tell me, “You’re exaggerating. These are only a few obnoxious instances. Civilization is not in danger.” I reply: Wait and see. They have only begun. They have established the principle that things are not what they are; they are what we say they are.
Once this principle is taken as an axiom, numerous consequences follow, some of them comic (e.g., “My pronoun is ze”), others tragic – for example, the mass murder of unborn babies and the mass murder of economically unprofitable old people (that will happen soon enough).
If God exists, he is the ultimate reality (the Ens Realissimus as the medieval professors used to say). And if I’m a destructive anarchist who hates all reality I will hate God above all. If I cannot destroy God, I can do the next best thing: I can deny his existence and persuade others to deny it.
And that’s why atheism, I believe, lies at the bottom of our currently fashionable hatred of reality.
*Image: Jean-Jacques Rousseau Meditating in the Park at La Rochecordon Near Lyon by Alexandre-Hyacinthe Dunouy, 1770 [Musée Marmottan Monet, Paris]
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David Carlin is a professor of sociology and philosophy at the Community College of Rhode Island, and the author of The Decline and Fall of the Catholic Church in America.