"In a free society, the public good depends on private character," GW is telling the Class of 2005 at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, MI, citing Tocqueville's notion that "The secret to America's success was our talent for bringing people together for the common good. Tyrants maintain their power by isolating their citizens. America offered the world, he said, something it had never seen before. When you come together to serve a cause greater than yourself, you will help build a greater and more just America."
"Tocquevillians and Gramscians clash on almost everything that matters," wrote John Fonte in his 2000 Policy Review essay "Why There is a Culture War" [via The American Thinker], wherein he locates the origin of today's fashionable and pervasive political correctness in the thought of Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937), a Marxist intellectual and politician:
Gramsci describes his position as "absolute historicism," meaning that morals, values, truths, standards and human nature itself are products of different historical epochs. There are no absolute moral standards that are universally true for all human beings outside of a particular historical context; rather, morality is "socially constructed."
The relation of all these abstractions to the nuts and bolts of American politics is, as the record shows, surprisingly direct. All of Gramsci’s most innovative ideas -- for example, that dominant and subordinate groups based on race, ethnicity, and gender are engaged in struggles over power; that the "personal is political"; and that all knowledge and morality are social constructions -- are assumptions and presuppositions at the very center of today’s politics. So too is the very core of the Gramscian-Hegelian world view — group-based morality, or the idea that what is moral is what serves the interests of "oppressed" or "marginalized" ethnic, racial, and gender groups.
While America slept -- or rather, while it was going about its business -- Gramscian thinking, like sewage leaking out of a cracked drainpipe into the surrounding soil, has seeped into major sectors of our civil society -- the law, foundations, universities and corporations among others. Fonte provides horrifying examples of how "major American social policy has come to be based not on Judeo-Christian precepts nor on Kantian-Enlightenment ethics, but on Gramscian and Hegelian-Marxist concepts of group power." Here's one of our favorites:
Alan Kors, a history professor at the University of Pennsylvania, has described in detail how Ford and other foundation "diversity" grants are put to use. As he noted in "Thought Reform 101" in the March 2000 issue of Reason, "at almost all our campuses, some form of moral and political re-education has been built into freshmen orientation." A "central goal of these programs," Kors states, "is to uproot ‘internalized oppression,’ a crucial concept in the diversity education planning documents of most universities." The concept of "internalized oppression" is the same as the Hegelian-Marxist notion of "false consciousness," in which people in the subordinate groups "internalize" (and thus accept) the values and ways of thinking of their oppressors in the dominant groups.
The employees of America’s major corporations take many of the same sensitivity training programs as America’s college students, often from the same "diversity facilitators . . . " Whether these decisions favoring [group] rights were motivated by ideology, economic calculation, or an opportunistic attempt to appear "progressive," they typify American businesses’ response to the culture war.
It reminds us of the nation's major textbook companies' wimpy response to the squeakiest wheels -- extremists on both sides of the Gramscian/Toquevillian divide -- blogged here early and often. Go along to get along, and the result is textbooks filled with lies, half truths and groupist propaganda, devoid of any meaningful understanding of either human nature or the history of this "Shining City upon a Hill." Now, just in time, comes GW's Tocquevillian call for compassion and community service, "ideals that are not partisan," he is saying in his rousing Calvin College graduation speech this afternoon. Let's roll!