Leon Lemmer: Michael Rectenwald smelt sneeuvlokkies

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Die inligting wat Suid-Afrikaners via die inligtingsmedia bereik, is meesal in Engels en dikwels uit Amerika en Engeland afkomstig. In hierdie lande is sneeu ‘n veel meer alledaagse verskynsel as in Suid-Afrika. Amerika is by uitstek die bron van nuwe woorde, asook die toekenning van nuwe betekenisse aan woorde. ‘n Woord wat sedert 2010 in die politieke literatuur gewild geword het, is “sneeuvlokkies”. Polities byderwets is die simmetriese struktuur van alle sneeuvlokkies eenders. Wat in daardie geledere glad nie aanvaarbaar is nie, is dat alle sneeuvlokkies wit is. Maar die broosheid van sneeu, bv as die son daarop skyn, speel ‘n deurslaggewende rol by die keuse van sneeu as simbool vir die selektief geïdentifiseerde kwesbares in die samelewing.

In die konteks van die politiek word die volgende betekenis deesdae aan die woord “sneeuvlokkie” (snowflake) toegeken: “An overly sensitive or easily offended person, or one who believes they are entitled to special treatment on account of their supposedly unique characteristics” (Oxford English Dictionary). Byvoorbeeld, Wim de Villiers ervaar “pyn” namens bruin mense omdat in ‘n akademies-wetenskaplike studie bevind is dat ‘n groep bruin vroue, wat intellektuele vermoë betref, ondergemiddeld presteer. Sowel De Villiers as diegene wat vanweë hierdie bevinding na bewering seergekry het, kan as sneeuvlokkies geëtiketteer word; brose, emosioneel oorsensitiewe wesens wat nie ‘n stelling kan hanteer wat met hulle eie (openbare) mening verskil nie. Hulle verstaan nie die wesenlike aard van die universiteit en akademies-wetenskaplike navorsing nie (Praag 19.01.2019 en 9.02.2019).

Michael Rectenwald (gebore in 1959) kom uit ‘n Duits-Amerikaanse Rooms-Katolieke gesin. Hy het boeke oor Britse sekularisme, vrye denke en agnostisisme gepubliseer. Sy volgende boek, Google archipelo: The digital gulag and the similation of freedom, sal vanjaar in Augustus gepubliseer word. Ek beperk my aandag egter tot sy boek wat onlangs gepubliseer is: Springtime for snowflakes: ‘Social justice’ and its postmodern parentage: a memoir (Nashville: New English Review Press, 2018, 151p; Amazon Kindle $11,49). Die outeur verwys hierna as “this controversial book” (Kindle 1959). Rectenwald het die graad BA aan Pittsburgh University (1983), die graad MA in Engels aan Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland (1997), en die graad PhD in Literary and Cultural Studies aan die Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh (2004), verwerf. Hy het aan laasgenoemde twee universiteite gedoseer, asook aan Duke University, North Carolina Central University (NCCU) en vanaf 2008 as professor in Liberal Studies aan New York University tot sy aftrede in Januarie 2019.

Die NCCU in Durham is ‘n histories swart universiteit (1519). Wat Rectenwald daar ervaar het, is “teaching vastly underprepared students” (1650). Diesulkes het ná 1994 in Suid-Afrika gesogte studentemateriaal aan die histories blanke universiteite geword. “Leaned forward” is die ingesteld wat ‘n dosent moet aankweek, wat eintlik “left-leaning” beteken (1542). Rectenwald het ‘n “writing-across-the-curriculum- (WAC)” program as ‘n gesamentlike onderneming van die NCCU en Duke University, albei in Durham, tot stand probeer bring (1602), maar sy pogings is telkens deur ‘n swart kollega, Karen Jackson, gefnuik. Daarna het Jackson WAC suksesvol tot stand gebring en groot lof daarvoor ontvang terwyl sy in werklikheid Rectenwald se idee gesteel het. “Jackson had surreptitiously buried, then subsequently stolen and taken sole credit for this idea, an idea that one might say was my idea. Yet she was the proprietary one, only the property she claimed wasn’t hers” (1616). Hierdie diefstal is soortgelyk aan die onteiening sonder vergoeding van blankes se plase. Die swartes ontvang die plase sonder inspanning en suiwer op grond van ras terwyl die blankes die barre grond tot suksesvolle plase ontwikkel het. Hierdie strategie word deesdae sosiale geregtigheid genoem.

Wat opval, is enersyds die laat stadium waarin Rectenwald gevorderde formele kwalifikasies verwerf het, wat sy kort akademiese loopbaan verstaanbaar maak. Die verklaring hiervoor is dat hy aanvanklik voltyds in die advertensiebedryf werksaam was en daarna deeltyds studeer het. Dit het groot opofferings geverg, wat onder meer daartoe gelei het dat hy en sy vrou geskei het. Hulle het drie kinders. Andersyds kan afgelei word dat linkse politiek in die Engelsdepartemente van baie Amerikaanse universiteite ‘n oorheersende rol speel, vandaar die verwysings na Cultural en Liberal Studies in die voorlaaste paragraaf hier bo. Dit is soortgelyk aan wat in departemente van bv kulturele/sosiale antropologie en sosiologie aan plaaslike universiteite gebeur; kortom, kulturele marxisme word gepredik.

“As its founders Stuart Hall, Raymond Williams and EP Thompson suggested, Cultural Studies was invented to be a politically radical engagement with culture, especially ‘low’ forms, including mass media and other popular culture.* Hall, Williams, and Thompson were Marxists. They saw culture as a form of power and a carrier of capitalist ideology. Combined with Antonio Gramsci’s [1891-1937] ideas about ‘cultural hegemony’, Cultural Studies, and not the Frankfurt School, is the real source of anything like ‘Cultural Marxism’, the menace decried by many on the right. Cultural Studies accounts for a good share of our ‘radicals in the academy'” (721). Plaaslik was Jakes Gerwel ‘n Gramsci-aanhanger.

[* Dit kan “McDonaldization” genoem word (751).]

Hoewel Rectenwald in sy boek die postmodernisme, sosiale geregtigheid as sy spruit, die tere sneeuvlokkies wat hierdie idees predik en die sogenaamde brose benadeeldes wat beskerm moet word, uitmuntend uitbeeld, voel hy sterk daaroor dat hy nie regse politiek onderskryf nie. Dalk is dit só bloot om nie te erken in watter mate hy hom regs geheroriënteer het nie. “I was not a Trump supporter; I was never a right-winger, or an alt-right-winger; I was never a conservative of any variety. Hell, I wasn’t even a classical John Stuart Mill [1806-1873] liberal. In fact, for several years, I had identified as a left or libertarian communist … I became a well-respected Marxist thinker and essayist. I had flirted with a Trotskyist sect, and later became affiliated with a loosely organized left or liberarian communist group” (368). Deur wat hy was te beklemtoon, probeer Rectenwald om homself te beskerm teen kritiek oor wat hy geword het.

Rectenwald het mettertyd marxisme afgesweer en polities minder links geword. “I could no longer identify as a leftist” (398). “I now saw the authoritarianism and embryonic totalitarianism that had been hidden beneath a thin veneer of egalitarian rhetoric … I could not call myself a communist” (1831). Rectenwald se verlede dien blykbaar as ‘n soort versekeringspolis sodat hy nie as regs – wat deesdae meesal as “verregs” verdoem word – geëtiketteer word nie, want dit sou vir hom ‘n onhoudbare situasie in die universiteitswese geskep het. Daarom verwys hy graag “to my own quite visible historical support for the disadvantaged and oppressed” (1550) en “I rejected an essential difference between racial groups” (1557).

‘n Mens tref hierdie selfde vrees vir etikettering as regs by talle mense aan wat andersins voortreflike werk doen. Byvoorbeeld, Tommy Robinson (gebore in 1982) het met voorbeeldige ywer sy patriotiese English Defence League ingespan om die nadelige gevolge van Moslem immigrasie op die Britse kultuur wêreldkundig te maak. Hy is ook in Pegida (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamisation of the West) bedrywig. Robinson skryf: “To make things clear from the outset, I really, really don’t care about the colour of those people’s skin or the nature of their religion” (Tommy Robinson, Enemy of the state, Press News, 2015, 326p; Amazon Kindle $11.49, 92). Hy opper geen beswaar teen swartes in die Britse samelewing nie en verbroeder selfs met hulle. Sy weerstand is uitsluitlik teen die Moslems gemik, maar hulle gedrag is juis die direkte gevolg van die religie wat hulle aanhang. In die Wikipedia word Robinson sonder meer as verregs beskryf. Smeerveldtogte en intimidasie maak baie mense lugtig vir etikettering as polities regs.

Afgesien van my eerstehandse ervaring het ek eerder te veel as te min oor die Amerikaanse universiteitswese gelees. David Horowitz het uitstekende boeke daaroor geskryf, bv One party classroom: How radical professors at American top colleges indoctrinate students and undermine our democracy (2009, 338p; Amazon Kindle $5,74) en The professors: The 101 most dangerous academics in America (2013, 448p; Amazon Kindle $11.56). Een van hierdie gevaarlike dosente is Ward Churchill (Praag 19.02.2017). In Robert Maranto, Richard E Redding en Frederick M Hess (reds) se boek, The political correct university: Problems, scope, and reforms (2009, 346p; Amazon Kindle $18,98) word statistiek aangebied om aan te toon hoe uiters linksgesind die oorgrote meerderheid dosente aan Amerikaanse universiteite is, bv 62 tot 72% linksgesindes teenoor 12 tot 15% regsgesindes (Kindle 1257); in Engelsdepartemente 85% liberale dosente teenoor 3% konserwatiewes (1238) met 69% wat die Demokratiese Party ondersteun teenoor 2% wat die Republikeinse Party aanhang (1238).

Hierdie linksgesindes word veral in die sosiale wetenskappe en humaniora aangetref, met die Engelsdepartemente polities meer radikaal as enige ander departement. Rectenwald verwys na die “primary incubator of the social justice creed: the field of English Studies” (413). ‘n Soortgelyke situasie doen hom in Brittanje voor. Wat te meer ontstellend is, is dat die verlinksing van die akademie neig om al hoe groter afmetings aan te neem (Maranto 1314). Die resultaat kom neer om niks anders nie as die indoktrinasie van studente deur hoofsaaklik linksgesindes; ‘n verskynsel wat ongetwyfeld ook in Suid-Afrika al hoe groter afmetings aanneem. Jon A Shields en Joshua M Dunn was braaf genoeg om ‘n waarderende boek oor ‘n verdwynende spesie te skryf: Passing on the right: Conservative professors in the progressive university (2016, 255p; Amazon Kindle $15,17).

Rectenwald kom uit ‘n werkersklasgesin, die sewende van nege kinders. Sy pa het huise in Pittsburgh gerestoreer. Weens klasverskille was Rectenwald as skolier nie vir die hoërskool van sy keuse aanvaarbaar nie. Dit verduidelik in ‘n mate sy vroeë marxisme, maar sonder dat hy studente daarin wou indoktrineer: “I asserted and defended intellectual pursuits for their own sake” (480). Hy het vir mediese onderrig aan die University of Pittsburgh geregistreer, maar na twee jaar eerder tot die Engelse letterkunde aangetrokke gevoel, onder meer omdat hy ‘n aspirant digter en kortverhaalskrywer was.

‘n Semester lank was Rectenwald die assistent en student van Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) – die Beat-geslag se anti-materialistiese, anti-kapitalistiese, pro-dwelms, Boeddhistiese homoseksueel – aan die Naropa Institute (Naropa University sedert 1988) in Boulder, Colorado. “He knew that I had been having my own season in hell and that he was a major character in it” (587). “Ginsberg did prefigure postmodernism, if not contributing to it directly. The electicism of his poetry, the inclusion of everything that crossed his mind, the juxtaposition of low and high culture [etc] … are among the features that marked him as a postmodern forerunner” (640). “I believe that Ginsberg would be utterly appalled by and severely critical of the social justice left’s authoritarian character – its censorious, censoring, and prohibitionist proclivities” (647).

Rectenwald was reeds in sy dertigerjare toe hy besluit het om nagraadse kwalifikasies te verwerf en ‘n dosent in die Engelse letterkunde te word – “what I took for the last remaining haven of intellectual independence – academia. I would learn much later that academia demands as much if not more conformity than any other corporate field. In fact, the conformity penetrates much more deeply. You not only have to buy into the ideology, you must rehearse and recapitulate it without fail. Otherwise, you are deemed politically regressive. You might even be a ‘Nazi'” (698). Dit is waarom ons deesdae dikwels aanhoor dat ons moet “bykom” of “aanbeweeg”. “I resented that [someone] somehow saw me as politically regressive based on an apparent preference for literature over anthropology or sociology” (744). “Little did I know, although the field never ceases to critize the capitalist marketplace and the commodification of the worker and culture, English Studies is no less commodified than any other profession. In fact, the attention and consideration required to ‘package’, ‘brand’ and ‘re-brand’ the scholar and her [!] work is as thoroughgoing if not more so than anything I’d done as a pitchman for consumer brands” (736).

Hy wou ‘n sinvolle beroep beoefen. “The main requirement for meaningful work as I saw it was intellectual autonomy, the freedom and independence to think, write, explore, and teach what I came to know” (660). Rectenwald is ‘n aanhanger van individualiteit, gevolglik is hy teen televisie gekant. Oor televisie skryf hy: “It ironized, ridiculed, and eroded individuality by virtue of appealing to the exclusive existence of a non-descript and self-effacing mass selfhood” (667). “Exactly like other industries, culture is now mass-produced … cultural products exhibit homogeneity and erase all signs of individuality – in the artistry, the artists, and in their consumers. Most importantly, the ultimate yield is not the cultural products themselves, but rather the formatting of leisure time and thereby the consciousness of the consumer-producer” (781).

Toe Rectenwald vir sy eerste graad studeer het, het hy kennis met Thomas Kuhn (1922-1996) se boek, The structure of scientific revolutions (1961), gemaak. “Kuhn described major revolutions in science in terms of ‘paradigm shifts’ … By suggesting that science responded to shifts in convention, authority, and social beliefs, Kuhn seemed to leave the door open for sociologists and others, who saw in his work a confession of sorts, an admission that science could be impacted by cultural and social forces, which sociologists could study, and thereby explain the very content of scientific knowledge in terms of social factors … Kuhn disavowed such interpretations … He saw science as driven by its own impetus and internal logic, and not by such external factors as ideology or social interests” (729).

Wat hier gebeur, is soortgelyk aan wat die linkses in die konteks van oorerwing/genetika (DNS) en aanlering (“nature and nurture”) doen. Dit is ‘n onbetwisbare empiriese feit dat sommige mense, selfs binne dieselfde gesin, slim en ander dom gebore word; dat opvoeding en onderrig daardie fundamentele aanvangsverskil nie kan uitwis nie. Desnieteenstaande predik die linkses dat almal net dieselfde geleenthede gegun moet word; dan sal dit glo blyk dat ons almal fundamenteel eenders en (bv intellektueel) gelyk is. Wanneer dit by die kwessie van homoseksualiteit kom, speel die linkses die spel presies andersom. Daar word meesal beweer dat alle homoseksuele so gebore word. Dit is egter baie duidelik dat ons in ‘n era lewe waarin homoseksualiteit ‘n modeverskynsel geword het wat as hoogs eerbaar aanbeveel word en wat gevolglik in baie gevalle aangeleer word.

Die wanvertolking van Kuhn se wetenskapsleer het aan die daarstelling van die postmodernisme meegehelp. Op sy beurt “postmodern theory can be understood as the philosophical response to the failure of Marxism” (835). “I retained postmodern theory as a ‘supplement’ … it served as both an addition to Marxism, and as a possible substitute for it” (880). Dit is nodig om duidelikheid oor die aard van modernisme en postmodernisme te verkry. Modernisme: “(1) die gees van wat nuut is op allerlei gebiede; (2) rigting in die kuns en letterkunde wat poog om die bande met die klassieke en tradisionele vorme te verbreek; (3) vrysinnigheid op godsdienstige gebied” (HAT). Postmodernisme: “denkrigting in onder meer die argitektuur, kunste, kultuur en filosofie wat voortvloei uit en reageer op die modernisme van die twintigste eeu, onder meer gekenmerk deur ‘n wantroue in teorieë en ideologieë” (HAT).

Die postmodernisme is vir Rectenwald van belang omdat dit in 2016 (20) die euwel van sosiale geregtigheid (“social justice”) as stiefkind in die akademie gebaar het (13). “Postmodern theory may be properly understood as the ‘missing link’ between the older Marxist left and the contemporary social justice left … it is necessary to understand social justice as ‘practical postmodernism'” (1890) en as “the political expression of postmodern theory” (152).* Postmodernisme is ‘n ideologie wat uit die jare sestig dateer en wil afbreek wat vóór dit kultureel daargestel is; vandaar die groot rol wat dekonstruksie daarin speel (797). “Postmodern philosophy has even been characterized, by [Jean-François] Lyotard [1924-1998], as preceding modern philosophy” (The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 2nd ed, 1999, p 725).

[* Dat dit wesenlik om (linkse) politiek gaan, blyk uit die postmodernistiese standpunt dat “‘truth’ is merely a reflection of the dominant culture, [therefore] we have a duty to deconstruct that truth and so empower those who lack power” (Edward Dutton, Race differences in ethnocentrism, London: Arktos, 2019, 276p; Amazon Kindle $12,64, 450).]

Postmodernisme kan ‘n teruggryping na paganisme en primitiwiteit insluit. Op hierdie manier “[it] sought to dissolve the divisions between art, popular culture, and the media” (Collins World Encyclopedia, 2003, p 746). Kortom, ontwikkelde of hoë kultuur en (Westerse/Europese) beskawing word verdag gemaak en afgewater. Wysgerige stelsels, omvattende wêreld- en lewensbeskouings, sogenaamde meesternarratiewe, word afgewys. Maar daar word selektief te werk gegaan. “Marxism was a totalitarian master-narrative” (Rectenwald 912), maar dít word nie deur die postmoderniste verwerp nie. Hulle skep alternatiewe meesternarratiewe. Byvoorbeeld, polities word (blanke) prestasies as bevoorregting (“privilege”) asook as onverdiend bevoordeling (“unearned advantage”) afgemaak (28); dus as onregverdigbare toe-eiening (“unjustifiable appropriation”). Nie net bv plase nie maar hele lande (bv Suid-Afrika) behoort nie aan diegene wat eeue lank geswoeg het om hulle te ontwikkel nie maar dikwels eerder aan hedendaagse niksnutte wat hulle bv tot misdaad en selfs terrorisme en volksmoord kan wend om hulle bose doel te bereik. Die ANC se beoogde onteiening sonder vergoeding van blankes se eiendom, dus diefstal, is eie aan kommunisme: “Marxists argue that ‘natural rights’, such as the property rights, are not natural at all but rather cultural, economic, historical – political arrangements supported by a particular socio-economic structure” (865).

Naas Lyotard het ander Franse filosowe ‘n leidende rol in die ontwikkeling van postmoderne teorie gespeel, bv Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), Jean Baudrillard (1929-2007) en die obseen-vernietigendste van almal, Michel Foucault (1926-1984) (797). In die sielkunde het Jacques Lacan (1901-1981) en in bv die letterkunde en feminisme het Julia Kristeva (gebore in 1941) die postmoderne ideologie aangevul (805). In die sosiologie het Pierre Bourdieu (1930-2002) as teenhanger vir ekonomiese kapitaal die begrip kulturele kapitaal staangemaak (927), gevolglik word daar vir ons in die nuwe Suid-Afrika vertel dat blanke plase in swart geledere blanke mag simboliseer wat as historiese erflating vernietig moet word. Swartes is vry om enige benaming vir blankes toe te snou, maar as blankes sommige geykte woorde met onvervangbare seggingskrag gebruik, loop hulle die gevaar dat buitensporige boetes en selfs tronkstraf aan hulle opgelê word. Blankes wat plase en ander eiendom besit of tradisionele benamings vir nie-blankes gebruik, pleeg volgens Bourdieu simboliese geweld. Werklike fisiese en liggaamlike geweld word swartes egter nie (in dieselfde mate) toegereken as die simboliese geweld wat blankes glo pleeg nie. Uit die oogpunt van beskawing is daar myns insiens ‘n fundamentele verskil tussen fisiese en simboliese, bv talige, geweld; laasgenoemde is nie eens ‘n vulletjie in vergelyking met fisiese geweld, bv in die Nelson Mandela-tradisie, nie. (Kyk hier onder vir diskursiewe geweld.)

In die letterkunde het postmoderniste teruggegryp na die linguistiek van Ferdinand de Saussure (1857-1913), wat die nie-noodsaaklike verband tussen woorde en hulle betekenisse aangetoon het. Die betekenis van bv “stoel” en “tafel” kon goedsmoeds omgeruil gewees het. Postmoderniste misbruik die werk van De Saussure om die meervoudige betekenis (“polysemy”) van woorde te oordryf. Byvoorbeeld, Roland Barthes (1915-1980) oorbeklemtoon die oopheid van tekste. Lesers kan inderdaad dieselfde teks verskillend vertolk, maar dit kan net binne perke geregverdig word. Oordrywing kan tot wensdenkery lei. Dink bv aan hoe mense soos André Bartlett, Chris Jones en Frits en Laurie Gaum die Bybel vertolk om hulle pro-homoseksuele agenda te pas.

Derrida verabsoluteer die seggingskrag van tekste in so ‘n mate dat hy beweer “there is no outside of text” (820). Taal word dan ‘n geslote, selfdienende stelsel wat van sy eksterne verwysings, bv fisiese objekte, gestroop is. Dit herinner aan George Berkeley (1685-1753) se ekstreme idealisme/vergeesteliking: “to be [real] is to be perceived – nothing exists apart from perception.” Bruno Latour en Steve Woolgar het in hulle boek, Laboratory life: The social construction of scientific facts (1979), die objekte wat die natuurwetenskappe bestudeer tot teks gereduseer (1223). Dit het aanleiding tot “the Science Wars” gegee, as teenhanger vir “the Culture Wars” (1238).

‘n Teks het ‘n konkrete skepper, die outeur, maar ook dié word afgebreek in Barthes se The death of the author (1968). Die teks word beskou as ‘n multi-dimensionele ruimte waaraan die leser betekenisse heg, met die outeur wat volgens Foucault beperkend hierop inwerk (941). “The author is not the source of meaning but rather a limiter of it … authors do not create works. Works create their authors. The author is a function of the text, a product of language, not its source … Subjectivity itself is a function of language … The self is a product of text. This notion forms the basis of the transgender theoretical position that one’s gender identity depends, finally, on naming” (949). Dus: Jy is wat jy jouself noem. Jy besluit self wat jou identiteit is, bv of jy ‘n man of vrou of ‘n geslagsmengsel is.

Die outeur (972) en talle ander verskynsels, veral dié waarvan polities byderwets nie gehou word nie, word konstrukte genoem. Direk teen die empiriese feite in word beweer: “The facts of biology have nothing to do with the ‘reality’ of gender identity” (1260). “Radical constructivism can be found in the social justice movement, particularly in transgender theory. Transgender theory holds that empirical data – chromosomes, anatomy, physiology, and hormones – do not determine gender. Gender is determined by beliefs about empirical information, and ultimately, by naming, by language” (1315). Sowel Barthes as Foucault was homoseksueel. Dit is diesulkes wat die grondslag vir ‘n nuwe sonde gelê het: “I was guilty of a social justice version of original sin – the inexpiable sin of being born into white straight masculinity” (1199).

Homoseksualiteit het deesdae skynbaar ‘n hoër en onaantasbaarder status as heteroseksualiteit. As modeverskynsel dank homoseksualiteit sy opgang aan Karl Marx en Friedrich Engels wat in 1848 geskryf het “that the modern family was a product and function of capitalism” (1409). Dit verduidelik die fel aanslag deur kulturele marxiste, dikwels in feministiese (insluitende lesbiese) gewaad, teen die tradisionele gesin. Samevattend: Hoewel die aanhangers van postmodernisme soms ‘n greintjie waarheid beet gehad en veral dogmatisme laat wankel het, is dit ‘n benadering wat uitmunt in dwarsheid en deurlopend deur eie gerasionaliseerde retoriek gevoed word, sodat die resultate kultureel oorwegend destruktief is.

Ná die era van postmodernisme het sosiale geregtigheid in 2016 in die akademie op die voorgrond getree. Rectenwald se nagraadse studie was eerder in tekstuele politiek as in Engelse taal- en letterkunde. “Dead white men had ruled the English canon long enough” (1027). “Other suspects were singled out for prosecution – including an exclusive focus on the text itself (New Criticism), assuming the centrality or superiority of European culture (Eurocentrism), implicitly endorsing heterosexuality as a norm (heteronormativity) … and the privileging of the masculine in the construction of meaning (phallogocentrism” (1035). “In 1955, the sexologist John Money seeded the gender jackpot when he introduced the term ‘gender roles’ … gender was a ‘social construct’ – the woven product of socialization and social environment, as opposed to nature” (1096). “The transgender movement has since turned gender into a matter of individual whimsy, treating gender ‘choice’ like an ice-cream flavor preference” (1103).

“The social justice notion that each person has their own truth … can be traced to [György] Lukács” (1885-1971), ‘n marxis – soos so baie van diegene wat ‘n leidende rol in postmodernisme en sosiale geregtigheid gespeel het en steeds speel. “For social justice believers, knowledge is personal, individual, and impenetrable to others” (1177). Subjektiewe kennis word onbetwisbare kennis geag en neem die plek in van neutrale en objektiewe kennis (1035). “According to postmodern theory, the very idea of ‘objective truth’ is a master narrative. Under social justice ideology, objective truth is a legacy of patriarchal white supremacy” (1192).

Die stryders vir sosiale geregtigheid kry dit reg om net so absurd soos die postmodernes te wees. “Social justice ideology does not foster egalitarianism. Rank is maintained, only the bottom becomes the top when the totem pole of identity is inevitably flipped upside-down and stood on its head. (Rank is established on the basis of intersectionality, a grid for determining the number of ways that a subject is subordinated based on race, gender, sexual orientation, and so forth.) Is it any wonder then that social justice warriors compete valiantly for the status of ‘most subordinated’ in the games derogatorily referred to as ‘the Oppression Olympics?’ The race to the bottom is really a race to the top – although the race is downhill” (1185).

Die hooggeprese Belydenis van Belhar (1986), waarmee die VGK te koop loop en die produk van mense soos Jaap Durand en Allan Boesak se politieke wensdenkery eerder as Bybelgebaseerd is, is deurdrenk met dieselfde sterk gif van sosiale geregtigheid. Daarvolgens hoort die onderstes ook bo: “God … op ‘n besondere wyse die God van die noodlydende, die arme en die verontregte is.”

Hierdie proses, waarvolgens die onderstes bo móét kom, het Rectenwald as egte akademikus tereg gegrief. “Resorting to blatant tokenism in hiring and promotion jeopardizes the integrity of higher education” (1710). Maar dit het ook aan Suid-Afrikaanse universiteite algemeen aanvaarde praktyk geword: dosente word in groot mate op grond van ras gewerf, aangestel en bevorder pleks van suiwer ingevolge akademiese verdienste. “There is no necessary connection between identity and ideas, identity and talents, identity and aspirations, or identity and beliefs … if we want to foster real diversity in higher education, we had better consider not only diversity of identity but also diversity of thought and perspective. It is this kind of diversity that we are supposed to recognize and foster in the first place” (1717). Dit is diversiteit van idees wat skromelik aan die oorwegend linkse Amerikaanse en Suid-Afrikaanse universiteite ontbreek.

Hier bo is aangetoon dat ‘n mens ingevolge postmoderrnisme en sosiale geregtigheid na bewering die (onvervreembare) reg het om jou eie identiteit te kies, bv of jy ‘n man of ‘n vrou of ‘n mengsel van hierdie twee is. “Oregon and California have implemented a third gender choice on driver’s licenses and other forms of identification” (1784). “Gender (or even sex difference) is determined by beliefs … and ultimately by language … Gender identities exist along a spectrum … sliding between the distant poles of ‘cis’* and trans … gender can ‘change from day to day'” (1748). “Under social justice ideology, belief claims trump empirical evidence. Scientific evidence itself is deemed white supremacist, sexist, and patriarchal” (1756).

[* cis: “Cisgender is a term for people whose gender identity matches the sex that they were assigned at birth” (Wikipedia).]

Die jaar 2016 was die keerpunt in Rectenwald se lewe. “The University of Michigan [in Ann Arbor] instituted a policy whereby students were offered a carte blanche pronoun preference opportunity. Students were encouraged to choose existing pronouns or create pronouns of their choice, without limitation … they could then demand to be called by these pronouns inside the classroom. No matter what pronouns a student chose, the university promised to honor their choices. One clever student entered ‘His Majesty’ as his chosen pronoun … The satirical trope hilariously underscored the absurdity of gender and pronoun proliferation, and the institutional lunacy that has attempted to keep pace with it. It was a send-up of the university administrators who enacted such a policy but also underscored the absurdity that the social justice movement had managed to have codified within institutions of higher education” (1726). “The social justice creed … was made official policy in most colleges and universities in North America” (127). Rectenwald was keelvol hiervan. Die besluit van die University of Michigan was die sneller wat hom in opstand laat kom en hom tot aksie laat oorgaan het.

“That very night [September 12, 2016 – 156) I created the Twitter account – the notorious DeplorableNYUProf, with the @antipcnyuprof handle” (1741) – NYU = New York University, pc = politically correct. In die boek is daar ‘n bylaag met sy “best tweets”, bv “Political correctness is a code to silence dissent as Western society is razed” (2022). Hy verwys na die “PC Gestapo” (178, 337). In ‘n ander bylaag is daar ‘n seleksie van sy Facebook-inskrywings. In sy twiets en elders toon Rectenwald aan dat “social justice activism is limited to particular forms of textual signaling, primarily to ‘virtue signaling’ and ‘call-out’. Virtue signaling is the announcement of one’s political (and moral) worthiness and virtue, often by means of an implicit or explicit comparison of oneself to politically ‘evil’ others. Call-out refers to the ritualized, direct denunciations of politically evil individuals and groups. It sometimes calls for their loss of employment in addition to their loss of social standing” (1929). Wat Rectenwald in die sosiale media geskryf het, het binne enkele dae tot gevolg gehad dat hy verplig is om met betaalde verlof te gaan. Hy is eers die jaar daarna toegelaat om sy doseerpligte te hervat, terwyl sy kantoor na ‘n ander gebou as dié van die Engelsdepartement verskuif is.

“On college [university] campuses, social justice is evident with the prevalence of [1] ‘safe spaces’, [2] ‘trigger warnings’, [3] ‘bias reporting hotlines’, and [4] the ‘no-platforming’ of speakers – to say nothing of speech codes” (43). Laasgenoemde is plaaslik aan ons bekend as bv “haatspraak”, waarvolgens nie-blankes, veral swartes, nie geëtiketteer mag word met benamings waarvan hulle nie hou nie.

[1] “In colleges and universities, safe spaces are areas set aside for victims of unpleasant speech acts or ‘discursive violence’. I have argued that in the context of higher education, safe spaces constitute a means of self-imposed cultural containment … a corked ‘jug’ of cultural isolation” (50). Veilige ruimtes beskerm studente teen die aanhoor van idees waarvan hulle nie hou nie, terwyl dit ‘n wesenskenmerk van universiteite behoort te wees om alle studente met ‘n wye verskeidenheid van idees te laat kennis maak. Die gebruik van die k-woord word ingevolge sosiale geregtigheid as diskursiewe geweld beskou en ‘n groot bohaai word daaroor opgeskop, maar werklike misdadige en terroristiese geweld, bv plaasmoorde, word nie naastenby met dieselfde felheid veroordeel nie. ‘n Vindingryke verwikkeling is dat Dan Roodt die woord “kaderboetie” gebruik (Twitter 6.06.2019).

[2] “Originating in feminist social media sites and blogs, the trigger warning migrated to the academy, where it became expected on syllabi for alerting students about course content that may be stressful, or ‘triggering’ of negative emotions. Not only do trigger warnings curtail expression … the trend can lead to the removal of offensive texts from the curriculum entirely” (58). In die praktyk kom dit daarop neer dat lesings en voorgeskrewe materiaal polities byderwets moet wees; dat linkse (nie-blanke) studente as tere sneeuvlokkies beskou moet word wat nie ontstig mag word en tot ander en dalk beter insigte gebring mag word nie.

[3] “Basic reporting hotlines are means for students and others to contact bias administrators or ‘bias response teams’ when they experience or witness a ‘bias incident’. A bias incident, bias infraction, or micro-aggression is an event that results from biases toward members of marginalized groups, including races, sexual orientations, genders, or ‘non-gendered’ people” (58). “Although the University of Chicago does not abide safe spaces or trigger warnings, like over 230 other colleges and universities nationwide, it has a bias reporting hotline” (66).

[4] “No-platforming is the blocking of ‘dangerous’ speakers from speaking on campuses, especially those expected to commit ‘discursive violence’. The alt-right necessarily commits discursive violence. But many other speakers do too” (66). Hy noem dan Milo Yiannopoulos (Praag 7.10.2017), Charles Murray, Ben Shapiro en Dave Rubin as voorbeelde van sprekers wat op kampusse verbied is. Universiteite wat sosiale geregtigheid onderskryf “have tragically abdicated their roles as politically independent institutions for the advancement and transmission of knowledge and wisdom … In mandating social justice ideology, universities have abandoned this legacy of open and free inquiry” (120). “On matters of gender, sexuality, and identity broadly construed, whole avenues of inquiry were foreclosed on the basis of sancrosanct tenets deemed immune from scrutiny” (163).

Soos ek in vorige rubrieke uitgewys het, is universiteite nie meer die tuiste van uitdrukkingsvryheid, insluitende akademiese vryheid, en universitêre onafhanklikheid nie; allermins Suid-Afrikaanse universiteite sedert 1994. Navorsingsvryheid bestaan nie meer nie, soos onlangs aan die Universiteit Kaapstad en Stellenbosch geblyk het. Navorsingsresultate moet polities byderwets, dus ooreenkomstig die voorskrifte van postmodernistiese teorie en sosiale geregtigheid, wees. Dit verskans alle nie-blankes teen akademies-wetenskaplike resultate wat vir hulle “pyn” kan veroorsaak, soos Wim de Villiers daarna verwys het.* “The derailment of academic institutions harms not only students but it also threatens the broader society, not only by undermining faith in knowledge claims but also by prejudicing the institutions supposed to cultivate the well-versed, thinking, and reasonable people required in a democratic society – people capable of open inquiry, debate, disagreement, and conflict resolution, without recourse to masks and knives” (127).

[* “Science is not moral and the morality of a position is completely irrelevant to whether or not it is logically and empirically justifiable … biased scholars will tendentiously argue that there is never sufficient proof for hypotheses that they dislike” (Edward Dutton, Race differences in ethnocentrism, London: Arktos, 2019, 276p; Amazon Kindle $12.64, 1102).]

Met sy verwysing na “masks” kry Rectenwald ‘n steelhou in teen die Ku Klux Klan. Sy verwysing na messe kan toepaslik in Amerika wees. In ons “jong demokrasie” word sake, in navolging van die vredesikoon Nelson Mandela, dikwels eerder met geweld as polities besleg. Naas messe word bv brandstigting (soos met petrolbomme) en vuurwapens in aanvalle gebruik. Die rehabilitasie van akademiese vryheid, van oop gesprekke aan universiteite, sal in Suid-Afrika, met sy kolossale getal ongeletterdes en oningeligtes, ‘n veel kleiner trefkrag as in Amerika hê. In landsbelang moes ons “jong demokrasie” liewer nooit die lewenslig aanskou het nie.

Wat die voorafgaande uiteensetting duidelik maak, is dat die sosiale geregtigheidsbeweging ‘n uitvloeisel van postmodernisme is, wat op sy beurt sy wortels in marxisme het. Nadat marxisme as ekonomiese stelsel veral sedert 1990 in onguns veval het, kan die linkse politieke spektrum in sy geheel as kulturele marxisme geëtiketteer word. In kulturele marxisme speel militante feminisme en haar troetelkind, homoseksualiteit, ‘n sleutelrol in pogings om bv die tradisionele huisgesin – bestaande uit ‘n manlike man, ‘n vroulike vrou en heteroseksuele kinders – te ondergrawe.* Wat die situasie in Suid-Afrika nog meer onverkwiklik maak, is dat ons sedert 1994 deur kamerade regeer word wat in baie opsigte marxisme steeds in sy tradisionele gewaad aanhang. Die rooi gevaar het hom in ons midde gevestig; nie as tjommie nie, maar as heerser. Soos Raka het hy ingesluip. Dit lyk nie asof hy verwilder en uitgesluit gaan word nie, want daar het nie eens protes opgeklink toe bv die hoof van die plaaslike kommuniste as minister van hoër onderwys aangestel is en hy jare lank in daardie pos gefunksioneer het en weer terug daarin is nie.

[* ‘n Hooftema by die Noorweegse Nobel-pryswenner, Knut Hamsun (1859-1952), is “rediscovering one’s roots in the simple life, in family, and in children” (KR Bolton, Artists of the Right: Resisting decadence, San Francisco: Counter-Currents, 2012, 208p; Amazon Kindle $6.89, 1286). “The rearing of children is the purpose of Being of the wife and mother, as much as that might be sneered at now, but as [Oswald] Spengler [1880-1936] noted, there is nothing more important than the continuation of a family lineage, generation after generation … there is nothing more dreadful than being the last of a family’s line” (1324). In sy boek, The hour of decision (1933 – Praag 12.11.2016), skryf Spengler: “A woman of race does not desire to be a ‘companion’ or a ‘lover’, but a mother … the instinct of a strong race speaks in the pride that large families inspire, in the feeling that barrenness is the hardest curse that can befall a woman and through her the race” (1332).]

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