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The dictatorship of the childish

If you go to New York and someone says to you "You speak English very well", how do you get it? For a compliment. Instead, at the University of Irvin and the other nine universities in California and many other campuses, it is a "micro-aggression". Because, according to students who have banned the expression, it suggests that "you are not a true American". So you must absolutely avoid it, to not make someone feel bad- who, the interlocutor? - no, the students themselves. The students have made a list of expressions that to them sound like discriminattions and, therefore, make them feel bad. Speaking of America as a "melting pot" is a micro-aggression against people who do not want to assimilate and merge into American culture. To say that America is "the country of opportunities" is micro-aggression to people to whom racism, sexism or (for God's sake!) "homophobia" hampers success.

by Maurizio Blondet

Last April, at the Brandeis University, an association of American students with almond-shaped eyes posted a poster in the atrium with a list of the sentences they considered micro-aggression. We went from the phrase: "You are good at math" up to: "I am colorblind! I do not see racial differences!". The trouble is that other students, also Americans of Asian descent, have heard the poster itself as a micro-aggression against them, and the president of the association had to write a letter of apology to those who felt "hurt by micro-aggression".

At the Harvard Law School - of Law! - some students asked the teachers not to use the word "violate" (not only sexually, but also in "violating the law") because it makes them sick: a professor of law wrote it in the New Yorker, Jeannie Suk (Asian-American, but do not point it out). The sociologist Laura Kipnis of Northwestern University, for writing an essay on "unwanted advances - the sexual paranoia prevailing on campus", was investigated by her students, who tried to get her fired.

Already in 2007, student groups tried to fire Keith John Sampson, a colleague (student-worker, he was also the doorkeeper of Purdue University, Indiana) because he publicly read the book "Notre Dame vs. the Klan: How the Fighting Irish defeated the Ku Klux Klan". It is a book against the KKK, which recalls how the sect was fought in 1924 by Irish Catholics of Notre Dame: but the cover on which the hoodies appeared was enough, the prosecutors said, to make them feel bad. Sampson was convicted of "racial harassment" by the Affirmative Action office of the same university; he avoided the dismissal just because of his case the press and the American Civil Liberties Union were interested, and the university withdrew the accusation. But the Union advised him not to read books with certain covers in public, "it's like bringing pornography to school":


They justify the censorship with medical reasons

So it's justified the "I am a progressive professor and I am terrified of my progressive students" wrote by anonymous teacher explaining - under pseudonym - with how much caution he must teach, in order not to unleash the reprisals of the students "injured and offended" from his own sentence. The teachers are advised to precede their lessons with "trigger warnings", messages (verbal or written) in which they warn that some of the things they will say could be "triggering", that is to break out in some students strong and negative emotions based on their previous traumatic experience".

Groups of students have reported as "causing discomfort" texts such as Ovid's Metamorphosis (sexual violence), Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway (for "suicidal inclinations") and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby to be discriminatory and offensive to women.

At this point, a large part of American and classical literature falls under the censorship and should not be read aloud. Obviously, even Genesis, "male and female God created them" becomes impossible to teach, because it is aggressive towards the multiform LGBT tribes.

These are some of the cases described by Gregg Lukianoff in his essay "The Coddling of the American Mind: how good intentions and misconceptions are breeding a generation for failure".

Lukianoff, who is a militant lawyer for the defense of freedom of expression (First Amendment), warns of a worsening of the censorship situation on campus. "Before, it was the university administrations that instructed teachers not to use words that could sound discrimination (racial or sexual). But from 2013-14, overnight, students are imposing new verbal codes, the "trigger warning" policies, the lists of "micro aggressions" - and, always worse, demanding the cancellation of public meetings, organized by universities, with lecturers who do not love, because "they make them feel bad".

In fact, the main character of this new student censorship is its medicalization. Students who demand censorship on ideas, literary texts and people, do not do so by motivating they are against those ideas, philosophies and people. No, they say they are injured, in a medical and psychic sense. That exacerbates their anxiety and depression, which harms their mental health.

In this way, they do not argue: they just forbid. "The ultimate goal" Lukianoff says, "seems to be to turn university campuses into safe spaces where these young adults are protected by words and ideas that make them uncomfortable. To the point of punishing anyone who disturbs this purpose, even in an accidental way: something I have called vindictive projectivity. It creates a culture where one must think twice before speaking, to avert the accusations of insensitivity, racism, aggression, harassment or worse".

Imagine how much this academic "culture" helps. Obviously, from the psycho-therapeutic point of view, this extreme care to avoid what "disturbs" does not strengthen them in character, nor make them healthier. In no way.

Between 2009 and 2015, the demand for psychiatric relief visits increased five times faster than the number of enrollments. A recent study reported that in 2017, among young adults in general, depression has increased significantly in the last three years, and that in 2017 alone the percentage of young people who have had serious suicidal ideas has risen from 6.8% of 2008 to 10.5%. Censorship makes the life of many students an Orwellian hell. The 30% of them have confessed to being afraid of expressing themselves in class because their expressions risked being considered offensive; 29% are afraid to express themselves outside the classes, in free conversations on campus, because others could find their ideas politically incorrect - and this entails the punitive isolation of the individual by the group, its transformation into a pariah that is avoided, to whom the word is not addressed, not invited to parties, etc. More or less this also happens to professors. "Whether you are afraid to talk at the university canteen or in the dorms is particularly alarming, because the university is supposed to be the field where you learn from each other."

It is a "cultural revolution", but the opposite to the one that exploded in '68 in the same universities of California to the cry of "forbidden to forbid" and of sexual freedom and drugging. This revolution freezes and oppresses in the name of conformism, taken as a necessary medical condition. The aspiration to the universal that moved those movements has been replaced by tribal thought: everyone is inside his group (ethnic or sexual preference) as in the tribe that makes him feel good. Toward all the others, the attitude is: "You do not understand my experience and feelings, because you are not like me black, homosexual, lesbian, vegan ... so I do not even listen to you". The result is the new segregation between groups that estranged and live each other as hostile and incommunicable.

What to say? First of all, this is a "class" phenomenon, where these dad's sons wrap themselves in their protective shell from reality in a society where, on the other hand, their poor peers have the best opportunity to enlist in endless wars, facing the reality more crude of blood and ambushes, terror and murders. And then end veterans with real post-traumatic syndromes, much more real than those the snowflakes accuse, as homeless despised and abandoned, driven out of the high neighborhoods because they do their needs on sidewalk like in San Francisco. It is ironic that harmless phrases for the most are heard as "aggressions" by people who charge them with their malicious intentions: the privileged riches, when they tell you "you speak English well", are those who mentally add "... to be a Mexican and an inferior ".

It is more urgent to underline the paradox: this oppression that young people exert in the campuses on peers as on professors is the paradoxical result of the anti-authoritarian ideology. It denies the hierarchy between teacher and disciples, rejects any discipline and severity and de facto invites the boys to self-educate themselves, to establish their own order, outside the adult world. In a world without social pressure coming from religion as from common morality, the result is this: that young people left to themselves establish an icy dictatorship, a censorship totalitarianism of steel.

When adults erase themselves

It does not happen only in America, or in the upper districts. On the night of Sunday the 14th, a 13-year-old boy was shot dead with iron bars by five peers at Seine Saint-Denis, a banlieue outside Paris; other murders took place in fights between gangs of increasingly younger neighborhoods. It is that "seriously degraded" situation that Gerard Collombe, the interior minister of Macron, has denounced before resigning. The ministry has counted at least ninety bands of ferocious minors, which neither the police nor the judges (who absolve them) manage to contain, let alone the teachers and the imams in the Arab neighborhoods.

It is the result of something that the journalist-sociologist Luc Bronner, defines "the erasing of adults" in the French "ghettos". In the families of those criminal kids, the father (when exists) is an unemployed or an alcoholic, for the children an unsuccessful bankrupt so that he has nothing to teach. Hence "a reversal of hierarchies" whereby "at the gates of the République, counter-societies were formed, with their hierarchies, their laws, their social relations, their values. It is a form of adolescent domination probably unpublished in France as in Europe". As a remedy, the journalist believes it is necessary to "restore a generational order" - the hierarchy of responsible adults on their children, which it is easier to say than to do in a society that has destroyed and mocked, therefore de-legitimized, every authority.

After all, William Golding had already seen everything, in his novel "The Lord of the Flies" for which he won the Nobel Prize. The story is that of some British high class children escaped an atomic massacre, which on a desert island create their own society. With its totalitarian hierarchy, its oppressive dictator, divided into tribes, with tribal obsessions for a "Beast" that it hides itself somewhere - and ends up adopting a rotting pig's head as a totem - to honor "The Lord of the Flies", one of the Babylonian names of the Evil. Because man is inclined to evil...

Priests in juvenile prisons as adjutant report young criminals who have no idea that they have hurt, or even no idea of ​​good or evil. Are they also young people who have self-educated themselves, in their own way, having no hierarchy to obey and to learn from? Sunday morning in Milan the center was occupied by a running race: called by Radio Deejay (a radio of only pop music) tens of thousands of Milanese raced. As I watched them run, in very thick lines, everyone in his t-shirt of the same color, the uniform, I asked myself: why do people when they feel free, and can do whatever they want, do what everyone else do?

People use the so much vaunted freedom as conquest, to "conform". Conformism is the normal way of being of the people; and a call by a pop radio that gives a task and a goal is enough and here they are thousands.

Ortega y Gasset - I know, I repeat myself - wrote the diagnosis: in a Europe where there are no more "principles that force us to live in a certain way, our life remains exposed to pure temporariness. This is the horrible intimate situation in which the best youth in the world found itself now. In feeling purely free, free of commitments, it feels empty. A life without duties is more negative than death. Because living means having something to do - it is equivalent to carrying out an assignment - and to the extent that we elude to submit our existence to a task, we defeat our life".

This is because, Gasset wrote, in Europe "no one commands anymore. To command is to assign a task to the people, to put them on the path of their destiny, on their hinge - to prevent their dissipation". It was 1930. Judge you how far we are in life without commitments.


Original article by Maurizio Blondet:


Translation by Costantino Ceoldo - Pravda freelance

Photo: By From The Project Gutenberg EBook of Punch, or the London Charivari, Vol. 159. http://www.gutenberg.org/etext/16619, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=884360