You can tell that you’re in the cloud-cuckoo land of ideology when you are obliged to do stupid things in its name, even though everyone with even bare walking-around sense knows better. For instance, after the Nazis kicked the Jews out of all university and school faculties (speaking as an American and therefore a beneficiary of all that human capital flooding to our country, I can’t help but observe that it was so much the better for us, here in the “decadent” Anglosphere), it was decreed that only “Aryan” mathematics and science be taught. Somewhere (it’s quoted in Solzhenitsyn, but I can’t recall which volume) there’s a quotation from whatever party organization was in charge of ruining Soviet education, to the effect that “we stand for the principles of Marxism-Leninism in physics,” or something along those lines. Really happened. Can’t make this stuff up.
Of course, the communists were very explicit that for them, ideology in fact did trump everything, even abstract notions of truth and justice. In the Gulag, it was the true believers who most vehemently denied that the objective fact of their own innocence was at all an indictment of the system that put them inside for a “ten-ruble bill” or a “quarter.” There was the Party Line, and only the Party Line. Whatever the Party Line was at the moment was truth and to be defended unto death. Until it wasn’t the Party Line any more. The Germans used to sigh, when someone they knew got raked in and worked over by the Gestapo or Kripo, because he’d had the temerity to say the wrong thing around the water cooler one morning, “If only the Führer knew!”
The communists and the Nazis were both political parties and movements. Politics necessarily tends towards subordinating reality to ideology. So while you can snicker about “Marxism-Leninism in physics,” you can at least acknowledge where they’re coming from.
On the other hand, a movement that is supposedly about truth, about justice, about fairness, about each of us being validated as a fully-equal human . . . that sort of movement is not supposed to have a “party line.” The litmus test is then whether X, when X is some condition, or circumstance, or practice, or rule of existence, does or does not tend towards truth, justice, fairness, equality, or what have you. If it does, then you embrace it; if it doesn’t, then you reject it.
Over at The Federalist we have a brief article by someone name of Heather Wilhelm (which is a cool name, by the way; have to wonder if her friends have nicknamed her “Bill” or the “Kaiserin”). Mme Wilhelm explains her reasons for distancing herself from the self-description of “feminist.” I get the vibe from most of the article that she’s not interested in being something that requires her to endorse any of the several things which she describes.
I only want to comment on one part of her article, “Today’s ‘Feminists’ Give Terrible Advice About Safety.” Which they do. As she points out (correctly):
“Now, most modern feminists would get upset about the very existence of a sorority self-defense seminar—’teach muggers not to mug!’ and all that—but I was happy to be there. . . .’This false idea, that women’s behavior is the real reason they are victimized,’ wrote Katie McDonough at Salon, ‘is regularly used to blame sexual violence on the “problem” of young women today.’ Well, no. We all know where the blame lies: with the perpetrator. The goal is to encourage women to protect themselves, with reality being what it is. It almost leads one to wonder: Do feminists really care about women’s safety at all?”
The answer to her rhetorical question is that feminists do care, but only to the extent that doing so does not conflict with the tenets of their ideology. They stand for the principles of gyno-centrism in physics, in other words.
I served right at four years in the combat fleet, on a guided missile destroyer. It was the twilight of — well, not even the Old Navy, but rather — the navy in which it was anticipated that sailors would behave like sailors, rather than Boy Scouts. It was taken for granted that when we put into a foreign port, crew members would seek out the whores and tattoo parlors. [Aside: Sailors may wear tattoos. It’s part of being a sailor. South Seas Islanders may also wear them; it’s part of who they are as well. Anyone else wearing a tattoo who’s didn’t receive it involuntarily from the Nazis in a concentration camp is tacky and conformist. Sorry if this offends. No, actually, I’m not.] It was taken for granted they’d drink too much. It was taken for granted they’d go around gawping like the tourists we were. It was taken for granted that they’d blow their money on cheap touristy-trinkets. There would be a box of condoms on the quarterdeck, and whoever wanted however many he wanted took what he thought he was going to need.
Here’s the tie-in to Mme Wilhelm’s article: Part of the in-brief, and part of the pre-liberty call speech at each and every last stinkin’ port call was Where to Stay Away From, and earnest reminders of the buddy system. We did a port visit in Ocho Rios once. We were told that if we went out in groups of less than ten, we might get rolled. If we went out in groups of less than five, we would get rolled. In fact we had members of the United States Navy get mugged almost literally within sight of the ship. Why did we put that word out to the men, each and every time? Because it was good damned advice, and if you cared about your men’s health and safety, you told them what they needed to know. To hell with it if someone was offended; I just wanted my sailors back on the ship in one piece.
Safety advice that is appropriate to members of the United States Armed Forces is advice that is certainly not inappropriate to a college co-ed. I’ll just state that as an absolute principle.
Thank God we didn’t have to deal with a feminist theory of naval gunfire support, is all I can say, or non-phallo-centric anti-air warfare.
But seriously, today’s feminist insistence on unreality, in matters of safety advice and others (such as those pointed out in the linked article), is the give-away that we’re not dealing with a human rights movement but rather a political movement. More to the point, it’s a political movement which insists that “the personal is political,” which is why an 18-year-old freshman’s not knowing the basics of physical self-defense (and going unarmed) is something properly addressed through the filter of ideology rather than ordinary common sense. It’s not a stupid personal choice, but rather a political statement, to be defenseless.
I’ll close by observing that this insistence that the personal is political is a very dangerous position. The “political” is something which is properly the subject of debate and collective action in and through the polis — and that includes me and everyone else. If you elide the distinction between the personal and the political what you do is create a world in which everything that you do and are, every decision you make — and yes, this includes abortion as well, Dorothy — is properly the subject for a collective decision that’s not your own, and the implementation of that decision through the physical coercion of the state. Modern feminism’s staking out its position on that line makes the dangerous assumption that their side is always going to come out the winner. That’s not true; if nothing else the 20th Century should have cured us of the illusion that the “right” side always ends up with its hands on the levers of coercive power.
And what’s really distressing is that the lefties have no inkling that their conflation of the personal with the political is anything but “progressive.” It’s as retrogressive as it could possibly be; see, for example, medieval sumptuary laws, or religious tests, or the Inquisition. The whole Anglospheric conception of human liberty rests upon neither more nor less than the assertion that the personal is most definitely not political, and the willingness to defend that distinction at gun-point.