This, more than anything, is what is so unsettling about Mr. Coates’s recent writing and the tenor of the leftist “woke” discourse he epitomizes. Though it is not at all morally equivalent, it is nonetheless in sync with the toxic premises of white supremacism. Both sides eagerly reduce people to abstract color categories, all the while feeding off of and legitimizing each other, while those of us searching for gray areas and common ground get devoured twice. Both sides mystify racial identity, interpreting it as something fixed, determinative and almost supernatural. For Mr. Coates, whiteness is a “talisman,” an “amulet” of “eldritch energies” that explains all injustice; for the abysmal early-20th-century Italian fascist and racist icon Julius Evola, it was a “meta-biological force,” a collective mind-spirit that justifies all inequality. In either case, whites are preordained to walk that special path. It is a dangerous vision of life we should refuse no matter who is doing the conjuring.
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At the very least, this demonstrates that decreased democratic turnout had as much if not more of an impact in the election than Trump’s ability to rally supporters. Of course, none of this is to absolve Trump supporters for making unwise voting decisions, but if Coates wants to prove that white supremacy was the dominating force fueling the rise of Trump, he must demonstrate that all other possible motives are implausible—which he doesn’t.
The danger of proceeding in this way is not simply the acceptance of logical fallacies. Using a single factor to explain the election forfeits a golden opportunity to grapple with the layered motives that are always in play in human affairs. And a popular discourse that assumes the worst about Americans has a chilling affect on the rest of the country, tears at the fabric of our institutions, and accelerates the disintegration of our social and civic bonds.
The so called postmodernists had a different view on the matter. They apparently thought that all this arguing is too much of a hassle, so they decided to make it simpler by drastically lowering the standards of what should count as an argument. That is why you can find sentences such as: “It is the horizon itself that is in movement: the relative horizon recedes when the subject advances, but on the plane of immanence we are always and already on the absolute horizon.” (That is an actual sentence from What is Philosophy, by the French duo Deleuze and Guattari.) The first and most obvious thing about this sentence is how convoluted and apparently meaningless it is. But while there are ways by which one can navigate the jargon and find some meaning in these words, there is no justification for it; no argument to demonstrate that “on the plane of immanence we are on the absolute horizon.”
As I said, Brazil’s situation is not the same as in the US. Intersectionality has just now started creeping out in the media and academia, and college campuses are part of a slowly bubbling debate on free speech. Still, in other aspects Brazil seems to be ahead of the postmodern curve when compared with America. Postmodern thought is prevalent from high school onwards and I am sure that it is at least part of the reason why, despite heavy investments in education and a growing number of college enrollments, Brazil’s education seems not to have improved at all in the last decade.
It’s the most rapid descent for a French president in recent memory. A new poll published by YouGov last week found Macron has a remarkably weak 36 percent approval rating — a massive slide for a man who won the presidency with 65 percent of the vote despite never having held elected office.