Shane Miller at The American Conservative wrote a helpful review of Douglas Murray’s The Madness of Crowds. Miller draws both from Murray’s book and Scottish journalist Charles McKay’s similarly titled essay as he reflects upon the abrasiveness of modern Western discourse — from the tribalism that has embroiled our politics to the hostility that mars our culture. Miller writes:
The most plausible diagnosis for this cultural decay is that it’s a consequence of the loss of grand narratives and meaning that were once provided by the West’s religious and intellectual heritage. Murray also describes the astonishing appeal of these ideologies as a post-recession phenomenon, with the impact of the 2008 economic downturn having left young people feeling precarious and looking for ways to make sense of it all. As a result, politics isn’t a necessary nuisance; it’s the source of one’s purpose and meaning in life.
As politics became more and more an end unto itself — coincident with the collapse of organized religion — factional identity movements like women’s liberation, prefix-studies, and gender theory became functionally and ontologically religious. They developed unfalsifiable statements of faith — “a man can become a woman just by saying so” — as well as their own liturgies, heresies, and purity rituals. It has all of religion’s rules and mores with none of the grace and reconciliation.
Naturally, making one’s identity and politics inextricable leads one to approach every question as if one’s entire existence is at stake. This subjects people to an ideological litmus test, as their sexual orientation, gender, and race take on political obligations. As a result, it is common these days to see excommunications of conservative gays and blacks…[Christian forgiveness has] been replaced by total retribution, which manifests in shaming others into oblivion for some moral crime they unknowingly committed.
As the West struggles to communicate amidst a minefield of identitarian “trip-wires,” Murray’s book is a helpful guide; Miller’s review is clarifying.