So-called critical theorists like to speak about “systemic” racism, and other social sins.
Most people spouting such cant have no idea what it means, but they know what it does: it renders their opponents—unrepentant members of “privileged” social “groups”—guilty without a trial, and therefore subject to various forms of abuse without the right to effective self-defense.
When we look back to the more sophisticated specimens of humanity (that is, the ivy league scholars) who crafted these theoretical weapons of cultural mass destruction, we find that they take special care to camouflage their deadly doctrines with a number of sound points and refined distinctions—all the better to pass themselves off as purveyors of sanity.
Justice, in the words of the late University of Chicago political theorist Iris Marion Young, includes “the institutional conditions necessary for the development and exercise of individual capacities and collective communication and cooperation.”
Assuming that her reference is to the capacities of human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, and destined by nature for a familial, political, and rationally examined life, then she is in almost scandalous continuity with the perennial philosophic tradition.
As previously noted in these virtual pages, the term “social justice” need not connote left wing inanity. Its original meaning, the ghost of which still makes its appearance in contemporary misuses, requires our cooperation in the social systems within which we and our fellow human beings are able to seek, and God willing approximate, our perfection and happiness.
What are these systems, and what do they demand of us? A sane answer must begin by considering what human perfection means. As with any other form of excellence, its specification depends on examining the nature of the thing to be perfected.
For now, let’s leave it at noting that, since human beings are free rational animals, any viable conception of human flourishing must respect our liberties, while insisting that we enjoy those liberties within a framework defined by our real physical and spiritual needs.
In a move typical of her ilk, Young uses another method. Sensibly defining anything that thwarts the development of human capacities as oppression, she conveniently fails to refer to any objective understanding of what those capacities are, and how they are best fulfilled.
Instead, the eminent intellectual crafts a theory of oppression which she insists “is comprehensive,” because “it covers all the groups said by the new left social movements” (in other words, as she proudly admits, by neo-Marxists) “to be oppressed.”
On this nakedly partisan basis, Young is able to declare who counts as oppressed, and therefore deserving of a political hearing, without the need for any proof beyond the whims of leftist ideologues (such as herself).
Though some oppression occurs through intentional acts of repression, she slyly notes, it is also possible to thwart the flourishing of our fellows through “everyday practices of a well-intentioned liberal society.” Without going so far as to call every non-leftist an oppressor, she does tag us as belonging to “groups” whose “privilege” is directly responsible for the “oppression” of the groups she favors.
“Social justice,” she concludes, requires “institutions that promote reproduction of and respect for group differences without oppression.”
When we understand her terms correctly, we see that she has subtly redefined social justice as nothing but the systematic exclusion of non-leftists from positions of institutional authority, thereby reserving all power for those of her own political persuasion.
The possibility that the unchecked reign of neo-Marxists might interfere with the efforts of millions of Young’s fellow citizens to fulfill their human capacities, in accordance with standards established by authorities higher than hers (such as God and nature)—in other words, that “social justice” as she defines it might be oppressive and unjust—does not seem to occur to her.
Or does it? Could that bit of a sneer one glimpses between the lines of her academese be what Van Morrison refers to as “duper’s delight”?
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