The new gospel

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - Bradley R. Gitz Free­lance colum­nist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, re­ceived his Ph.D. in po­lit­i­cal science from the Univer­sity of Illi­nois.

The er­ratic, post-En­light­en­ment de­cline of re­li­gious be­lief hasn’t meant the end of the hu­man search for mean­ing; rather, it has sim­ply led to the de­vel­op­ment of sec­u­lar re­li­gions known as po­lit­i­cal ide­olo­gies, of­ten ac­com­pa­nied by more fa­nati­cism and fe­roc­ity than the real thing and usu­ally mi­nus the char­ity and good works.

The po­lit­i­cal ide­o­logue is thus a mod­ern-day ver­sion of those who fought re­li­gious wars and burned heretics at the stake.

The most pow­er­ful sec­u­lar re­li­gion was, of course, com­mu­nism. It had its own founder/God (Karl Marx), saints (Lenin, Stalin, and Mao) and scrip­ture (The Com­mu­nist Man­i­festo and Das Kap­i­tal). There was also a pros­e­ly­tiz­ing clergy in the form of the party elite and pe­ri­odic in­ternecine con­flicts (the Stalin-Tito break and the later Si­noSoviet split).

De­spite its sci­en­tific pre­ten­sion, com­mu­nism proved as much a mat­ter of faith as any es­tab­lished re­li­gion, with the most de­voted acolytes ab­sorb­ing news of the Naz­iSoviet Pact and Nikita Khrushchev’s rev­e­la­tions of Stalin’s “crimes against hu­man­ity” with­out aban­don­ing the cause.

The tipoff as to the es­sen­tially re­li­gious na­ture of com­mu­nism was found in its per­sis­tent hos­til­ity to­ward tra­di­tional re­li­gious be­lief; per­se­cu­tion of the church was dic­tated by Marx’s as­sump­tion of re­li­gion as an in­ducer of “false con­scious­ness” (the “opi­ate of the masses”) but mil­i­tant athe­ism was also nec­es­sary be­cause no re­li­gion likes com­pe­ti­tion and di­vided loy­al­ties. Or­ga­nized re­li­gion had to be de­stroyed by com­mu­nist regimes be­cause it, by def­i­ni­tion, sug­gested a higher call­ing than loy­alty to the regime and the “of­fi­cial” ide­ol­ogy.

In the end, com­mu­nism dif­fered from re­li­gion only in that the lat­ter promised heaven in the here­after and the for­mer in the here and now, and the fact that not even the most fa­nat­i­cal Chris­tian cru­saders and Span­ish In­quisi­tors pro­duced the kinds of body counts and killing fields that Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot did.

The col­lapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 robbed the global left of its

rai­son d’être, but it didn’t erad­i­cate its un­der­ly­ing quasi-re­li­gious im­pulses, which lin­gered on in new, ill-de­fined con­cepts like “mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism” and “di­ver­sity,” and even ac­quired an apoc­a­lyp­tic en­vi­ron­men­tal di­men­sion with use­ful anti-cap­i­tal­ist over­tones in global warm­ing the­ory, all re­in­forced by a new ver­sion of the party line called po­lit­i­cal cor­rect­ness.

It might have taken a cou­ple of decades, but out of th­ese scat­tered frag­ments the left has now pro­duced a new, full-blown sec­u­lar re­li­gion called “in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity.” Whereas Marx and En­gels cre­ated a class-based hi­er­ar­chy de­ter­mined by one’s re­la­tion­ship to the means of pro­duc­tion, the the­ory of in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity lumps ev­ery­one into over­lap­ping cat­e­gories based on race, eth­nic­ity, gen­der, and sex­ual pref­er­ence.

It seeks to link to­gether the pre­vi­ously dis­parate en­thu­si­asms of the con­tem­po­rary left, like Marx­ism be­fore it, trac­ing all forms of dis­crim­i­na­tion and in­jus­tice back to deeply em­bed­ded sys­temic and in­sti­tu­tional roots. Ac­cord­ing to Christina Hoff Som­mers, it con­se­quently “views racism, sex­ism, ableism, het­ero­sex­ism, and all forms of ‘op­pres­sion’ as in­ter­con­nected and mu­tu­ally re­in­forc­ing.”

In­ter­sec­tion­al­ity the­ory ul­ti­mately sug­gests that Amer­i­can so­ci­ety (and the world more broadly) is de­fined by op­pres­sion and that each of us falls some­where into the op­pres­sor/ op­pressed ma­trix: A white woman is op­pressed by virtue of her gen­der, but an op­pres­sor by virtue of her skin color; a black male is op­pressed by virtue of skin color but an op­pres­sor by virtue of gen­der, and so on. The ul­ti­mate vic­tim of op­pres­sion, at the bot­tom of the hi­er­ar­chy of priv­i­lege, would pre­sum­ably be a poor black fe­male les­bian, at the top, the ul­ti­mate op­pres­sor, would pre­sum­ably be a wealthy white Chris­tian het­ero­sex­ual male.

Just about all of the left’s cur­rent ob­ses­sions—trans­gen­dered bath­rooms, $15 min­i­mum wage de­mands, and speech codes, “safe spa­ces” and cour­ses on “white priv­i­lege” on our col­lege cam­puses flow from such in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity as­sump­tions.

Alas, in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity, while clearly de­riv­a­tive of Marx­ism, also dif­fers from it in a num­ber of ways, most con­spic­u­ously by the ex­tent to which it is (like tra­di­tional re­li­gious be­lief) im­per­vi­ous to con­trary facts and ev­i­dence, such that ef­forts to raise ob­jec­tions to its as­sump­tions and de­mands only proves, in Som­mers’ words, “that you are part of the prob­lem it seeks to over­come.”

Whereas com­mu­nism, how­ever adept it be­came at ex­plain­ing away un­pleas­ant facts, was ul­ti­mately em­pir­i­cal in na­ture and thus col­lapsed when too great a gap de­vel­oped be­tween the­ory and prac­tice (the ob­vi­ous fail­ure of com­mu­nist states to keep pace with their al­legedly doomed cap­i­tal­ist coun­ter­parts), in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity the­ory con­sti­tutes a closed log­i­cal sys­tem, with facts and data viewed as part and par­cel of the sys­tem of op­pres­sion it­self; it is, by def­i­ni­tion, in­ca­pable of fal­si­fi­ca­tion.

Even the con­cept of truth is viewed by in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity the­o­rists as a malev­o­lent mech­a­nism of ex­ploita­tion em­ployed by the white male pa­tri­archy.

In­ter­sec­tion­al­ity thus rep­re­sents the in­evitable cul-de-sac into which left­ist vic­ti­mol­ogy leads, the ul­ti­mate re­jec­tion of thought and rea­son in fa­vor of emo­tions and su­per­sti­tion. It has, ul­ti­mately, no real goals other than to in­cite griev­ances and to pro­mote the moral su­pe­ri­or­ity of its ad­her­ents.

One sus­pects that even Marx would have found it pa­thetic.

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