While modern society prides itself on being unbiased, it’s no exception to the rule that every age has its fashionable prejudices — and unfashionable people. Among the latter today are white men, and the closer they are to “dead white male” status, to use a favored leftist descriptive, the greater the disdain in which they’re held.
Thus do we see sneering at “old white men.” Earlier this year, Senator Harry Reid — one well acquainted through experience with old-white-male machinations — complained of “angry old white men” who bankroll conservative causes. More recently, the old-white-media paper the Guardian published a piece about America’s changing demographics titled, in part, “No country for angry old white men....” Ah, yes, it’s not just that they’re old, white, and men, that triad of turpitude. They’re “angry,” too. So just dismiss them out of hand, with their agenda born of blinding, irrational hatred. It’s another example of projection, from the group (leftists) that makes intellect-clouding emotionalism an art.
If we’re to define matters based on group identification, however — and the left makes clear we will — there is an irony here.
You could roughly say that old white men built the whole modern world.
You can precisely say this if you include in the category the budding old white men known as younger white men. Who were all the great inventors, innovators, and philosophers from ancient Greece and Rome up through medieval and modern Europe and the United States? Who forged the West? Who birthed democracy? Who improved upon it, giving us our Constitution and modern republican government? There is a reason why most of the busts and pictures of legendary figures portray old white men.
We might also note that while old white men probably weren’t the first to practice slavery, they were the first to eliminate it. The same can be said of human rights: old white men had lots of company trampling them. They were alone in crafting the modern conception of them.
And is America really advancing as old white men’s cultural and political weight wanes? During what group’s hegemony were our national finances, morality, culture, and economic growth healthiest? Is there a group with a better track record of running successful civilizations? As to this, if only old white men had voted during the last 50 years, we likely wouldn’t be facing the fiscal cliff that hangs over us like a sword of Damocles.
Of course, much demonization of old white men is mere artifice, an effort to sell an inferior product (liberalism) by discrediting its opposition. “Hey, why buy from these white-prune Willy Loman salesmen when you can patronize salespeople? We’re young, we’re hip, and quick with the lip!” Yet this appeal only works by playing on very real prejudices. Exposition of the anti-white variety has been done to death in the Reality Media. It was epitomized when Susan Sontag said, “The white race is the cancer of human history” and thus proved that some white people certainly are. But far more interesting and less discussed is the other bias relevant here: that against the aged.
For most of history, old was gold. There is the stereotype of the wise old man, and, historically, societies would be governed by “elders.” For example, ancient Sparta had a council of elders, and only men of at least 60 years of age qualified. And, of course, insisting that children respect their elders was once common.
This now has been turned on its head. One underappreciated reason why John McCain lost the 2008 election is that he appeared old — an old-looking candidate hasn’t won the presidency since the TV era’s advent — whereas Barack Obama seemed young and hip. And while fear that the person may die in office and our eye-candy culture certainly explain this in part, an increasingly significant factor is that many view seniors as they do our Constitution: old and yellowed and not relevant to our time. Just consider how the only consistent stereotype the hit show Seinfeld played upon was that of older people — and it was wholly unflattering. They were portrayed as doddering, out of touch, dishonest, egotistical, argumentative, and petty, too engrossed in trivial matters to ponder what’s truly important (such as, apparently, figuring out how to find someone more attractive to sleep with).
Of course, as George Soros, Warren Buffet, Noam Chomsky, and many others prove, “Wisdom doesn’t always come with age; sometimes age just shows up all by itself.” Yet even if the two are joined at the hip, it won’t matter among a people who devalue wisdom. Note that the definition of the word — until dictionary writers lost their wisdom — was “knowledge of what is true or good.” But there is no such thing in a relativistic universe, that realm with favored mantras such as “That’s your ‘truth’; someone else’s may be different” and “Don’t impose your values on me!” There can be no objective “good” if there is no God; nothing can be truly “true” if there is no Truth. And what is left when people no longer perceive Truth’s existence and thus cannot use it as a yardstick for behavior? There then is just taste, preference, and what do we call the moment’s consensus tastes?
And this is where the elderly cannot compete. People who believe in Truth understand it’s timeless; that those who have lived longer will generally have apprehended more of it; and that it doesn’t matter if older people aren’t “with the times,” only whether the times are with the Truth. But the young will always be more with the fashions. And owing to that dislocation from Truth, they will often embrace fashions even when they’re fallacies. They won’t know they’re fallacies, either, as moderns’ only perceived standard for judging such things is the fashions themselves. And they won’t care what elders have to say about tried and true “wisdom.” It would be much like telling them that they should dispense with pizza in favor of their grandparents’ 1940s biscuits and gravy. It’s all a matter of preference, so why should they subordinate their tastes to those of the past?
This gets at the insidiousness of modern liberalism. The French revolutionaries sought to erase the past by starting history anew with their revolution’s first year, 1789; the Khmer Rouge sought to do so with their “Year Zero.” But revolutionary change is too obvious; it doesn’t gently boil the frog as does modern liberalism’s evolutionary variety. Progressives don’t make any major pronouncements, dear citizen, about the first year of the rest of your life. They simply disconnect each generation from the last — from the past — with the message that, hey, ya’ gotta be with it, which means being nothing like grandpa. And the “it” is change, not tradition; current tastes, not Truth; fashions and not fact. Just convince the young to ignore the old or dead — especially if they’re white and male — the people who formulated Western civilization’s recipe, and that Occidental delicacy is history. Then you will have started history anew not with an iron fist, but sleight of hand that keeps the frog simmering soundly.
Roman philosopher and statesman Marcus Tullius Cicero once said, “To be ignorant of the past is to be forever a child. For what is the time of a man, except it be interwoven with that memory of ancient things of a superior age?” Demonizing white men old or dead keeps the young and alive disconnected from them and hence from the past. This gives us a civilization of children, just the kind of people a pied piper can lead.