July 22, 2021

1. Rian Malan

I came across an interesting piece in the New York Post by a SouthAfrican writer named Rian Malan. Malan says that South Africa has been in turmoil recently:

As I write, shell-shocked South Africans are trying to muster a response to an orgy of arson and looting. Cargo vessels are being turned away from some of our largest harbors, because it’s too dangerous to unload them. Hundreds of thousands face hunger thanks to the destruction of warehouses and disruption of food-supply chains. Tens of thousands of jobs and small businesses have been destroyed; the property damage is incalculable.

Malan takes aim at American Critical Race Theory (CRT). He says that SouthAfrican anarchy is

a warning about the practical consequences of ideas like those propounded by Kendi and CRT superstar Robin DiAngelo, who in the name of “equity” maintains it is racist to talk of work ethic or to expect all workers to show up on time, regardless of race.

Malan says that, in South Africa, affirmative action has been taken to an extreme:

We created a society where nothing was expected of blacks save “blackness.” Honor and diligence were not demanded of government appointees. Sloth was tolerated. Failures and corruption went unpunished. Blind pursuit of equity began to achieve its opposite: a staggering equality gap among blacks themselves, with a fortunate few benefitting hugely and the masses sinking into abject misery....

In addition to paying taxes at Scandinavian levels, South African corporations were required to cede large ownership stakes to black partners, whether or not they brought anything to the table besides black skin and connections in high places.

Malan says that the African National Congress, which has been in power in South Africa since 1994, was once Marxist, but after the fall of the Soviet Union, it became “neoliberal.” From 1999 to 2008, the leader of this neoliberal regime was Thabo Mbeki.

The object of this new game [Malan writes] was not to destroy capitalism, but to force it to open its doors to aspirant blacks. Starting in l999, Mbeki’s government enacted a phalanx of American-sounding laws intended to eradicate racial disparities.

Malan concludes thus:

Many black South Africans who oppose [the recent looting] were out in force last week, manning roadblocks to keep the mobs away from their homes and businesses. I can hear their voices on the radio, clamoring for change. By the sound of it, they want a country where human outcomes are determined by the content of one’s character, not by pigmentation or friends in the ruling party. Martin Luther King would appreciate their message. Kendi & Co. wouldn’t.

Malan writes well. He’s the author of a popular book called My Traitor’s Heart (1990), which Wikipedia describes as a “memoir of growing up in Apartheid-era South Africa in which he explores race relations through prominent murder cases. In addition, he reflects on the history of his family, a prominent Afrikaner clan that migrated to the Cape in the 17th century.” He calls the book My Traitor’s Heart because he left South Africa for several years to avoid being drafted into the army.

2. Andrew Sullivan

In a recent issue, I discussed two conservative writers who publish through Substack, Glenn Loury and John McWhorter. Perhaps I should call them “moderates”; both of them probably voted for Obama. But they now appear conservative since they oppose today’s Left, today’s identity politics, today’s preoccupation with “racism.”

Another Substack writer who supported Obama but now seems conservative is Andrew Sullivan. Sullivan recently wrote an essay on “The radicalization of the American elite.” Sullivan says,

I have exactly the same principles and support most of the same policies I did under Barack Obama. In fact, I’ve moved left on economic and foreign policy since then. It’s Democrats who have taken a sudden, giant swerve away from their recent past.

Sullivan notes that Obama talked about the lingering effects of slavery, but Obama also encouraged blacks to take

full responsibility for our own lives — by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Sullivan says, “To say this today would evoke instant accusations of being a white supremacist and racist. That’s how far the left has moved: Obama as an enabler of white supremacy.”

Sullivan compares today’s atmosphere with the 1960s; the Left today is an extreme version of the 1960s Left. The Left is moving to an extreme, as happened in France during the French Revolution, and China during the Cultural Revolution.1

We are going through the greatest radicalization of the elites since the 1960s. This isn’t coming from the ground up. It’s being imposed ruthlessly from above, marshaled with a fusillade of constant MSM [Main Stream Media] propaganda, and its victims are often the poor and the black and the brown. It nearly lost the Democrats the last election. Only Biden’s seeming moderation, the wisdom of black Democratic primary voters, and the profound ugliness of Trump wrested the presidency from a vicious demagogue, whose contempt for our system of government appears ever greater the more we find out about his term in office....

We all know it’s happened. The elites, increasingly sequestered within one political party and one media monoculture, educated by colleges and private schools that have become hermetically sealed against any non-left dissent, have had a “social justice reckoning” these past few years.

Sullivan speaks of, “the replacement of liberal education with left-indoctrination.”

Sullivan admires the Korean-American writer Wesley Yang. According to Wikipedia,

Yang coined the term “successor ideology” in 2019 to describe an emerging ideology among left-wing movements in the United States centered around identity politics that he believes may replace traditional liberal values.

So the term “successor ideology” means “the ideology that’s succeeding traditional liberalism.”

Sullivan quotes Yang on today’s Leftists:

“You operate from the starting point that all the previous ideologies, methods, and processes are untrustworthy, because they produced this outcome previously, so we’ve got to remake all of them.” Precisely. This is a revolution against liberalism commanded from above.

Like Sullivan, Yang publishes through Substack. Yang recently wrote,

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences of America announced last year that it would set diversity quotas for any film eligible to win a best picture award. In order to enforce these targets, there will be regular surprise inspections into the racial origins and gender identity of cast and crew.

We seem to be moving toward SouthAfrica-style affirmative action.

* * * * *

Sullivan was born in England in 1963; his parents were Irish Catholic. He was an undergrad at Oxford, then he earned a Ph.D. in Government from Harvard; he was a student of Harvey Mansfield. So he understands the history of liberalism and liberal democracy. He says,

In the successor ideology, there is no escape, no refuge, from the ongoing nightmare of oppression and violence — and you are either fighting this and “on the right side of history,” or you are against it and abetting evil. There is no neutrality. No space for skepticism. No room for debate. No space even for staying silent. (Silence, remember, is violence — perhaps the most profoundly anti-liberal slogan ever invented.)

Liberalism leaves you alone. The successor ideology will never let go of you. Liberalism is only concerned with your actions. The successor ideology is concerned with your mind, your psyche, and the deepest recesses of your soul. Liberalism will let you do your job, and let you keep your politics private. [The successor ideology] will force you into a struggle session as a condition for employment.

It is absolutely no accident that this illiberal ideology has no qualms whatever with illiberal methods. The latter springs intrinsically from the former. Kendi, feted across the establishment, favors amending the Constitution to appoint an unelected and unaccountable committee of “experts” that has the power to coerce and punish any individual or group anywhere in the country deemed practicing racism. Intent does not matter. And the decisions are final. An advocate for unaccountable, totalitarian control of our society is the darling of every single elite institution in America, and is routinely given platforms where no tough questioning of him is allowed.

Sullivan’s goal is “a liberal democracy in a liberal society.” While he opposes Trump and the Republican Right, he says that much of what the Republicans are doing is a reaction to the Left:

Can you not see that the Republicans may be acting, but they are also reacting — reacting against something that is right in front of our noses?

What is it? It is, I’d argue, the sudden, rapid, stunning shift in the belief system of the American elites. It has sent the whole society into a profound cultural dislocation. It is, in essence, an ongoing moral panic against the specter of “white supremacy,” which is now bizarrely regarded as an accurate description of the largest, freest, most successful multiracial democracy in human history.

Biden swims with the current, he doesn’t have the strength of character to stand up to the Left. Sullivan says that Biden has

aided and abetted and justified this radicalism. He has instituted a huge program of overt government race and sex discrimination throughout every policy and area of government; he backs decimating due process for sexual accusations on campus; he favors abolishing religious freedom as a defense of anti-gay discrimination; he believes that gender identity should replace sex as a legal category, and gender identity should rest entirely on self-disclosure; he favors expediting and maximizing mass immigration, not stemming it. In Yang’s rather brutal assessment, for the hard left, “what they saw is that with Joe Biden, who’s this throwback figure, the activists could all rush to him and get most of what they wanted from him anyway.”

If you really care about African-Americans, Sullivan argues, you won’t talk about racism, you’ll talk about practical matters. Sullivan says that, in black families,

the proportion of children raised with two parents in the home inched up from 24 to 30 percent. It’s still startlingly low — and, in my view, is easily the most powerful “structural” reason for racial inequality in America — but this turnaround will do more for African-Americans than any “equity” program.

3. Trails and Travels

New long-distance trails are popping up all over. Nantucket has a new trail called the Coast to Coast Trail, which goes from the eastern edge of the island to the western edge, a distance of 25 miles.

As I was biking the eastern third of this trail, I encountered an experienced hiker who was trying to hike more than half the trail. He was in his late 60s, and he’d hiked many long-distance trails in Europe, such as the South West Coast Path in England, and the Tour de Mont Blanc. He often hiked 25 miles in a day. He didn’t seem interested in the famous pilgrim trail in northern Spain, the Camino de Santiago; perhaps he felt that it was too crowded. And he wasn’t interested in the Appalachian Trail because it doesn’t have inns, so you need to carry a tent, food, etc. He likes trails that have inns, inns that provide both breakfast and dinner.

For information about trails, he recommends an English publisher called Cicerone.

© L. James Hammond 2021
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1. In an earlier issue, I discussed Crane Brinton, who wrote about the stages of a revolution; Brinton “compares the advance of a revolution to the advance of a fever.” back