I’m skeptical whenever people claim that we’re “more polarized than ever” or something similar. In our country, people have always disagreed vehemently, sometimes violently, and pulled dirty tricks to obtain and maintain power. Back in 1801, the lame-duck Federalist Congress attempted to pack the judiciary with friendly judges before the Republicans took power, for instance. Should one of the major parties today attempt to pull a stunt like that, the internet would be inundated with hot takes wrongly condemning the behavior as unprecedented.
I do think that some features of our day and age facilitate the creation of ideological echo chambers. I also think that some cancerous ways of thinking (variations of post-structuralist Marxism, basically) have been developed and disseminated that haven’t been in the mainstream for most of our history. Until now, that is.*
People are lazy and stupid. They have always been lazy and stupid. They will always be lazy and stupid. However, the way that society is structured (cultural norms, laws, social fabric, etc.) can counteract our innate tendencies toward laziness and stupidity. This is a wonderful thing. On the other hand, if the structure of a society is sufficiently corrupt, it can promote our worst tendencies instead of counteracting them. I think that’s what’s happening today.
The intersectional politics of the contemporary left have provided an easy way for young people to abdicate responsibility for their thoughts and actions. All evil is a result of the way society is structured, and this is the fault of straight white men. Therefore, the way to fix society is by raging against straightness, whiteness, and maleness. There is no need to think about actual solutions for problems like poverty. We just need to make a lot of noise about injustice and make demands and stuff, and somehow that will make things better.
Obviously, this doesn’t work. Evil is not purely the result of groups oppressing other groups, although that is indeed a factor in how evil comes about in the world. Evils can also be naturally occurring, or they can spring from individual wrongdoing that has nothing to do with group identity. Some evils are intractable.
The goal of the activist class is not so much the resolution of evil as it is being on “the right side of history,” an idea with Marxist overtones. All of human history can be conceived of as the history of oppressors and oppressed struggling against one another. Eventually, the oppressed are destined to violently overthrow their oppressors and establish a society in which there is no oppression. You want to make sure you’re on the right side. Therefore, make as much noise as possible to prove your loyalty to the oppressed. The movement of history is inevitable. Might as well just go with it.
This is why the intersectional left is always making mountains out of molehills. Their goal isn’t actually to produce meaningful change. It’s to acquire moral status.
Some psychologist won’t use gender-neutral pronouns? He’s a nazi fascist. Trans rights are human rights. #NoPlatform. We can call him names and shout slogans. We are so brave and such wonderful allies to the trans cause. Yay us.
Somebody is saying that universities should provide due process for those accused of rape? But rape is wrong! Rape apologist! Due process = rape culture! I’m literally shaking because I feel so unsafe. Look how much I hate the men who rape! I’m special and unique because I’m against rape, unlike everybody else!
For the activist class, there is a clearly defined set of beliefs that are acceptable to hold. Any deviation from that is some kind of fascist white supremacist misogyny. By choosing to view the world in such a way, these people make careful thinking obsolete. Why bother defining terms like “fascist” if you’re just going to lob them at anyone who isn’t a socialist? There is no reason to. Likewise, there’s no point in understanding your opponent’s opinion if you’re not actually going to engage with it.
This is a profoundly corrupt game that the activists have created and popularized. Only one side can win, creating huge incentives to join that side. Unfortunately for us, that side requires that you check our critical faculties at the door so that you can imbibe more of the Marxist trash that they’re peddling. If you were to stop and actually think for a second, you might realize that allowing the government to compel speech is probably a bad idea, or that people accused of awful crimes aren’t always guilty. In order to avoid coming to such regressive conclusions, perhaps it’s best not to think at all.
*Post-structuralist Marxism isn’t exactly mainstream in the population at large, but it is mainstream in academia, with the result that young people are increasingly being taught to accept these ideas uncritically.