Paradigms of Determinism or Acts of Defiance: A nightmare of Confusion

by NORMAN SIMMS October 23, 2015

I couldn't believe my eyes when I started to read an online essay lately.  It was not that I agreed or disagreed with its arguments, sentiments and ideas---if there were any there to be considered.  Rather than embarrass the writer, let me just abstract in order the jargon and clichés that are there:

...I had a conversation...about her identity...a family that was very involved...the relevance... her identity... this issue... I certainly identified with her angst... our true identity.... the top echelons of privilege...the social construct...white privilege... privilege... children of privilege...white, privileged success... ethnicity...of color....racist paradigm... to challenge the system within...

You can probably guess what the topic of the essay is about, or you think you can because it is so familiar and probably well-meant: but if you do understand and agree, then, I suggest you are not really seeing what is going on here.  Or rather, you fill in the empty places where formulas of post-modernism have usurped the real argument, the jargon and clichés of sociological discourse have taken the place of real feelings, attitudes and heart-felt morality.  It is a delusion.  A labyrinth of lies.

For some reason or other (and I will pretend for the moment not to know what that is), the writer chooses to frame what he or she has to say as a conversation-some sort of dialogue perhaps, let us guess, or perhaps a public debate or private chat; but conversation has been used too often---multiple times!---and in too many contexts---multiple times!---to have any social substance to it left.  Just as the shape of arguments, the substance of debate and the resonance of an intellectual confrontation have been reduced to a narrative, so the social intercourse of a relatively informal conversation has now been lost.  I don't know whether the writer or the person he spoke to initiated the conversation and whether it was a dialogue, or whether he lectured her, or he induced her to confess her usually hidden feelings. 

What does it mean to be privileged?

It seems it now means to be more than born with than a silver spoon in your mouth, that is, to have wealth, status and influence without having earned it; a position in society from which one might either have taken advantage for selfish means or have used to exercise charity and compassion, fairness and good will.  In a democratic and competitive society, it was also something that might be lost through foolishness or unwise risks taken. Unlike an aristocrat born with blue blood, and all the titles, lands and honours that went with it, the person born in the modern secular, free society was given some gifts by nature and by nurture to help him or her get on in life: it was not really something intrinsic to them.  The person born in more humble circumstances-poverty lack of informal and formal education, a good location, well-placed friends-could nonetheless through hard work, determination and a bit of luck make it anyway. I am all for helping others, supporting their efforts to better themselves, and want there to be fairer laws and more equitable opportunities. That is not how things are perceived in the essayh I am citing, or out there in the politically-correct world

For now privilege has reverted to an even more fixed determination of one's life: no matter what your personality or talents, the privileged are taken as oppressors.  Those born victims have no chance at all to transform themselves or the society around them.  They are locked into a paradigm that cannot be changed, only shattered and blown away. 

The victims, it would seem, have the right and the duty to destroy the privileged. That right of victimhood is the only recognized higher authority to which a person may turn who feels they have been unfairly treated by society.  It is a badge of honour.  It is the weapon of choice in the battle to annihilate the oppressor.

Then, of course, in the fragments of the article we have been examining, follows the concept of identity.  

While we usually used to know that an identity could mean either those qualities you were born with or you developed through your growing up that made you distinct from everyone around you, or, almost paradoxically, those aspects of your appearance and role in society that makes you part of a particular group, that is, what overrides your individuality and gives you a collective frame in which to act and speak. But these days, instead of your identity as a strong, well-meaning character or a rogue or a withdrawing and humble person, you are given the label of privilege of victimhood; and indeed, instead of having a nationality, an ethnicity or a regional manner of behaving and talking, you are either privileged or a victim too.  You are identified by the impact (jargon would have it: impacted by) of your very existence has on others.  If you have privilege, you cannot be kind, compassionate or caring; you certainly cannot condescend as an act of helping or understanding another. And the other, no matter what he or she may have as individuality, disappears into the role or identity as victim. Morality contains no responsibility and no means of correcting the injustices of the world: two great forces confront one another in the world---privileged oppressors and passive victims.

Everything is determined by a paradigm, an ironclad pattern of society, so that everyone and everything has no intrinsic value, no free will, and no moral responsibility.  You are what you were born to be, within the paradigm.  If there could be a paradigm shift, it would not happen because anyone willed it to happen.  There is no moral or ethical set of standards by which individuals and groups can measure themselves by and then take action to educate and train themselves and their children to make themselves better, let alone to help others gain the self-confidence they need, the skills and the knowledge needed to better their lot; there can be no sharing or mutual support. The paradigm can only determine where you stand, where you are socially constructed.  There cannot even be a revolution to overthrow a corrupt system.  There can only be either extermination of the privileged oppressors or mass suicide. I would like to see reform in the system, democratic openings for people to gain better access to education and training, and help for those who through illness, accident or other causes beyond their control fall down.

However, the old system (l'ancien regime) can now, it seems, be challenged only by wiping it out through huge immigration from a place of victimhood to the privileged space of oppression.  If your house, your neighbourhood, your city, your nation is confronting annihilation, you cannot fight back. You can only move to another place, and you must choose to move en masse, to reject any efforts to provide an opportunity to shelter temporarily from the storm, to better yourself and your family, to make a new life for yourself.

As I have said in earlier essays, the new discourse---and its paradigms of power and privilege----casts itself in the syntax of passive constructions: things happen and there are neither perpetrators or causal factors.  A major newspaper reports that "The Tomb of Joseph Caught Fire" recently; and then, only reluctantly, after much pressure from readers, did it change itself to "Tomb of Joseph Destroyed in Arson Attack."  Yet when this grand old journal or any of the worldwide media networks seeks to grant "agency" to the victims of Zionist, Jewish or American oppression (e.g., colonialism, imperialism, cand racial privilege) it still only shows things happening to people: terrorists are forced by their oppression to stab soldiers in the neck, youths who have no hope in the future are forced to drive their cars into bus stops to kill as many children as possible, men driven to extremes by deprivation and frustration of ambitions are unable to control their urges to rape four year old girls.  I think these people have been misled and act of ignorance, fear and blind rage.  Responsibility and guilt disappear into the paradigm: everything is determined by a socially-constructed fate.

The paradigm is a juggernaut

It rolls out of the Temple of Privilege and crushes all the victims under its heavy wheels.  It bears the weight of a history determined by racial, gender and capitalist oppression.   And yet, that is not what we see: the great cart is piled high with the dead and dying of that oppression, and it lumbers down the boulevards pulled by zombie-like victims, on and on, rolling over the privileged citizens of civilized society, who are then crushed to a pulp; and only when it reaches the sea, does it stop.  But that apocalyptic end is far in the future because there are too many oppressors streaming in from around the world (or in jargon: multiple victims arriving from around the planet).

All this will happen in a very distant future, we are told, perhaps ten or twenty years forward.  Compassion and charity may slow it down.  But only briefly.  Nothing stops the paradigmatic juggernaut.  Not even climate change, superbugs and diseases that resist all treatment, rampant obesity, the end of fossil fuels, or the collapse of bio-diversity.  Then Israel will be wiped off the map, Europe completely taken over by radical Sharia law, and the USA properly humbled and ruled by a new defiant breed of privileged victims.

And the rest of us will dream on.

Or worse, we will live in the nightmare wide awake and unable to escape.    

Norman Simms has just published the first volume of a new book, Jews in an Illusion of Paradise: Dust and Ashes (Cambridge Scholars Publisher.  Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, UK).  It is available from the publisher as well as and other online bookseller sites.  The second volume may be out before the end of this year    

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