Liberalism’s obsession with language

Crop_(2)_of_Camille_Paglia_no_Fronteiras_do_Pensamento_São_Paulo_2015

Camille Paglia is a feminist, a leftist, a lesbian, an atheist. . . .And yet she is a harsh critic of today’s feminists, leftists, gays, and atheists.

A new interview with her in the Weekly Standard offers some fascinating takes on Donald Trump (whom she defends), Democrats (whom she criticizes), Transgenderism (which she says is impossible), and Islamic terrorism (which she accuses liberals of whitewashing).

After the jump, a sample, giving her response to a question about why liberals are so squeamish about criticizing Islam.  This gets into a further discussion about political correctness and what happened to the left.  “Today’s liberalism,” she says, is “all about reducing individuals to a group identity” and “defining that identity in victim terms.”

From Jonathan V. Last,  Camille Paglia: On Trump, Democrats, Transgenderism, and Islamist Terror | The Weekly Standard:

JVL: One of the other big news stories for the last few weeks has been terrorism in Great Britain. Everyone goes to great pains to say that this isn’t “Islamic” terrorism, but rather “Islamist” (“Islam-ish?”) terrorism. Does nomenclature matter here? Does the fact that Western liberalism gets so wrapped up in knots over how to talk about its antagonists mean anything?

CP: You’ve nailed it about Western liberalism’s obsession with language, to the exclusion of wide-ranging study of world history or systematic observation of present social conditions. Liberalism of the 1950s and ’60s exalted civil liberties, individualism, and dissident thought and speech. “Question authority” was our generational rubric when I was in college. But today’s liberalism has become grotesquely mechanistic and authoritarian: It’s all about reducing individuals to a group identity, defining that group in permanent victim terms, and denying others their democratic right to challenge that group and its ideology. Political correctness represents the fossilized institutionalization of once-vital revolutionary ideas, which have become mere rote formulas. It is repressively Stalinist, dependent on a labyrinthine, parasitic bureaucracy to enforce its empty dictates.

The reluctance or inability of Western liberals to candidly confront jihadism has been catastrophically counterproductive insofar as it has inspired an ongoing upsurge in right-wing politics in Europe and the United States. Citizens have an absolute right to demand basic security from their government. The contortions to which so many liberals resort to avoid connecting bombings, massacres, persecutions, and cultural vandalism to Islamic jihadism is remarkable, given their usual animosity to religion, above all Christianity. Some commentators have suggested a link to racial preconceptions: that is, Islam remains beyond criticism because it is largely a religion of non-whites whose two holy cities occupy territory once oppressed by Western imperialism.

For a quarter century, I have been calling for comparative religion to be made the core curriculum of higher education. (I am speaking as an atheist.) Knowledge of the great world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Judeo-Christianity, Islam—is the true multiculturalism. Everyone should have a general familiarity with the beliefs, texts, rituals, art, and shrines of all the major religions. Only via a direct encounter with the Qu’ran and Hadith, for example, can anyone know what they say about jihad and how those strikingly numerous passages have been interpreted in different ways over time.

Right now, too many secular Western liberals treat Islam with paternalistic condescension—waving at it vaguely from a benevolent distance but making no effort to engage with its intricate mixed messages, which can inspire toward good or spur acts of devastating impact on the international stage.

Photograph of Camille Paglia, by Fronteiras do Pensamento [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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