Let’s first agree that not everything that is irksome, incorrect, or left-leaning is Cultural Marxism.
In fact, most of the alleged Cultural Marxists are probably unfamiliar in the terms, just as they are not intimately familiar with the writings of Marx himself, and may not even know that they are in fact Cultural Marxists.
Let’s, then, separate the uneducated hordes of post-modernist, intersectionalist millennials from the academics, who are more likely the perpetrators of a particular school of thoughts.
Let’s also view distinctly their bumbling parents, who may have more money than sense in allowing general liberal-minded thinking to go unchallenged, and never pushing back against the education their children receive at home.
The background of this philosophical phenomenon, which has somehow insinuated itself in every pedagogical trend, and every culture war discussion, is quite simple. German communists suffered a blow to their gestalt, when the communist revolution failed to materialize in Western Europe, and, unable to take up the cause, decided to try to subsume bourgeois values in dialectics and assorted “critical theories”, which, surprisingly enough carried the brunt of Marxist message in “soft” form through educational and cultural institutions.
Outright communists and fellow travelers already embedded in US higher education, various professional associations, the media, and non-profits carried water for the school quickly adopting and adapting the message and creating generations of students hooked on “critical race and gender” and other theories, which, with each generation, became increasingly more radical, until we finally reached the state we are in today. That said, given the lack of academic rigor in most of such classes, and lack of familiarity of the students of the sources of the current system of thinking (if one may call it that) – doubt most of them could read through more than a page of Hagel without getting triggered – it would hardly be fair of throwing such grave accusations as Cultural Marxist at this cohort. Doubt anyone who has never even heard of Marcuse, and for whom the Frankfurt School only brings up an image of a school in Frankfurt, can be deemed a true follower.
To the extent that we have generations of ignoramuses with poor critical thinking skills and inability to deal with intellectually challenging material of any sort, perhaps the aim of the Frankfurters has been reached. Middle class values of traditional (or at least, any) education has been subsumed by consumerism and feel-goodism of an emotion-based paradigm preeminent on campuses and in other institutions throughout the country today. And one can’t fight a zombified population the way you would fight a clear-thinking, masterful opponent with a concrete and rigid ideology, for instance, an early Marxist or a Maoist. Many of the well-educated Marxists eventually became equally ardent neoconservative because they were able to utilize reason to evaluate false paradigms and change them when they realized that those paradigms either did not comport with the reality of human nature, or sought to change that reality in a degrading, destructive, and dehumanizing way. I am afraid we are long past that stage.
Now that we have concluded that we are actually fighting a different battle from the one many stalwart cultural warriors probably imagine, let’s consider what the battle actually entails even in the abstract.
How successful have “we” (as a society) been in fighting the war on:
or, frankly any other war that does not involve actual, physical weapons, fighting, military strategy, and so forth?
I think that people across the entire conservative gamut, regardless of all the other imaginable differences, will agree on one thing: all of the above concepts were complete failures.
These wars failed in correctly identifying social and political problems; they failed in attempting to utilize the government to fight social problems for most of which the government is very ill suited. They have failed in identifying realistic goals, in setting the parameters for battles, in understanding what constitutes measurable successes, in developing concrete strategies towards particularized and measurable ends, and they failed to implement these strategies in any meaningful way.
So “War on Cultural Marxism”, if we learn from our past in such phenomenon is bound to end in massive failure for the conservative movement unless we completely reconceptualize what is going on here and what we can do about it.
The problem is, we, or at least people who claim to be at the vanguard of the opposition, have already made the mistake in a) defining this social problem without giving any specific parameters to it and b) fervently embracing the government (in the face of the president, currently Donald J. Trump), as the method by which this situation should be and could be resolved. The so-called small government conservatives, it seems, have put all their best hopes on one man, and should that man fail (and he inevitably will, for reasons I will outline below), all hope, they say, will be gone, and the US can as well be sold off on the market to the highest bidder. How do they expect this one human being, who, as they say, is not a politician, yet who understand the root of the problem, to win a war that has no real definition, no parameters, no scope, and no real vision of victory? Beats me, but I would not expect even William F. Buckley or President Coolidge to succeed under such circumstances, much less the current occupant of the White House.
Let’s agree on one thing, however. The president (as well as your favorite senators, governors, and other public officials), has a job. His job is to execute, command forces, lead the party, and the other public officials have their jobs in legislating, leading states, representing their constituents, and so forth. I think if they are doing their job well, they will lead by example, they will identify the needs of their constituents into meaningful visions for the country or for their states, and translate those needs into actionable items, whether it means deregulation that frees up businesses and entrepreneurs from the yoke of government interventionism, meaningful reforms of current programs, bills, and entitlements, engaging in security evaluation, and so on and so forth. Public office holders can communicate their visions to their constituents, they can outline their doctrines through speeches, action items, and agendas.
What they cannot do is become full time culture warriors and philosophers.
They cannot drop everything they are doing and just travel the country spreading the gospel of conservative or party values or principles important to their constituents and force everyone to follow their creed. At best, they can attract disciples, who are inspired by their example and interpret their visions, campaign promises, and speeches and then translate them into particular teachings, which they can use to build up a conservative revival across nation. But all of that seems to be a rather laborious and backwards process. In reality, that’s not how political revolutions happen, and that’s not how you change anything period. Sure, government reforms, assorted bills protecting individual rights and freedom, are helpful in not creating additional roadblock.
But the real power to change hearts and minds lies not with the politicians, who are mere representatives of popular will, but with “We the People”. And We the People, it seems, have abdicated all responsibility for their own welfare. Politicians can help, mostly by not interfering. Politicians can hire the right sort of staff to represent particular values to their offices and agencies. But the real work lies with the voters, with the consumers and potential producers of culture, education, the movers and the shakers, the creators of the paradigmatic shifts that don’t just materialize out of nowhere.
Politicians are not our mommies and daddies. Oftentimes, they need our help and support much more than we need theirs, and certainly on a day to day basis. They cannot hold our hands as we attend university lectures, or read the papers, or turn on the TV. They can speak out on relevant issues of the day, but it’s up to us to write the books and the articles, to promote our messengers on mass media, to back a change in the sort of material that is being consumed by future generations of voters. And whether they poke fun of the media overreach, or fight with it, or denounce political correctness, none of those problems will magically go away just because a particular office holder opposes and exposes them. In fact, these institutions, even when called out for their blatant incompetence, vacuousness, and falsehood, will fight more viciously for their own survival. Congressional investigations and such can help determine the truth in the aftermath, particularly if government corruption is involved, but they cannot turn bad journalists into good ones, or bad professors into devoted truth seekers.
So let’s NOT pretend that our politicians are magicians, deities, or prophets with direct link to the divine knowledge of what’s needed to transform society. Let’s understand that the grassroots activists, the educators, the journalists, the culturemongerers of every time, have as much, and probably more of a role to play than the Elders of Washington DC.
Let’s figure out what kind of society, We the People want to live in. Do we want more educational choices and do we want more support for these educational choices? If so, how do we get there?
Let’s move away from using abstract, meaningless terms, define what victory means to us – through publications, through public discourse, through letters, and thoughtful approach, and activism; let’s create and strengthen the platform for getting the message out; and let’s self-organize towards meaningful change through actionable work we can each carry out without having to depend on approval or help from politicos, be they the President or the local town clerk. That is how every meaningful transformation in the United States has happened – from the best minds of their generation coming together to create the Constitution, to the Industrial Revolution that modernized our society (and was pivoted by early inventors, scientists, and entrepreneurs, not politicians), to all the many foundations of this country that were built from the ground up, not dictated to us by the government.
Let’s fight; let’s not wait for someone to fight for us. And let’s know what it is we are fighting for, on whose turf, and on whose terms. We have all the means to define these terms ourselves, to choose the turf. We have at our grasp all the information that we could ever need. All we have to do is understand the nature of the task ahead – and get moving.