On the tyrannomania of the new cultural “elite.”
One of the major benefits of leaving academia is being able to enjoy literature again. Instead of “interrogating” texts for crimes against [fill in your bias blank] in the name of social justice or critical race theory, I can once again just read books for enjoyment and occasional enlightenment.
I don’t think most people outside the academic bubble have a clue as to the resentment toward literature and art that literature teachers teach their students.
A recent article in Aero online highlights the #DisruptTexts movement in education: “#DisruptTexts encourages teachers to “Ask: How does this text support or challenge issues of representation, fairness, or justice? How does this text perpetuate or subvert dominant power dynamics and ideologies?” I don’t know about you, but these are hardly the questions I ask myself when reading a great work of literature.
“Take The Odyssey out of your curriculum because it’s trash,” opined teacher and researcher Shea Martin. I guarantee you this person has never read The Odyssey.
Especially during this time of the great lockdown, when many people’s brains have been fried OD’ing on Twitter, Facebook, Netflix and superhero shows, they could use the lessons that great literature and art teach us. Maybe just put the screen down after that final episode of “Behind Her Eyes” and read a book. The Odyssey, perhaps.
When I was in grad school, the critical approach to everything was called deconstruction. Everything (and I mean everything) was read and filtered through the lenses of Derrida, Foucault, Deleuze, et al. I had a class in the novels of Faulkner in which we never actually read any of the novels of Faulkner. But we spent weeks discussing Kristeva’s theory of abjection. I think we were meant to apply this to Light in August but we never got around to reading Light in August. When I finally did read Light in August, the last thing on my mind was Kristeva’s theory of abjection.
Deconstruction, which focused on, well, deconstructing the idea of master cultural narratives, became itself a master cultural narrative and eventually, through cultural exhaustion and too many bad professional journal articles nobody ever read, was itself replaced with the new master cultural narratives of Social Justice and Critical Race Theory. Steeped in Marxism and Maoism, academic and cultural criticism is now focused on the language of torture and struggle sessions, teaching an entire generation of students cultural resentment.
Or, let’s give it its proper philosophical name: ressentiment. According to Nietzsche, moral values are born out of this condition of ressentiment, and make no mistake about it, Social Justice and Critical Race Theory are moral values, focused on naming good and evil and instilling moral guilt in that segment of the population deemed evil.
Ressentiment has its origin in feelings of weakness in the struggle for power. This leads not to resignation from the losers of the struggle but to hatred, and hatred, according to Nietzsche in Beyond Good and Evil, “grows to monstrous and uncanny proportions,”morphing into a state of “repressed vengefulness.”
Ressentiment is the result of still having the desire for power but the inability to achieve that desire. Twitter is, for the most part, a massive psychological experiment showing the validity of Nietzsche’s notion of ressentiment and hatred. [side note: imagine what a great Twitter troll Nietzsche would have been].
The United States has never been a democracy and is no longer a constitutional republic. Government of the elite, by the elite, for the elite, folks. Plato argued that democracy always leads to totalitarianism and it looks like he was right. For us, this takes the form of a totalitarianism of the elite. Look around you.
In this contemporary 21st century form of totalitarianism, university professors and journalists, who traditionally have wallowed in feelings of ressentiment, have rebranded themselves as members of the cultural elite worthy of ruling the rest of us nincompoops. In Nietzsche’s example, priests, as part of the nobility, expect to have political power. In our times, it is academics and journalists who believe they are part of an intellectual elite and thus expect to have political power. And ressentiment has been their ticket to the political superiority.
It would be kind of amusing to watch journalists, who for the most part have Bachelor’s degrees in English or Journalism, consider themselves deserving members of the ruling cultural elite, if they weren’t so vicious in their hatreds and resentments of anyone questioning their ideals of Social Justice and Critical Race Theory. And academics, who in real life have always been backstabbing caricatures of backstabbing characters in David Lodge novels, have become just as vicious as they’ve gained the larger stage of public discourse.
In other words, academics and journalists, who have always criticized the values of the elite in the past, now embrace the values of the elite because they believe they are the elite.
It was never about resisting the values of the corporate and cultural elite but envying the values of the corporate and cultural elite, especially their political superiority. This is why Marxists revolutionaries who are successful in their revolutions firstly line up professors in front of the firing squad. As Lenin said after the success of the Russian revolution, “shoot more professors.”
Now that the ideologies of Social Justice and Critical Race Theory are currently ascendant, our new priests of culture are having their revenge by teaching resentment (via ressentiment) to their students and pushing resentment on all their perceived enemies at large, embracing corporate control and censorship as long as it promotes their values.
Their ideologies are not ideologies of diversity, equality and inclusion but ideologies of a revenge no longer suppressed in ressentiment. Nietzsche in Zarathustra: “You preachers of equality, the tyrannomania of impotence clamors thus out of you for equality: your most secret ambition to be tyrants thus shroud themselves in words of virtue. Aggrieved conceit, repressed envy, erupts from you as a flame and as the frenzy of revenge.”
They profess to act according to the values of diversity, equality and inclusion, but are in fact motivated by incompatible desires for power, censorship, and revenge, the very values they condemned in the past.
As this new cancel culture elite embraces and pushes a divisive ideology of revenge, it destroys not only cultural but political institutions in its path. Literature is just a minor victim of this cultural barbarism disguised as liberation.
I will admit, it is fascinating as well as terrifying to watch these people, who formerly questioned the values of the corporate and cultural elite, now embracing the values of the elite, as long as they feel they deserve to be members of the elite. “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”
As Lawrence Durrell pointed out in Clea, art is about freedom and self-liberation. No wonder our new cultural masters in academia and media want to destroy art and literature. “Ask: How does this text support or challenge issues of representation, fairness, or justice? How does this text perpetuate or subvert dominant power dynamics and ideologies?” Oh just fuck off. And don’t say I didn’t warn you about the firing squad.