Will France be the first major power, to defund and eradicate toxic post-colonialism and gender-studies from her universities? The question isn’t hypothetical anymore. As the New York Times reported, the French government is deliberating about legislating these disciplines out to promote national solidarity and eradicate toxic American influence, adding that “the French government announced this week that it would launch an investigation into academic research that it says feeds “Islamo-leftist’’ tendencies that “corrupt society,”… against “social science theories that it says threaten France.”
If France indeed turns out to be the first major power to take the fight back to what some have termed as divisive grievance studies, it might prove to be a model to emulate, blurring the distinction between the character of nation-states that opposed “wokery.”
The timing is interesting, as around the same time in the United States, the Joe Biden Administration is under pressure to appease to its base and study the prospect of a “Reparation bill”, a onetime massive proposed redistribution of wealth to the African-American community; just as a Chicago commission studies proposed to review statues of Lincoln, and a California school board renamed all schools including those named after Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, on grounds which are too ahistorical and moronic to mention here.
The reparation debate isn’t new, although it is baffling as to why current taxpayers would pay for reparation over a historic wrong, for which their ancestors might or might not be responsible directly, and which barely has any effect on current social failures, the causes of which might be multivariate. It is also downright illogical. Indians, for example, can historically demand reparation for all the Jizya taxes and massacres from Persians and Afghan rulers; or the Irish and Eastern Europeans can demand reparation for slavery from the Ottomans and North Africans, but of course, these will be laughed out by a civilized and sane audience no matter their contrarian merit. But reparation talk in the U.S. is a sacred cow.
That is not to say that redistribution isn’t already happening. Every single affirmative action is a redistributive act, whether one pays attention to it or not. When Asians are discriminated against at universities, in favor of someone less meritorious, that’s an act of redistribution of wealth—only this time, from the members of a successful and hardworking minority community. In Virginia, for example, there are talks to create “scholarships” funded by taxpayers, at public universities, for minorities, to “study” reparation and fund “scholarship exclusively for descendants of slaves.” If that is not economic redistribution, then the concept is meaningless. All those quotation marks are warranted because these are not academic endeavors, where the conclusion is unknown. Anyone can assume what the findings would suggest, and who would man these disciplines. Thomas Sowell or Bruce Gilley will not be a part of these projects, one can imagine.
But the key issue here is the divergence of the two strains within sacramental liberalism. Compare and contrast the recent other conservative governments, taking on woke racism and radicalism, from Poland planning to fine tech companies for censorship to Australia taking on Facebook and Google, to Britain planning fines on universities, as well as heritage and museums, for any left-wing deviance. With France turning against critical race theories, it appears that America in fact is at a disadvantage and stands isolated.
The reason is simple. American-style conservatism is impotent amidst a cultural revolution because it refuses to use the most ruthless power ever given to humans, government, and legislation. Ideas mean nothing if you don’t legislate and enforce and make non-compliance punishable. If Republicans (and sensible Democrats) cannot defend even Lincoln from being erased in city after city from a bunch of minority radicals, then they might as well give up politics.
It is no surprise that the rest of the world wants to avoid this fate. Which country in their right mind will allow their universities, city education boards, and other parts of bureaucracy to fester and rot the society from within? America will be balkanized on racial divisions, but the rest of the world will not follow that dangerous divisive nonsense. And this in turn perhaps will be eye-opening to the real bipartisan elite of the United States, as the existence of the republic and superpower status is questioned. The day Pentagon and State Department realize how much critical race theory, feminism, and post-colonialism have resulted in the erosion of soft power and influence across the globe, would be the day the real backlash starts against left-wing radicalism.
Sumantra Maitra is a doctoral researcher at the University of Nottingham.