Chloe Westley is the Campaign Manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance.
Postmodern thought, which is infecting public discourse and is perhaps most prevalent within educational institutions, dictates that there are no individuals, only collective groups which we all belong to. Postmodern thinkers are obsessed with power, and with separating humans even from these groups into further sub-groups, and pitting those sub groups against each other – as the dominant and the submissive, the oppressor and the oppressed.
It’s this rejection of individual responsibility, and obsession with sub-group dominance hierarchies, which leads to the defence of Shamima Begum. There are those who say she cannot be held fully accountable because of the young age at which she joined ISIS, or plead mercy because she is pregnant. If she repented her actions, or displayed even the slightest hint of regret for her treachery, then perhaps I would have more sympathy for these arguments.
But what is really at the heart of her defence is a willingness to infer victimhood on any enemy of the West. If you listen closely to those on the far left, especially in academia, you will find a deep resentment of western societies, and a perverse forgiveness and understanding of her enemies.
The postmodern worldview holds that individuals are not responsible for their actions, but are either victims or villains based on their sub-group category. This world view positions Begum as a victim of evil western imperialism, since she was born into a particular group which has been oppressed, and cannot be held accountable for the decisions she has made. This line of thinking led Jean-François Lyotard, a postmodernist philosopher, to conclude that “Saddam Hussein (was) a product of Western departments of state and big companies”.
In order to understand how someone could draw such a ridiculous conclusion, we need to understand exactly how and why postmodern philosophy came about. During the latter half of the 20th century, it became strikingly obvious to the intellectual community that by any rational measure, communism had failed. Stephen Hicks hypothesises that left-wing academics had two choices: either to accept that communism had failed, or to construct a new way of measuring reality which would allow for communism to work. They chose the latter.
Communist apologists were presented with an overwhelming amount of evidence which rendered their political philosophy a crime against humanity. The collapse of the Soviet Union and revelations of the horrors of its death camps were enough to persuade many that communism had failed.
Left-wing academics had to give Marxism a makeover. Evidence and logic proved that socialist and communist societies have failed – but what if we simply reject logic and reason? Postmodern thinkers started to claim that everyone’s experience of the world is subjective, and that our knowledge is based on a group identity, which we cannot escape from. By rejecting reason, rejecting evidence, and dismissing the truth as subjective, postmodernist thinkers could dismiss the evidence against socialism and communism.
Furthermore, this commitment to collective group identities allowed for a new Marxist power struggle. They argue that some group identities are oppressed, and should rise up against their oppressors. Instead of the working class vs the bourgeois, postmodern thought pitches race against race, gender against gender, and so on.
Thousands of words could be written about how postmodernists have given communist ideas a makeover, and I’ll be discussing this in more detail at an event in London this evening. For the purpose of this article, it is enough to say that their worldview which is based on group identity allows them to blame everything – even joining a terrorist group like ISIS – on the West.
Postmodernists and the far left are united in their hatred of Western civilisation. During the 2017 election, Jeremy Corbyn blamed the terrorist attacks such as the Manchester bombing on British foreign policy. Andrew Murray, a friend of Len McCluskey’s and advisor to the Labour Party, blamed the formation of ISIS on Western imperialism. The far left side with Britain’s enemies because they view them as victims, not as individuals responsible for their own actions.
Last week’s reaction to the story about Begum was a perfect example of this philosophy in action. Begum, a young girl who joins a terrorist group which has burnt alive pilots, beheaded journalists and thrown gay people off buildings, is apparently a victim. However, if you’re a straight white male who has sent some questionable tweets a few years ago, you are the villain, and there can be no understanding or forgiveness.
I’m sickened by this postmodern morality, and so every person reading this article should be. This worldview doesn’t allow for the fair judgement of human beings, based on the content of their character. Rather, it forgives the wrongs of individuals belonging to ‘oppressed’ groups, and blames all the world problems on the ‘oppressors’, i.e. the West. There are those who criticise British and American foreign policy, and in many cases rightly so, but it is only the extreme left which go so far as to infer victimhood on our enemies.
Our modern society has been founded on enlightenment ideals: a respect for knowledge and science, and a respect for the individual. Societies that respect these rights of the individual to produce, and buy and sell what they choose, far outperform societies which do don’t. That is why so many who take up arms against the West are quite keen to return to Britain to enjoy far superior living standards.
So the next time you hear someone attack western societies as oppressive or responsible for all the evils in the world, understand that, for many, this is based on an intense resentment that the capitalist west disproved socialist and communist theory. Postmodern philosophy is an intellectually bankrupt attempt to re-write history and position the societies which promote individual freedom and democracy as the ‘bad guys’.