If a vast, cool and unsympathetic intelligence from the remote and arid world of Mars were to observe the modern political scene of the post-Christian and English-speaking part of our world, his observation may note the lack of honesty in our public discourses, the lack of virtue in our agora, the lack of beauty in our high places, but he certainly would note the one central theme and theory – the pivot point and dead center about which all our public discourse turns:
The intelligence from Mars would note that we Earthlings do not trust intelligence.
No doubt the multiple brains beneath his carapace would pulse with confusion, and he would reach with his many pseudopods toward the metallic blocks holding his previous records, thinking perhaps he had confused Planet Earth with the cubiform Planet Bizzaro or some other, stupider world. Nothing previously in the history of Earth implied the intelligent species there did not regard itself as capable of intelligence.
But there would be no mistake for our hypothetical Martian to find: at about the same time as the Earthlings brought forth industrial civilization, fathered a scientific revolution, landed on the Moon, and dispatched unmanned vehicles to Mars — in other words, at the same time Earth first showed what astonishing accomplishments man’s intelligence was capable of achieving — this is the generation when men lost faith in intelligence. They retained the capacity to think objectively, but since they had no faith in it, they steadfastly refused to use it. Men had brains, but they no longer trusted brains.
This mistrust of brains is the pivot point of our modern political discourse.
It is also the endpoint of all public debate and discussion on any topic, because once reason is no longer the umpire both sides of a debate recognize, nothing is left but acrimony and accusation. I myself do not intend in this place to debate whether or not reason is vain, because those who say so have lobotomized their power to debate any question, including this one. One needs reason even to ponder the question of whether one needs reason. That is the reason one cannot reason about reasoning.
Modern political discourse centers on identity politics. Identity politics is based on the theory (always assumed, yet never uttered aloud) that everyone with the same genetics has the same philosophy, political interests, and outlook as members of his own biological group, and can sympathize only with them.
Hence, whenever someone says a man cannot have an opinion about abortion because he is not a woman, the unspoken theory on which that pronouncement turns is the assumption that women’s opinions depend on the XX chromosomal combination, and reason cannot compensate for the lack.
Hence, whenever someone says we need more black heroes in movies so that young blacks can have apt role models, the unspoken theory on which that pronouncement turns is the assumption that a man’s admiration for heroics turn on the chromosomes controlling skin melanin, and reason cannot compensate.
Hence, whenever someone says we needs to utter the awkward and inane phrase ‘he and she’ rather than the grammatically correct ‘he’ when the sex of the antecedent is unknown or undetermined, the unspoken theory of that pronouncement is that words subconsciously influence thought processes so subtly that reason cannot compensate for them. If you speak grammatically correct English you are a sexist, no matter which sex you are, and no matter what your opinion on the equality of women.
The reason why this unspoken theory goes unspoken is that when you say this theory aloud, it sounds too foolish for words.
A person who reads the legal definition of murder and the biological definition of the human being and comes to the conclusion that abortion is murder, according to this theory, if the person is female the conclusion is valid, and if male, invalid, even if the reasoning is the same.
A black child who admires Captain America’s sidekick Bucky, according to this theory, suffers psychological harm, but if he admires Captain America’s sidekick Falcon, experiences spiritual growth and happiness. A black child is allowed to thrill to the exploits of the Green Lantern John Stewart but not the Green Lantern Hal Jordan or Guy Gardner or Kyle Raynor. James Rhodes is permitted to be Iron Man but Tony Stark is not.
According to this theory, no child should attempt to use his reason to extract or abstract the virtues of the admired character, his strength and bravery, and to see that they apply to any hero of any color, but must instead foreswear reason and judge all men by the color of their skin. This is why white children watching reruns of the Green Hornet television show are not allowed to pretend to be Kato, kicking ass and taking names, but must pretend to be Britt Reid. It is regarded as unhealthy for a child to feel sympathy or admiration across racial lines.
The theory is silent on whether a Japanese child can pretend to be Kato during the years when Kato was Filipino, or Filipino during the years when he was Japanese.
The theory gets awkward, confused, and red in the face when, as in the movie Memoirs of a Geisha, a Chinese actress played a Japanese character, and the theory gets loud, incoherent and psychotic when, as in the movie The Last Airbender, earthling actors portrayed racial groups that do not exist in real life, such as members of the Water Tribe, who are blue-eyed but dress like Eskimos.
The upshot of the theory is that it is wrong for Slavic or Jewish actors to portray Aryans, because under-men cannot portray members of the master-race. The upshot of the theory that no race should admire another is that no race should trust another or tolerate them. But logic is not the strong suit for Leftists; since they do not trust their brains, they do not have to confront the logical implications of their race theories.
This mistrust goes beyond race. Marx, and those who follow his theories (whether they know his theories or not) assumed that the outlook and self-interest of any group performing a certain task in the economy, such as wage labor or investment, was the same. The capitalists and the proletarian were his imaginary groups that have no reflection in reality. (In reality a high priced Wall Street lawyer is a wage-earner hence a proletarian, and a farmer who buys one share of stock on a cooperative is a Capitalist. If that farmer hires that lawyer, he is the employer.) But these unreal groups were assumed to exist in a state of eternal Darwinian competition, a war without pause or pity, that could end only when the Capitalist was utterly destroyed. The idea that reason could solve the problem of social cooperation, find a common ground of mutual benefit, that the individual involved could live and let live, or, better yet, do work and get paid, give and receive aid, all of these things are dismissed by the theory.
Socialism says that the barriers between economic categories of investor and worker are so steep that reason cannot overcome them. This is not a conclusion of any Marxist argument: it is his unquestioned starting assumption. Identity politics says the same thing about relations between the majority and the minority, between men and women. The theory insists that even those Englishmen willing and able to cooperate with Chinamen, Frenchmen, Spaniards and Women cannot. The theory insists, even when there is not the least scintilla of evidence to support it, that race-hatred and misogyny will poison all attempts at cooperation; and if no overt and conscious examples of race-hatred and misogyny to be found, it is assumed to be systematic, unconscious, symbolic, or a byproduct of an informal system of “white male privilege” of which the oppressors are foolishly unaware.
The theory holds that one cannot appeal to the reason of these alleged oppressors because reason is impotent. The very genetic structure of their brains makes it so that they cannot, even if they wished it, live in peace and justice with their victims, any more than the vixens can live with the hens. Biology trumps brains.
Intelligence generally is the ability to use reason to solve problems. In the political realm, intelligence is the ability to form a polis, a city, a civic unity. Such unions form coalitions and alliances where there is a commonality of interests, such as the need for a common defense, or an opportunity for a richer life. Intelligence in the political realm, in other words, means the ability to put aside the suspicion, hostility and mistrust toward strangers and members of other tribes to which our emotional nature inclines the human race. Intelligence means the ability to put selfishness and partisan loyalty for the sake of the common good. Civilization means to replace the emotional bonds of kinship and tribe with the bonds of reason, obedience, law and order.
It is on the ground of reason that such concepts as rights and duties, responsibilities and liberties, and all enlightened political theory has its roots.
The cool and remote intellect from Mars might well conclude that if the Earthlings actually believed reason is vain, then the Earthlings should as quickly as possible surrender all their rights, liberties and freedoms to a kindly warden or dictator who will prevent us from hurting ourselves, for the same reason a drunk hands his car keys over to the designated driver. And we should live lives of utter self-indulgence and rapid self-destruction, because, if reason is blind, reason can find no meaning in the universe, no reason to live, nothing to live for.
If reason is vain, then the human brain cannot actually train itself to live virtuously, cannot use any artistic genius to capture the elusive yet sublime beauty of creation in a work of art, cannot be trusted to be honest.
In other words, once the cold and aloof observer from Mars discovers the post-modern and post-Christian theory of post-rationalism that controls our modern world, once the Martian sees that the Leftist controlling our culture mistrust and even despise reason, he will understand at last why we have no honesty in our forum, no virtue in our agora, no beauty in our high places.
Read last week’s column: How We’ve Been Robbed of Beauty by the Left.
John C. Wright is a retired attorney and newspaperman who was only once hunted by the police. He is a graduate of St. John College (home of Mortimer Adler’s “Great Books Program“). In 2004 he foreswore his lifelong atheism and joined the Roman Catholic Church. He has published over 10 SF novels, including one nominated for a Nebula award, and was described by Publisher’s Weekly as “this fledgling century’s most important new SF talent.” He currently lives in fairytale-like happiness with his wife, the authoress L. Jagi Lamplighter, and their four children.