Tuesday, May 21

The kids are not alright

Imagine, if you will, an era swathed in the garb of moral progressivism, wherein the eager assertions of political correctness and woke politics serve as both shield and sword. The zealous advocates of these modern creeds argue vociferously that any opposition to their views is simply a manifestation of archaic values or an irrational fear of change. Such propositions are not, in the strictest sense, arguments at all; they are instead ungenerous interpretations foisted upon ideological adversaries without the courtesy of rigorous debate.

Take, for instance, the recent musings of our learned friend Jeremy, who, with a twinkle of ironic mirth, suggests that those who resist the rising tide of antisemitism in the hallowed halls of American universities are somehow defending the ruling class. It prompts a wry chuckle, indeed, for it is a historical truth that antisemitism has been a particularly virulent strain among the upper echelons of society—its presence on prestigious campuses being as unsurprising as it is repugnant.

The young racists, flourishing in the ideological petri dishes of academia today, are tomorrow’s corporate lawyers. MPs even. It’s a stark reminder that the seeds of bigotry sown in the fertile grounds of education can germinate into the most banal forms of societal decay.

Sorry, young Jeremy. But you are dead wrong. Students have traditionally embraced plenty of putrid causes.

Turning our gaze back to the Weimar Republic, we see ominous parallels in today’s student activism—then it was Nazi ideology seeping into the student body. The students of Germany were captivated Hitler’s vision well before the common man was.

Across the Atlantic, during America’s civil rights struggles, while many students championed integration and equality, others vehemently opposed these changes, as epitomized by the violent riots at the University of Mississippi. The tapestry of student activism is thus a checkered one, fraught with both noble and ignoble threads.

And yet, today’s student movements often claim a monopoly on moral clarity, particularly the anti-Israel movement currently defiling U.S. universities. This moment draws eerie similarities to the pre-revolution fervour in Iran where students, intoxicated with ideologies of resistance, played pivotal roles in the overthrow of the Shah, only to find themselves in the thrall of a new authoritarian regime under Khomeini. The revolutionary zeal that once burned for democracy was soon smothered under the oppressive weight of theocratic rule.  

We haven’t even got to Mao’s young acolytes.

Thus, we must question the facile equation of youth with infallible political instincts. The historical record suggests a more nuanced reality: student activism, while often a harbinger of change, has often been a crucible for extremism and authoritarianism. The current vogue for political correctness and woke politics, with its quick dismissal of dissenting voices and complex historical contexts, might well be leading us down a similarly perilous path.

The sharp edge of irony here is that those who most vocally champion the causes of today, branding themselves as progressive vanguards, may be unwittingly paving the way for the very outcomes they claim to oppose. As always, history is not merely a backdrop but a mirror, reflecting not just what we were, but what we might yet become.