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America’s Cultural Revolution?

When I was 16 years old, I came across a book in a small, state-owned bookstore in China. I don’t know how it escaped the government’s censors, but I was soon mesmerized by Chatting About America. Here I encountered a world foreign to my experiences but intriguing to my curious soul. It was about a land of freedom, where people were encouraged to think independently and critically and to participate in a market of ideas. This place was America.

During a book-reading report, I talked about this book and the idea of liberty with my classmates. My zeal was received with apathy from my classmates and dismissed by the teacher. That’s when I started to dream about escaping from the Chinese schools that seek nothing but to indoctrinate young minds and transform human beings into “animal laborans” (in Hannah Arendt’s apt words). I wanted to pursue a classical liberal arts education in America so badly that the daydream tormented me for years.

Nearly two decades later, I finally set my feet on the land of freedom only to find that slogans of diversity, equity, safe spaces, trigger warnings, microaggressions, and preferred pronouns have swept across American campuses. I was shocked at first and then bewildered—this was not the America I had dreamed about. Rather, American schools increasingly resemble the authoritarian Chinese schools that aim at transforming human beings into an instrument that serves the state. What I find more chilling is that the American replication of the Chinese Cultural Revolution is engulfing academia, media, the schools, the tech sector, Hollywood, sports, and government—that is to say, everywhere in society. And I wonder: how long will it take before the revolution creeps into households and regularly has people turn on one another?

The situation deteriorated rapidly between 2015, when I first started a master’s program at Pepperdine University, and 2020, where I am now in my third year of a PhD program at Purdue University. Despite the best efforts of a handful of professors like Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson to struggle against identity politics, the universities are overwhelmingly lost to ideology. All of the slogans now serve as building blocks for the cathedrals of the now-ascendant religions of diversity, inclusion, and equity. All three have the same grandmother—intersectionality.

Intersectionality was first proposed by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s. Three features of the theory can help us understand why the American left’s new civil religion threatens the land of the free.

As hermeneutics, intersectionality provides a theoretic ground for competitive victimhood. Intersectionality views humans only as members of a group. Hence, your personhood is defined first and foremost by your group identity. It focuses on explaining different ways that group identities, not individuals, can be marginalized. For example, a black person can be discriminated against according to race identity. A black woman can suffer discrimination due to her second marginalized identity—her gender. But a homosexual black woman can then be discriminated against because of her third identity—sexual orientation. According to intersectionality, these three cases face escalating injustice because of the overlapping intersection of each new marginalized identity. You see how the game plays out? The end result is this: The person who is stamped with the most marginalized identities has the greatest claim to victimhood. Their victimhood entitles them to the greatest voice in the new regime.

Thus, intersectionality offers the most oppressed group the greatest power to censor their oppressors, real or imagined. The underlying justification for this power to control speech flows from something called “standpoint epistemology.” This theory holds that group identity gives members a unique wisdom that other, less oppressed group identities do not have. A particular standpoint gives one unique knowledge of the world, knowledge about which only they can claim the final authority. For instance, a white man—putatively superior in his whiteness and manhood—only has the standpoint of being a white man, with all of the “privilege” that entails. A white woman retains the so-called privilege of whiteness, yet experiences the standpoint of womanhood. Hence, the white woman has special knowledge of sexism that white men cannot access, and this knowledge gives her the authority to speak where men ought to remain silent.

Standpoint epistemology presupposes that reality as we know it today is constructed by white western heterosexual men. Therefore, the more oppressed you are, the more unique perspectives you can draw to expose the injustice of the white man’s world. Oppression generates authority, and the most oppressed person is the most authoritative in defining and fighting “injustices.” When identity is primary in this sense, the basis for rational dissent disappears—one can never escape from being the oppressor. One can only beg for mercy, as even a good-faith dissident will be reminded that any opposition to anti-racism is itself racist.

Classical liberals should realize that this theory allows no room for either dissent or debate. Infidels who do not subscribe to standpoint epistemology and who propose to empirically test the theory or to challenge its logic will meet a response that can be described as a repudiation of scientific universality.

One question left to answer is this: How did intersectionality, essentially a form of sophistry, gain dominance in society?

The left has the ingenuity to claim higher moral ground under the guise of “isms” that intuitively appeal to humanity’s righteous mind and covetous heart. In China, we saw this in Mao’s Land Reform of the 1950s. In the name of “beat the landlords and take their lands,” an estimated 8 million “landlords” and their families were killed. Note that they were not the landlord class as known in the European feudalism. Most of them were free peasants who owned small plots of land. Nevertheless, tarred as the “exploiting class” and demonized with disparaging propaganda, those land owners and their families were shot, strangled, dismembered, or buried alive. The lucky ones were killed in mass rallies, while others perished later in forced labor camps after suffering unspeakable tortures. As Philip Short observed, “Within three years of the founding of New China, the landlords as a cohesive class, which had dominated rural society since Han times, had simply ceased to exist.” With the demise of a group of people who were widely viewed as gentry of the villages throughout ancient history, Mao and the CCP did not just rip off the traditional societal tapestry in the countryside, but fundamentally deformed that society’s traditional mores.

Americans must recognize the dangers of intersectionality. If left unchecked, this weaponized ideology will destroy American liberty. If not, Americans will learn the truth that power, not freedom, is truly irresistible.

We are seeing something similar now in America’s own cultural revolution. The American left constantly redefines common language to muddle thinking and extort moral commitment out of citizens. Justice is infinitely repackaged as “social justice,” “racial justice,” or “reproductive justice,” and the list goes on. America’s traditional admiration for equality is transmuted into the more demanding, if not totalitarian concept of equity. Equity requires reparation for past wrongdoings and perceived “injustices,” with special attention given to how systems propagate oppression. Equity demands we treat people unequally to level the play field. The only diversity it can respect is that of group identities. Racism, a word that was once used to describe personal prejudice, is now hijacked by the phrase “systemic racism.” Hence, intersectional theorists point to a universal “white privilege” because they claim society disproportionally benefits white people, especially men.

Focused as it is on the Holocaust, the Western world remains largely ignorant of the fact that Mao produced the deadliest regime in modern history. Both Stalin and Hitler have been remembered as monstrous murders and yet Mao’s portrait remains enshrined in some leftists’ campus offices. In both Germany and Soviet Union, mass killings were undertaken by agents of the state. Mao and the leftist cadres went further, and inculcated hatred and resentment in the masses, mobilizing them to perform wanton murder of their fellowmen. It is not just that average Chinese citizens were turned mass murderers—women and children were made observe these mass murders, Mao destroyed humanity. I see a chilling parallel in the American left’s tactics and rhetoric that fabricate a racial divide and incite riots and looting.

For years, I have seen social justice warriors across American campuses shut down events they dislike, scream at professors who don’t support their views, or physically attack speakers they hate. I worry that the campus violence reveals a larger issue than the crisis of free speech. My concern has less to do with coddled American students’ intolerance for dissent or offense than that they are used as cannon fodder for the purpose of advancing an agenda—or indeed a revolution. As a student of the Chinese Cultural Revolution, I can hardly overlook the stunning similarity of the rhetoric and practice between BLM protestors who raise their fists and Red Guards who hold high the Little Red Book. To purge the upper echelons of power, Mao set a group of screaming, self-righteous Red Guards in clamorous motion. In the name of overthrowing the Four Olds (Old Ideas, Old Culture, Old Habits, and Old Customs), belligerent Red Guards demanded to assign new names to historical sites, destroyed statues and temples, burned books, and publicly reviled teachers and intellectuals. Once given license to denounce all authority, those young, radical students, some of them no older than fourteen, were emboldened to torture and kill the innocent.

For a decade, the Chinese Cultural Revolution thoroughly wrecked the economy, uprooted traditions, destroyed social trust by turning family members on each other, and worst of all, killed well more than a million people. One can only wonder how far its American replication will go.

I came to America for liberty, not equality. I prefer Tocqueville’s “inequality with freedom” to the democratic nightmare of “equality in slavery.” What Tocqueville couldn’t foresee back in the 19th century was how depraved a taste for equality could become. Americans must recognize the dangers of intersectionality. If left unchecked, this weaponized ideology will destroy American liberty. If not, Americans will learn the truth that power, not freedom, is truly irresistible.

Reader Discussion

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on November 23, 2020 at 08:53:23 am

No doubt, our Salvational History has revealed, that when we deny the essence of being, in essence, a beloved son or daughter, from the moment of conception, and render onto Caesar or ourselves, what belongs to God, The Most Holy And Undivided Blessed Trinity, all hell breaks out.

Only The Truth Of Love can set us free, and lead us to Salvation. It would have been more accurate for Tocqueville to have stated, when it comes to our inherent Dignity, complementary with freedom, rather than inequality with freedom, for to deny the inherent complementary essence of Love, is to deny The Truth that sets us free from every form of slavery.

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Nancy
on November 23, 2020 at 10:35:21 am

"Americans must recognize the dangers of intersectionality. If left unchecked, this weaponized ideology will destroy American liberty. If not, Americans will learn the truth that power, not freedom, is truly irresistible."

An unblinking and sober assessment. Refreshing. In our present state, who and how many will fully and soberly appreciate such assessments? One change only is needed, an emphasis upon present and past tense rather than future tense and contingency. I'll take the liberty of posting a complimentary essay by Angelo Codevilla in redacted form. The following appeared over at American Greatness under the title From Ruling Class to Oligarchy; I might have chosen the title, That is How Oligarchies Work. The writing is already on the wall; the remainder below, in redacted form, is all Codevilla:

By its campaign and conduct of the 2020 election, the ruling class ceased pretending to be part of a constitutional republic. By treating fellow Americans as inferiors through word and deed, its members renounced their common citizenship with us. Eschewing persuasion, they set about compelling obedience to an openly manipulated election. ...

For four decades beginning in the mid-1960s, a class of rulers grew in America. They became ever more uniform socially and intellectually, ever more opposed to the rest of Americans, and ever more powerful. ...

Increasingly, their powers were based on claims of expertise coming from the universities. ...

... Suffice it to say, by the beginning of the Obama Administration in 2009, the rest of Americans had sensed that American public life had ceased to revolve around the struggle between Democrats and Republicans, and was more between those who lived by the ruling class’ privileges, ... and what had been known in English history as the country class.

During the Obama years, the American country class’ budding resistance spurred the ruling class further to become conscious of itself, to increase its own privileges, its cohesion, and above all its contempt for and demands on those below them. Political correctness ceased to be bemusing for the country class and came to be seen as the threat to freedom that it is. ... 

In short, during the Obama years the ruling class was becoming an oligarchy that ruled by exercising the powers of government and of incumbency in corporations as well as all manner of social institutions. ...

Donald Trump’s surprising victory proved to be the catalyst for this oligarchy to articulate itself into something that was able to transcend our constitutional republic altogether, to dispense with and even to penalize the habits and institutions that had held it together. Ours is now a socio-political system wholly different from that constitutional republic of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries. ...

... the “resistance” took on a life of its own, fed from on high by such as the CIA’s John Brennan and FBI’s James Comey, and the host of their politicized subordinates, as well as from below by violent “intersectional” groups like Antifa and Black Lives Matter. 

This resistance was powerfully sustained in the middle by countless corporate executives, government employees, editors, and reporters. The convergence of so many like-minded people quickly and decisively transmuted a political tactic into the replacement of a republic with an oligarchy. It replaced government by consent with rule by force. 

Because this revolution involved subordinating truth itself to political power, it effected negation of civilization itself.

This is how it happened. It had been clear to that class that Trump was dangerous only because he represented his “deplorable” supporters. The ruling class sought to resist them by dispiriting them and discrediting them in their own and others’ eyes. Demonizing Trump was the means by which they sought to do this. 

Arguably the American country class’ principal mistake between 2016 and 2020 was to suppose that the Left was actually after Trump, rather than set about crushing them and killing the American regime. 

When those at the top of American communications’ food chain, the folks at the New York Times, said openly that they would put truth aside during the noble fight against Trumpism, when the news industry shamelessly purveyed obviously incredible stories about Trump’s alleged Russia collusion; when they shamelessly purveyed obviously unsourced rumor as truth; when they seconded officials’ using classified information as a shield and sword against conservatives; when corporations and even government agencies began to require that employees attend brainwashing sessions; when communications companies—especially Google, Facebook, and Twitter—began mathematically to discriminate against conservative communications; when the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives’ proposed legislation would have mandated voting by mail and ballot harvesting-severing the link between any ballot and the voter’s will or even existence-conservatives imagined that this was mere hardball politics within a republican context. Not so.

When the coronavirus hit, Americans did not realize how thoroughly their ruling class had already jelled into an oligarchy with the intention above all to crush them. Neither did they comprehend how assuredly it would not waste this opportunity to do so. Tragically led astray by Donald Trump’s misplaced faith in the objectivity of “the experts,” personified by Dr. Anthony Fauci, conservatives were persuaded to respond to an epidemic with an infection/fatality rate comparable to the average flu as if it were the plague. 

But even plagues, once endemic, follow ineluctable courses through populations. Thus, by following the ignorant promise of safety through masks, etc. did conservatives at first agree to suspend face-to-face relationships. They suffered to disarticulate social life even more than economic life, to put aside one’s friends and God. They agreed to restrict their understanding of things to what the mass media would allow them to hear. They did all of this even as evidence mounted that the “experts” were nothing but agents of the oligarchy.

And then Election Night. As predicted, election officials in places controlled by the Left stopped counting until it was clear how many ballots it would take for Trump to be defeated. The requisite number came, filled out by no one knows who. And then . . . who wouldn’t have predicted it? The call came from all of society’s commanding heights: Trump’s defeat had been declared. By whom? By the folks on these varied heights-certainly not by the authorities designated by the Constitution to decide who wins and loses. 

...

That is how oligarchies work.

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Michael Bond
on November 23, 2020 at 11:13:46 am

This is a prophesy of doom from an expert in death who suffered, survived, and studied the deadly force of intersectionality and now seeks to sound the alarm: "It is coming to kill you! It is coming to kill you!"

Those most in need of what Habi Zhang says are the enemy; they are the very mobs which are attacking America. These evil mobs are those on whom Habi Zhang's warning is not just wasted but dangerous: college presidents, professors and their mindless mobs of student apparatchiks; mal-educated mobs of K-12 instructors who teach our children not to love but to hate their family, their country, the white race, white males, their religion and their culture; the mobs of neo-Marxist-propagandists, the fake journalists of Big Tech and Big Media; the mobs of greedy mega-corporations run by frightened hordes of woke management clinging to their MBA degrees and, in the name of globalism and profit, denying three times the identity of their country: its glorious founding, its beneficent history and its unique exceptionalism.

Those are the evil mobs, perhaps numbering just a few million, who would benefit most from his prophesy, yet who would strive to destroy Habi Zhang for his warning, to crush him physically, socially and professionally. His warning of the evil mobs is not just politically futile but personally dangerous.

There are others, tens of millions, on whom Habi Zhang's warning is wasted. These comprise the herd. They are the blind, unthinking, "useful idiots" who follow the few million evil mobsters. The herd is hopeless victim to the manipulating forces of indoctrination, disinformation and group psychology. These are the decent-but-merely-fooled fools, the empty-souls who hope to fill their voids, perhaps even gain marginally, by their opposition to what Habi Zhang says. The herd will dispute Habi Zhang's message intellectually or repress it psychologically or rotely oppose it politically. These are the vast bulk of (lawful) Biden voters. They number approximately 70 million people.

Together the evil mob and its group-think herd control the K-16 education system, the information and entertainment media, internet information platforms, Big Banks, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and most Fortune 500 companies, all major private institutions except the Catholic Church and the Evangelical churches, the Departments of Justice, State, Defense and Treasury, the CIA and FBI, the military, state and local government in Blue States and all big cities, most of the state courts and the lower-level federal courts, the House of Representatives, the Presidency and, soon, very-possibly the Senate of the United States.

Habi Zhang is a brave man. We must applaud him. We must thank him.
And we who are not evil, we who are still sane, we who are not fools must heed Habi Zhang's warning.

There are at least 73 million of us. Today, we control the lion's share of the Republican Party and all of talk radio. We control the Supreme Court. We are powerful in the evangelical community, and have a voice in the declining Catholic Church. We have limited-and-declining access to the internet for our political and cultural communication. But we have available to us an abundance of practical intelligence, resourcefulness and inventiveness; the heritage of the Judeo-Christian faith, and the strong examples of our special history and the foresight and courage of our ancestors.

We must take flight and hide and lose our future and our country, or we must stand and fight and take back our country.

It is a very close run thing. We still have an opportunity to choose, but the door is closing.

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paladin
on November 23, 2020 at 12:36:47 pm

I failed to note that the forces of light still control the presidency, albeit a lame duck office of 2 more months, unless a miracle happens and the systemic election fraud and corruption wrought by the Democrat Party are exposed with evidence of sufficient compulsion and compelling clarity as to embolden even the weak-kneed, diffident and cowardly state officials, Congress and the Supreme Court to enforce the constitution. Of that there is little hope.

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paladin
on November 27, 2020 at 21:46:55 pm

How would you propose to stand and fight? Apparently not through the democratic processes, right? Then please explain how would you do that as long as we still are a democratic republic? Would you outlaw the Dems?

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Stavros
on December 21, 2020 at 14:03:43 pm

"How would you propose to stand and fight?"
At the individual level. Do you have 5 friends who will not tolerate this? Will those people stand up and go to bat? Good. Make it 10. In Auburn Wa, there is a police officer who is on trial for his life for enforcing the law under a "new law" that goes after cops who pull the trigger in the use of force continuum. He was once given an award for being a good cop, but now he is one of the earliest political victims of this revolution in Washington IMO. No one in the community is fighting for him- apathy??? - All cops are watching, they will not stop the lawlessness if this is what happen. However we as a community are letting it happen.

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Andy
on December 24, 2020 at 18:00:39 pm

Why isn't this being posted everywhere. I doubt that the average citizen is good with lawlessness. I especially doubt that anyone wants to see someone punished for doing their job or trying to protect the public.

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R.
on December 30, 2020 at 22:20:03 pm

I like what you have to say. I agree the door is closing, but it seems we need to have a strategy with tactics and road map. To fight is only the start - what's the next step? And if the mob has invaded the schools, universities, state department, other government bodies, what needs to be normalized first?

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Al Morgan
on November 23, 2020 at 11:43:08 am

“ If left unchecked, this weaponized ideology will destroy American liberty. If not, Americans will learn the truth that power, not freedom, is truly irresistible.”

“If left unchecked...”

Is it any wonder then, that in order to scatter the sheep, they had to strike the shepherd?

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N.D.
on November 23, 2020 at 15:48:00 pm

All that is fine and good but the American constitutional democratic republic framed in 1788 assumed an electorate of net rate payers who were not financially dependent on government largess.

Since the franchise to vote is now universal and almost everyone is to some extent financially dependent on the government the Constitution of 1788 has lost it’s grounding in political and economic reality.

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EK
on November 24, 2020 at 06:33:27 am

Which is to say the right to vote should be tied to the duty to earn money and the obligation to pay taxes. Gotta have skin in the game in order to play, and rent-seekers should pay some of the rent.

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paladin
on November 25, 2020 at 13:27:55 pm

It strikes me that one thing missing from this very fine essay and the equally fine and lucid comments (obviously absent from the "wokesters" lamentations is a discussion of the effects of this "revolution" upon our young citizens) viz. the infantilization AND, Yes, I will say it, the feminization of these revolutionaries.
Witness the impact upon purportedly highly eductaed staff at Penguin -Random House Publishing at the announcment that Penguin will publish Jordan Peterson's new book. Tears, crying, mortification that someone would dare publish such racist polemics.
We have raised not just a bunch of infants insistent on self praise and being praised for their insight, intelligence and compassion but also a generation of "girly-men" unable to assert themselves absent the presence of a like thinking mob / cadre, unwilling to free themselves from the "feminized" ideology predicated upon no more than "FEELINGS" and the mortal and unforgivable sin of "hurting my feelings."
My advice is the same as The Godfather gave to Frank Sinatra character in the classic movie: "Be a MAN" [you wussy].
Gawd, Edith, it is sickening.

https://pjmedia.com/news-and-politics/rick-moran/2020/11/25/penguin-random-house-staff-cry-throw-tantrums-against-publishing-jordan-petersons-new-book-n1171870

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gabe
on November 25, 2020 at 15:13:00 pm

Gabe,

Further to your comment, I think that there are some underlying trends that help explain the current drift toward an illiberal culture, each of which might be the subject of its own comment. Among these are contemporary trends that favor:

1. Feelings over reason

2. Affirmation over inquiry

3. Experience over achievement

4. Group identity over individual dignity

5. Safety over liberty

6. Expedience over prudence

7. Intentions over consequences

8. Celebrity over virtue

etc.

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z9z99
on November 25, 2020 at 17:43:44 pm

Yep!

And many of the bullet points you provide demonstrate the current prevalence of what were traditionally (and I think correctly) the more feminine posture.
No, not all; nor am I saying that women should possess and present the traditional feminine attitudes; rather, I observe that far too many young males have adopted (adapted, perhaps, to the zeitgeist) these preferences.
This is sad!
Anyway - HAPPY THANKSGIVING
and remember to make sure that even your turkey is properly masked!

take care
gabe

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gabe
on December 30, 2020 at 22:39:15 pm

Your anecdote among many, many others that I hear from friends and conservative sites/blogs I hear all the time. And they lately seem to be more about the loss of the war, and not about the skirmishes of the upcoming fight. We need to be on the offensive, not defensive...not wondering how we lost, but planning for the next win. What can we do. How to turn around the game to be on our playing field and not theirs.

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Al Morgan
on December 11, 2020 at 03:40:42 am

Imagine misunderstanding standpoint theory this badly and then putting your name on an essay that reveals that you misunderstand it this badly...

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Devon
on December 11, 2020 at 15:57:17 pm

By all means Devon, explain the errors...

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OH Anarcho-capitalist
on December 12, 2020 at 16:34:21 pm

Redirecting attention to the definition of "standpoint theory" is the logical fallacy of the red herring that missed the point of Mr. Zhang's article. For a good treatment of "standpoint theory" consult the excellent new book by Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, "Cynical Theories", pages 193ff. Mr. Zhang is not far off at all. For someone who was not raised in the US, he seems to have learned a great deal.

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Jim
on December 13, 2020 at 15:28:00 pm

... the entire point of the article was how supposedly wrong and dangerous standpoint theory and intersectionality is.

Saying the author seems to not understand either of them is not a "red herring"; it's at the very heart of his argument. I don't think you actually know what logical fallacy means.

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Devon
on December 21, 2020 at 17:21:20 pm

If, in your reading of Mr. Zhang's article, all you see is a discussion of standpoint theory and intersectionality, then sure, your focus on the claim for supposed misunderstanding follows. If, on the other hand, his main point is summarized in paragraph three, then standpoint theory and intersectionality are examples of his concerns among others.
In which case, my claim of a red herring follows. As to the meaning of logical fallacy, would you like Patrick Hurley's or Irving Copi's definition?

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Jim
on January 15, 2021 at 19:10:19 pm

The author misunderstands the cause and effect of theory. Intersectionality describes people's real lived experience, describes the various forms of oppression and bigotry they have experienced, and generalizes in a word. The author seems to lack any compassion for these experiences. Invoking the atrocities of the Maoism to describe BLM and the intellectual left is akin to invoking Nazism to describe the Trumpism and other right-isms, neither of which are appropriate.

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Jeffrey Blumenthal
on December 16, 2020 at 14:13:05 pm

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg:
“I would like to see a new beginning. I’d like it to start over,” Ginsburg said about the so-called Equal Rights Amendment Monday.” There’s too much controversy about latecomers — Virginia long after the deadline passed — plus a number of states have withdrawn their ratification. So if you count a latecomer on the plus side, how can you disregard states that said, ‘We’ve changed our minds’?”
R.B. Ginsburg

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Claudis Larson
on December 20, 2020 at 02:00:47 am

Great article. But I think Mr. Zhang's numbers are off a bit. At the end of the article where he says one million or more were killed, I think he is off by about 19 millon?

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Daniel Keith
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