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DANIEL VAUGHAN: Progressive hamsters try to overwrite reality’s hamsters
At its core, the most pressing debate in America right now asks where one receives their identity and ratification in society.
Every significant cultural discussion is essentially about who or what dictates a person’s identity. Modern progressivism, for instance, attempts to replace traditional ideas for determining identity and place in the world with a “woke” sensibility that claims “personal truth” is superior to objective standards.
I’ll start with an example of what I’m describing. There was a viral tweet-storm written by branding consultant Carol Blymire. She penned a thread of tweets describing a situation between an editor and a young writer.
The two women in her story were going over edits to the writer’s story. While doing that, they hit a snag over how to spell the word “hamster.” The writer had spelled it “hampster” and refused, apparently through tears, to change the spelling.
The editor, flummoxed by that decision, explained the necessity of the editing process and even went to a dictionary for proper spelling.
The young writer had none of it, Blymire writes:
The young woman insists she doesn’t need to look it up because it’s FINE to spell it with a P because that’s HOW SHE WANTED TO SPELL IT.
There’s an objectively right and wrong way to spell the word hamster if you’re referring to a small, furry, rodent. But for the young writer, personal truth overwrites anything objective; she spells it that way, so everyone must accept it — including dictionaries and editors. (If this trick works, I plan on demanding $10,000 from my editors for every column I write as my personal truth.)
This event may seem small, but it reveals a broader point: People declare their personal truths and identities as a means of enforcing “woke” or “progressive” ideas that can’t survive scrutiny. If a person’s identity is dangerous to progressivism, we either change that identity or declare it “racist.”
Enter Linda Sarsour, one of the infamous Women’s March backers, and friends of “the Squad.” She spent a weekend tweeting out to followers that “Jesus was Palestinian of Nazareth and is described in the Quran as being brown copper skinned with wooly hair.”
Her point is that “Jesus is both Jewish and Palestinian, saying Palestinian is a nationality and Judaism is a religion.”
Here’s the problem: the term “Palestinian” didn’t exist until more than 100 years after Christ. The Romans invented the term Palestinian. The area was called Judea and unique to Jews. According to historians, when Jews revolted against Roman rule, the Romans sacked Jerusalem and burned the temple to erase identity, Sara Toth Stub reports at The Tower:
[The Roman emporer] Hadrian changed the name of the province from Judea to Palaestina in an attempt to erase its Jewish past and the threat it posed to his hold on power.
Calling Jesus and that area “Palestinian” is a specific form of anti-Semitism — purposely designed to erase Jewish identity and history. But Sarsour rejected this objective fact and brushed it off, asserting, “multiple truths can co-exist.”
It’s a hampster, you see; that’s how she’s always spelled it.
The weird thing about this standard is that you can’t declare “personal truths” that are contrary to progressive standards — even admitting this central point got Scarlett Johanssen in trouble with the woke-police. Asked about whether she saw trends in acting, according to an As If report, Johanssen said:
We live in such a weird time that is sort of identity-less in a lot of ways. I don’t know if there’s a trend in performance, but there’s certainly trends in casting right now. Today there’s a lot of emphasis and conversation about what acting is and who we want to see represent ourselves on screen. The question now is, what is acting anyway?
You know, as an actor I should be allowed to play any person, or any tree, or any animal because that is my job and the requirements of my job.
She went on to describe the current restrictions in art and “social lines being drawn now, and a lot of political correctness is being reflected in art.” All of which is true. Kumail Nanjiani, a Pakistani-American comedian and actor, reflected many of these same thoughts in an interview with Bill Simmons.
Johanssen got slammed by woke-critics in Hollywood for talking out of line. Everyone focused on her desire to fill any role she wanted. Johanssen isn’t even allowed to say that’s her personal truth, because it violates the new moral codes enforced by the woke internet inquisition.
It’s trendy, at the moment, to blame this trend on classical liberalism or capitalism. The First Things crowd blames liberal-capitalism in particular because that ideology doesn’t enforce a moral code.
The problem is that capitalism doesn’t have a moral code attached to it. Morality comes from cultural institutions like the church. If people lack identity and truth and are scrambling around in the dark for it, it’s because these institutions have gone dark.
Progressivism does get one thing right: People are searching for truth in their personal lives. People are seeking an identity and purpose within a culture.
They can’t get it from economics or political philosophies; those things aren’t designed to drive individuality or culture. To get this truth, you have to go downstream from culture: to religion and family.
The Southern Baptist Association and Catholic Church are struggling with sex abuse scandals that dwarf anything you’ll find from Harvey Weinstein or Jeffery Epstein. And the American family has seen continuous decades of decline. These institutions are failing to provide truth and meaning.
Instead of blaming liberalism or capitalism for our cultural ills, it makes more sense to examine the bankruptcy of the religious institutions that live downstream from culture and drive identity and purpose. These institutions may claim that they believe in hamster, but they’ve lived like they call it hampster. Maybe they should start searching out their proverbial dictionaries.
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