If you spend enough time following the alternative right, you’ll quickly discover that the term “egalitarianism” is a dirty word. A certain level of hostility towards egalitarianism is understandable. After all, since egalitarianism mandates that all people are inherently equal and dignified, then surely it bears responsibility for such toxic trends as multiculturalism, feminism, and political correctness.
However, as a defender of Western culture and identity, I recognize that egalitarianism is a vital component of our heritage and would caution others against throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Egalitarianism wasn’t magically concocted during the 60s and then imposed upon an unwilling population. Egalitarianism has long been a part of our identity, and the movement towards liberty set the stage long ago for many of the pathologies we currently bemoan. Let’s take a look at a few:
1. Anti-intellectualism. As noted American historian Richard Hofstadter noted in his 1963 classic Anti-intellectualism in American Life, anti-intellectualism was an undesired side effect of otherwise noble and egalitarian aims. Due to the rights granted to the common man by democracy, the notion that the everyday man’s common sense was just as valuable, if not more so, than the opinion of an educated elite, was highly prevalent. Likewise, the various religious revivals and street evangelism during the early 18th century preached the doctrine that all souls were equal before God, and that one only needed faith, passion, and the feeling of the spirit to connect with God. They had no need for educated clergymen to explain the bible to them. As we can see, American culture has historically harbored a deep skepticism towards elites, placing tremendous stock in the worth of the common man and his daily life experiences. This inevitably translated into a distrust of intellect.
2. Child Worship. Child worship has been bemoaned and ridiculed by many, from the late George Carlin to those on the right. While many like to blame the Baby Boomers for their soft and fruity parenting, the product of the self-esteem movement starting in the 70s, even I cannot blame the boomers for this one. Such a reverence for children can be traced all the way back to Rousseau. Since Rousseau believed in the inherent nobility of man, then children who were not yet corrupted by the chains of society became objects of veneration. David Gress, author of From Plato to Nato, even went so far as to call Rousseau “the father of modern child-centered pedagogy and psychology.” Nor was this sentiment confined to Rousseau. Richard Hofstadter likewise noted that travelers to the U.S. as early as the 19th century noted the parental indulgence of children.
3. The Insane Equity Focus of Educational Policy Makers. Building on the idea of child worship, regular readers might recall Dota’s article where he mentioned the UCLA professor who had the audacity to correct the grammar of his more “diverse” students. If one were to judge American education based on what they read from the right, they could be forgiven for thinking that there once existed a golden age in education. Teachers commanded more respect and authority, parents would cooperate with teachers when admonishing their kids for poor behavior, and the bright kids were not dragged down on behalf of mediocre students. However, as Richard Hofstadter has documented, American educational policy going back to the early 20th century has always embraced a very egalitarian, anti-authoritarian, child-centered focus. The top students were expected to undergo much of the same curriculum as the poor and incompetent students for the sake of promoting equality. Idealistic, egalitarian educational minds such as John Dewey were not creations of the 1960s. Those know their American history shouldn’t be entirely surprised when schools such as Berkeley High School propose shutting down science labs just to make sure that white kids don’t perform better than poor black and brown kids.
To clarify, I am not justifying various toxic trends such as anti-intellectualism, child worship, or the dumbing down of education for the sake of equity. Rather, the point I am trying to make is that egalitarianism has long been a part of our history, and is in fact one of the defining features of the West. Sure, a few misguided loons such as Rousseau and his descendants have hijacked classic Western liberties to promote radical and subversive agendas. Sure, elements of the radical left used the Enlightenment to attack Western heritage, and in the process piss on all elements of Western history that were not related to the progressive agenda. However, for every Rousseau and Voltaire, there was a Montesquieu, a Tocqueville, and a Hume. The latter recognized that the Enlightenment and creation of the New West, far from being a sudden leap forward, was the culmination of numerous developments in the Old West. Liberty resulted from the old Western synthesis of Greek ideas, Christianity, the Roman order, and Germanic freedom.
Do you really want to discard that rich history and synthesis just to spite some leftist fruitcakes who have abused and corrupted old notions of liberty? Don’t let wimpy whites and cultural commies tempt you into throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Just be sure to have an understanding of what a sane, rational egalitarianism looks like.
Richard Hofstadter, Anti-intellectualism in American Life. New York: Knopf, 1963
David Gress, From Plato to Nato: The Idea of the West and its Opponents. New York: The Free Press, 1998