postmodernism

On fighting back against postmodernism and “social justice warriors”

Assalaamu 'Alaikum In the west now, postmodernist indoctrination is present not only in universities, but more alarmingly in the public school systems (kindergarten to grade 12). It seems as though their curriculums are meant to breed future sjws and postmodernists. I was curious about your thoughts on this matter and what precautions you'd take for your young children (or would-be young children). How can parents go about preventing that cancer from sprouting in them?

Alaikumassalam wa rahmatullah,

I used to worry about the postmodernist type of thinking (which teaches that there is no objective truth) spreading and corrupting everything. I have spent many years thinking about this problem and have read many books by writers who have tried to fight against it (especially the British philosopher Roger Scruton). My conclusion is that it is not actually a threat to faithful Muslims. The Quran can in fact be thought of as an anti-postmodern manifesto: God exists and one of His names is Truth. There is an objective truth “out there” that we can seek. This is like a wrench thrown into the postmodern machine that breaks it apart, because the whole basis of the postmodern worldview is that there is no objective truth “out there”. According to them we are all worthless bags of matter in a meaningless universe, and power is all that we seek in life. We are supposedly in desperate need of postmodernists to point these things out to us to “enlighten” us out of our ignorance; the supposed ignorance of believing in objective truth, in considering our fellow humans intrinsically worthy, of having an attitude of love and sympathy toward people rather than seeing them as machines controlled by selfish genes and having an all-dominating obsession for subjugating others.

A pious Muslim who believes in the Quran and has appreciated its beauty and has been uplifted by its morality could never bow down to postmodernism, because everything they call for always comes down to: disbelieve in God.

It is true that there are some Muslims who have to some degree adopted postmodern ways of thinking. The most unabashed postmodernists who call themselves Muslim are invariably extremely secular. There are also some faithful Muslim intellectuals who adopt some of the beneficial teachings of postmodernism (such as being extremely aware of systematic biases) without adopting its dystopian worldview. As long as they continue believing in the Quran and taking their inspiration from it, they will never adopt the really insane things inside postmodernism.

So my advice for countering postmodernism is simply for Muslims to be good Muslims who take their inspiration from the Quran. Most Muslim children will grow up believing in God and His Prophet and that in itself will easily counterbalance whatever indoctrination the schools will try on them. The exception will be Muslim children who are never taught Islam’s basics and grow up to be irreligious and secular, such people will have no defenses against such indoctrination. But the fault here is not with the indoctrination itself, but with the fact that children’s parents and relatives failed to pass on Islam to them.

Marxism, postmodernism and these various other isms that have come about in the past 200 years are nothing, in my view, but man-made mimicries of religions. Like religion, they claim to possess central truths unknown to others. They have their own messiahs and cults of personality. There is Marx and his disciples. Within Marxism questioning Marx is heresy and can result in the severest attacks by other Marxists. Within postmodernism the same dynamics are at work. A person either submits to the ideology and in this way is accepted into the cult, or they show too much skepticism and is in this way thrown out of the cult (their works and opinions end up being completely ignored by those inside the cult).

Regarding those people known as social justice warriors, from what I have seen they are following an incoherent mixture of the Marxist-postmodernist worldview that is promoted by radical leftist university professors in the United States. I believe that being a pious Muslim is all that is needed to prevent a person from adopting such a worldview. Some of those people known as social justice warriors, in the name of social justice and defending the rights of the poor and the oppressed, often dehumanize large groups of humans that they dislike. It is extremely easy for a pious Muslim to notice this contradiction, and once they do so, they will have no inclination to be associated with these people. The Marxist element inside the social justice movement teaches that we should have a murderous hatred for the “enemy” that supposedly gets in the way of progress. Islam teaches us to treat people fairly and according to universal standards of truth and justice, meaning that that Marxist hatred for large groups of humanity is quite foreign to Islam and does not fit in with it. Marxism teaches us to dehumanize a certain section of humanity (the “capitalists”, the middle class or bourgeoisie, white people, men). Islam teaches us to have open hearts and to respect the sanctity of human life. There is a fundamental conflict between the two worldviews: Marxism (and Wahhabism, by the way) tells me to dehumanize people except those defined as good by the ideology, Islam tells me to never dehumanize anyone, and to, like Prophet Ibrāhīm/Abraham, defend even the worst supposed sinners, have sympathy for them and protect them from harm.

Since social justice warriors are concerned with the rights and interests of Muslims as part of their ideology, some Muslims (especially “secular” ones who have never read the Quran in their lives) will likely be attracted to them. But these are going to be a minority. The moderate majority of Muslims are going to want to have nothing to do with them the same way that the majority of Muslims have never been attracted to the Marxist (or Wahhabi) worldview.

A postmodern critique of postmodernism

The postmodern mode of critique is to try to “read between the lines” to discover what structure of power the text is supporting. A person who reads the Bible and sees in it support for a patriarchal society might actually be “reading patriarchy into the Bible” rather than “reading patriarchy out of the Bible”. Humans are often hopeless bags of prejudice who cannot touch a thing without distorting it. Postmodern critique aims to be a perspective on the world that sees what is really going on without it being part of the world itself.

In colloquial terms, postmodernists always ask “Where is the money?” when they read a text. Who are you supporting and empowering by thinking the thoughts you think and writing the things you write?

But this perspective can be turned on postmodernism itself. What structures of power are you supporting by deconstructing texts? There are tens of thousands of individuals whose careers, salaries and social positions are largely derived from marching through culture and parroting “Where is the money?” at every juncture. This itself is a structure of power; it is a new structure of power that is fed by seeking to undo other structures of power.

The postmodern critique of the world can only be taken seriously as long as we imagine it to be a disembodied perspective on the world, observing the world while being somehow detached from it. But this is nonsense. The postmodern worldview, based on asking “Where is the money?”, is merely a new structure of power that empowers some people at the expense of others. The only person who can truly perform a postmodern critique as postmodernists think it should be done is God, someone who can look at the world while detached from it. Postmodernists, being part of the world, are merely biased and prejudiced humans (as they claim everyone is) who merely repeat the rather banal question “Where is the money?” while deriving power from it.

Postmodernists are no different from another ideological group that asks “What structures of color does this text support?” in their critique of texts. Since there is no objective truth, since every perspective is subjective, the truths arrived at by this stupid question are just as valuable (or worthless) as the truths arrived at by postmodernists. If we posit a world ruled by color as its most important variable (as postmodernists posit power to be) (meaning that when humans reach certain conclusions about a text, it is merely due to their liking for certain color schemes as opposed to others, rather than because there is anything objective in the text), then we have every right to critique everything based on this variable and to go on to derive nice salaries from parroting the question “Where is the color scheme?”

I expect someone has made a similar critique decades ago.

Decolonization

The critique can be extended to the theory of decolonization, the postmodern idea that Western efforts to understand non-Western cultures and traditions are inherently flawed due to Western bias. There is a need for decolonization, for taking the narrative back from the colonizing Westerners. The problem is: based on what foundation do you decolonize? Decolonization theory is a Western invention created by a group of intellectuals who feed upon the structure power upheld by these postmodern theories. Their pretense that they are unbiased observers who are helped the rest of the world open its eyes to Western colonialism is just that, a pretense. They are merely a new breed of colonizers who have invented a new structure of power that allies them with non-Westerners, helped the postmodern power structure continue its process of weakening other power structures.

But to what end? If there is no objective truth then why should I let some rich and privileged academic tell me how to open my eyes? The rational assumption toward these people should be that they are cultural subversives who are merely attacking the present culture in their efforts to establish a new culture that gives them more power.

As someone who studies Islam, I am well aware of the many biases present within Western discourses about Islam. But rather than turning this into some Illuminati nonsense about how there is a Marxian “false consciousness” that we all live in, upheld and maintained by people whose power and prestige is coveted by postmodernist cultural subversives, I see the bias as a logical byproduct of human existence. Muslim discourses about the West are every bit as ignorant and biased as Western discourses about Muslims. There is not one big bad guy who also happens to be a white Christian man who is holding the ropes (postmodernists want you to think that, since such a man has been the object of the envy and hatred of Western cultural subversives since at least Marx’s time).

We are all bad guys in our desire to portray people dislike as worse than they really are and in our desire to portray people we like as better than they really are.

But the biggest bad guys are the ones who pretend that only they are outside human nature, only they are the ones who are aware of bias and try to escape it, only they have the best interests of the colonized in mind, and that all those opposed to them are evil. This pretense of angelic goodwill toward the oppressed enables them to create a new power structure that attacks every other power structure but that is itself immune from attack, because it pretends not to be a power structure.

Taking it to its conclusion

Taken to its logical conclusion, postmodernism nullifies itself. You cannot decolonize unless you have some standard to measure yourself by, but by definition you are a hopeless bag of prejudice, so every decolonizing effort is itself in support of some power structure. Unless you can prove that you are a disembodied intellect with zero desire and bias, every deconstruction and decolonizing effort you engage in is by definition an exertion of power; it is merely one power structure’s demand for power from other power structures.

Jordan Peterson causes a tripling of interest in The Gulag Archipelago

It has been just a little over a year that Jordan Peterson gained fame from his opposition to a Canadian compelled-speech law (Bill C-16). One of the topics he keeps coming back to is the evil done in the Soviet Union (to the chagrin of so many neo-Marxist leftists), and he often recommends that people read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s The Gulag Archipelago. Google Trends shows that just as Peterson’s fame took off in November 2016, interest in The Gulag Archipelago increased by a factor of around 3.5 and has remained high since.

And in case you thought this may be accidental, Google Trends suggests “Jordan Peterson” as one of the related topics and queries for The Gulag Archipelago, which shows that there is a high correlation between searches for The Gulag Archipelago and searches for Peterson: