Ideas on Hate
The recent student activism on American college campuses has shocked many American Boomers and Gen Xers. Activism per se is not surprising. Boomers grew up during the time of hippie activism. They can appreciate, and often applaud the exuberance of youth that motivates young people to want to change the world for the better. What seems counterintuitive to them are some of the underlying ideas being used to determine what would make a better future. It is a nuanced conversation, and there is a whole spectrum of views on the Israel/Palestine conflict, but many are asking how we got to the point where so many student protesters seem to view Jew hatred and even support for Hamas as justified. They seem to regard anyone who values God, family, country, and the idea of melting pot nations as naive.
Truth, beauty, and goodness have long been considered ideals of higher civilization that should be contemplated and pursued. But their very definitions have been changed in ways that ignore thousands of years of acquired knowledge, as if all people who came before were merely unsophisticated or ignorant.
Many current ideas about hate seem contradictory. One such idea is that hate should be condemned unless the person is in some group deemed to be oppressors, and then it is encouraged. Another would be that different people have different truth and questioning a person’s truth is seen as unjustified hate. Colonialism is evil and if any of your ancestors were colonial, you are evil and hating you is justified. People who have built successful businesses must have oppressed others to do so, and so looting or destroying their property through force or fraud is justifiable.
Valuing civilization itself has even been called into question by some who say civilization and barbarism should be equally esteemed. Thomas Sowell has pointed out that, “Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.” If civilizing people is a questionable endeavor, what does the future hold? Are we just beginning to learn the consequences?
New Perspective on History
Much of what is happening today is very predictable when one considers the perspective from which emerging generations have been taught to interpret history and judge current events. In 1980, Howard Zinn published A People’s History of the United States, which popularized a different perspective from most previous textbooks. In his approach, the more traditional values of God, family, and country, are challenged in ways that would make anyone who appreciates them seem naive. He describes a side of American history that views institutions as essentially evil, rigged systems that greatly benefit small groups of elite rulers by exploiting and manipulating the majority.
For example, Chapter One begins with a takedown of Christopher Columbus even though historians have questioned the reliability of his sources. But even he described his overall perspective as different from other historians. His method for making the ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness a reality requires “a striving, against corporate robber barons and war makers.” Columbus is defined as a robber baron and war monger because he had achieved great things. Anyone who has achieved great things must have oppressed others to do so.
Oppression is evil wherever it exists and should be revealed and rooted out. While an honest evaluation of history is absolutely necessary, all institutions, because they are designed by fallible human beings, have flaws, and cannot be formed without them. But perhaps the most troubling aspect of Zinn’s approach is the idea that the answer to social ills is to take down the structure of current institutions, and intentionally hold back groups deemed to be oppressors, or ancestors of oppressors, in order to allow others to succeed. Since the institutions are viewed as the evil entities, once they are gone it is believed that peace will naturally reign. The innate goodness of people will take over and if the oppressors do not have the evil institutions to use, everyone will thrive. This is the great delusion they encourage students to accept.
Almost all United States history that has been written since the 80s has been influenced by Zinn’s viewpoint in some way. His work has been built on by others and it has become the common language for every social and political issue today. Much of it can be summed up by saying that the best way to find a solution is to define the problem as a struggle between groups of oppressors and groups that are oppressed. Equity is then achieved by destroying the institutions used by oppressors. Groups that are deemed oppressors are handicapped and groups deemed oppressed are given advantages. Individuals are mere pawns caught up in these systems incapable of escaping their predetermined fate as victims until the systems are destroyed.
Enter Barak Obama
An industry has been built around organizing people to unite in their discontent over real or perceived injustices and demand change as groups. Barak Obama was our first president who had found a career in this industry. When he was described as a community organizer, many Americans asked, “What the heck is a community organizer?” In the run-up to the 2008 presidential election, he famously proclaimed, “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” It was a bold statement that inspired many, puzzled many, and terrified others who understood these changes that were happening. No one at the time asked him to explain what he meant. Americans simply assumed this charismatic young leader, would only take the country to a better place.
The Great Utopian Delusion
At the time Zinn was first writing his history, socialism had such a negative connotation that its ideas could not explicitly be spoken of positively, even though in his later editions he has done so more and more. But he has used many ideas of Marxism and expanded them beyond the mere class struggles that Marx had described. He pointed to issue after issue as another reason for people to rise up and destroy institutions through protest and revolution. His way to draw people into the struggle for change was to help them discover all the ways they had personally been victimized by the evil institutions. Unfortunately, this always agitates for the use of force and continual strife among all people.
The fundamental ideas of socialism and the foundational lies it is based upon are all throughout works like Zinn’s. The protests that American college students are joining (and for which they are sometimes given extra credit points for participation) are exactly what they have been taught is a virtuous endeavor ever since grammar school.
Clarence Carson was a Vanderbilt trained history professor who saw some of these changes coming. In his later years, he left academia to devote himself to independent research, writing, and lecturing. If you want to read a little more, The Great Utopian Delusion is a concise book where Paul Cleveland and Dwayne Barney mined some of the gold from Dr. Carson’s writing to help explain the paradise on earth that socialism promises but can never deliver. It explains why proponents of the delusion must lie, and they must lie to everyone—especially themselves. With a thorough understanding of this reality, we can push back against the lie.