Our intellectual monoculture

Academics frequently get requests from students for assistance and advice regarding their research. Because I don’t adhere to the radical orthodoxy that dominates our universities I also get inquiries from students anxious to escape the intellectual constraints that it imposes on their work. They often express despair as they struggle to cope with this stultifying intellectual monoculture.

As is well known, the radical orthodoxy that reigns supreme in the UK, US, Canada, and Australia is composed of a slavish adherence to various forms of postmodernism, deconstructionism, discourse theory, feminism, queer theory, Foucaultianism, neo-Marxism, post-structuralism, radical environmentalism, anti-Americanism, and anti-Christianity.

In my own work I have come into conflict with academics who use this orthodoxy to perpetuate the view that the West is the principal force for evil in global politics, and that terrorism is a reasonable reaction by ‘oppressed’ peoples to the allegedly militaristic and ‘genocidal’ aggression of America, Israel, the UK, and Australia. A related and sinister development is the massive financial effort that is being made to ensure that only a sanitized version of Islam is taught in our universities and schools. Any critical analysis or even questioning of this is liable to attract accusations of ‘Islamophobia’ – a mythical condition that is being energetically promoted as a form of racism.

Also central to the radical orthodoxy is a neo-Rousseauian fixation on the moral purity of the ‘Noble Savage’, who is presented as the iconic antithesis of the alleged evils of contemporary Western society. Students at universities and schools are required to pay homage to this figure in various compulsory subjects that amount to state-imposed propaganda and leave students with a blighted, impoverished, and cynical view of history.

One of my interlocutors provided an illustration of the affects of this. He described how Asian students with whom he was doing a course naively accepted such misrepresentations as an accurate depiction of Australian history and culture, thus further entrenching the negative view of Australia held by many Asian people, including prominent politicians.

It is characteristic of the power of the intellectual monoculture that intellectuals and historians who are prepared to undertake the massive research necessary to reveal the vacuity of this ideological edifice struggle not only to find any form of academic support and guidance but also have to deal with concerted attempts at character assassination, censorship, harassment, and career termination.

Methodologically, this radical orthodoxy is characterized by social constructionism, according to which reality is ‘socially constructed’ through ‘discourse’; cultural relativism, according to which there is no reliable measure of truth and all values and attitudes are equally valuable (or valueless); and a pre-scientific worldview which rejects reason and views science as a mere ideology indistinguishable from magic.

Consequently, another student told me how an academic refused point-blank to concede that the law of gravity was anything other than a ‘social construction’ of Western society, with no more validity than the ‘knowledge systems’ that guided the paradisiacal societies in which it is insisted indigenous peoples once lived. I’ve had similar experiences, where I’ve had to listen to academics make such claims as if they were the most obvious facts in the world that only a racist would question.  

Tragically, students who are seeking to break out of this ideological straightjacket have very few options, especially if they want to pursue graduate studies in important areas of history, politics, cultural studies, sociology, anthropology, and terrorism studies. The chances that they will be able to find supportive thesis supervisors and objective examiners are not high, while other students who are happy to toe the ideological party line are more likely to progress unhindered, receiving the scholarships, grants, and teaching appointments that serve as the foundation of an academic career – thus reproducing this corrupted system into the next generation.

Moreover, it seems unlikely that any remedy for the problems faced by such courageous students and other dissenting intellectuals will appear soon, especially as the recent Senate Inquiry into academic freedom was hijacked by the new Rudd administration and produced a pathetic and groveling majority report that concluded absurdly that there are no problems in Australia’s universities.

This of course throws a greater burden of responsibility on journals such as Quadrant and certain think tanks, while web sites like Quadrant Online promise to open up the power of the internet and may complement grass-roots efforts to establish networks that can sustain dissenting intellectual activity.

Ultimately, this radical orthodoxy has to be overthrown: Intellectually, it is obsolete and decadent; Culturally, it is suffocating and brutally seeks to suppress dissent; Socially, it is intrinsically antagonistic to the values of Australian society; Politically, it promotes far-left political ideologies and undermines Australia’s liberal democracy; Psychologically, it generates a high level of cynicism amongst students, who are sick of the ubiquitous role it plays throughout their education; Economically, it is a waste of the massive financial resources invested in the universities, the human resources committed to its perpetuation, and the time of the hundreds of thousands of students whose trust it betrays and whose education it impoverishes.

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