“There’s too much ‘presentism’ right now.”
Or so says Camille Paglia, the fearless academic whose views on biology and modern culture can be called anything but trendy.
Ignoring the realities of man and man’s history has been a feature in modern academia. A problem for students who are willing to engage in honest and open discussions about everything from sex to politics. But to young adults whose personal history of apathy can be traced back to their parents’ indifference to the wisdom of their elders, going off into the big, wild world for college means moving from mom and dad’s into auntie’s. In other words, college, or the world of academia, is but an extension of the bubble developed early and well-maintained through the years by parents.
It’s Not About Politics, It’s About Being Shielded from Outsiders
What struck me as unique in Paglia’s comments concerning the “presentism” in today’s academia is that it is undeniable.
Take the article “The Case for Safe Spaces” published on Dissent Magazine for instance, in which writer Anne-Laure White makes the case for safe spaces in college campuses. Mentioning an article on Atlantic entitled “The Coddling of the American Mind,” White dismisses the authors’ claims when it comes to the comparison between student activists of decades past, who “challenged the literary, philosophical, and historical canon, seeking to widen it by including more-diverse perspectives,” and modern activists, who often fight simply for “emotional well-being.”
To White, the distinction drawn by Atlantic‘s Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt is “a false distinction,” because “[t]here is an emotional toll to being written out of your own history, which was put to use by activists in their struggles to change the canon.” To tie her conclusion back to the Atlantic piece, White then adds: “All politics are about emotional well-being.”
Involuntarily, White exposes her movement’s premises while unintentionally endorsing her foe’s case.
Instead of refuting Haidt and Lukianoff, White simply confirms what the Atlantic writers concluded, stating that, to activists who share her ideas on the matter, politics is only valid when it gets personal. Furthermore, White evokes the 1960’s feminist movement, praising “consciousness-raising groups” of the day without ever mentioning Paglia or her criticism to the third-wave feminism. What is she afraid of? Diversity, perhaps.
Unlike White, Paglia often argues that modern feminists attack certain groups over their sexual preferences instead of elevating the debate. Due to this divisive approach, third-wavers often choose to fight for privileges. Ignoring history, biology, and human action, activists working to be shielded from outsiders are demanding to be given the privilege of staying forever young, forever vulnerable to offensive concepts and behavior. Instead of learning how to deal with them in the real world, becoming stronger and more capable as a functioning adult, these students become dependent on movement leaders, professors, and yes, their parents. Never learning when to let go of comfort in exchange for a chance to live freely.
When it comes to this age’s youth, “presentism” provides the answers to their every question while keeping more serious, hard-hitting challenges left unaddressed. Disdain for what came before these students, it seems, rules. And when you ignore the past, you’re bound to repeat it.