Reading and Thinking

How to Argue Against Identity Politics Without Turning Into a Reactionary


Yascha Mounk, “How to Argue Against Identity Politics Without Turning Into a Reactionary” New York Times, September 22, 2023 ( 3:00 p.m. ET).

New York Times note: Mr. Mounk is the author of the forthcoming book “The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time,” from which this essay is adapted.

Yascha Mounk provides a calm and fair analysis of the dilemmas faced by liberals or progressives who are deeply uncomfortable with the current vogue of identity politics in academia, non- profits, and icreasingly in corporate America.

Eschewing the term “woke”, he refers to this phenomena as “the identity synthesis”, and suggests ways concerned liberals and progressive can engage in discussion of these troubling issues
without being apologetic or falling into the trap of joining extremist right-wing critics of what they call “woke” culture.

This article and his forthcoming book should facilitate honest discussions on issues related to “the identity synthesis”. His approach represents a far more promising avenue than doe that consists in demonizing and ridiculing those who hold opposing views.

The publication of Mounk’s forthcoming book, The Identity Trap: A Story of Ideas and Power in Our Time, is certainly an event to look forward to.

The Spirit of Voltaire

Reading and Thinking

Antiracism: A thoughtful take on contemporary attitudes toward “structural racism” and ‘colorblind” personal relations


Tyler Austin Harper, “The Problem With ‘Centering Blackness’ in Everyday Conversations; On good and bad color-blindness,” The Atlantic, August 14, 2023 (7:00 am).

Harper, a black academic, offers his reflections on “race-centering” in contemporary personal interactions between blacks and whites in America, and argues in favor of continuing an earlier “colorblind” approach in interpersonal relations.

The article is thoughtful, and thought-provoking. It is worth reading in its entirety.

The Spirit of Voltaire

Reading and Thinking

Hope for local newspapers: Nonprofit Buys 22 newspapers in Maine


Katie Robertson. “Nonprofit Buys 22 Newspapers in Maine; The National Trust for Local News will take over five of the six daily papers in the state and 17 weeklies.,” New York Times, July 11, 2023.

There is hope that independent local newspapers may be saved from the predations of vilture capitalism, with local control being maintained.

Academic freedom Freedom of Speech Reading and Thinking wokery

The passionate intolerance of youth: “The Second Coming” (1919)–“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”


Janet Daly,”Adults have ceded absolute power to the faux-righteous, doctrinaire young: Grown-ups have given up across British life, allowing an ideological younger generation to call all the shots,” The Telegraph, July 8, 2023 (1:00 pm);

I first noticed something was wrong decades ago, when I observed a mother in a grocery store asking her six-year-old daughter what they should buy.

Then parents bought into the idea that their kids knew more about computers than they did, and started asking their children how to do things with computers and on the Internet. They did’t take the time to master these skills themselves, at least at first. against

Somewhere in there the phenomenon of helicopter parenting took hold, along with a mindset that chikdren had to be protected every conceivable danger, including certain things such as pornography or politically-incorrect thoughts.

It’s not clear how it happened, but gradually parents seem to have accepted the idea that parenting does not require teaching children values or disciplining them to uphold certain standards of behavior.

Whatever the causes, and we have merely alluded to some of the more obvious ones, we have arrived at the situation described by Janet Daly in her opinion column in The Telegraph today.

We are in deep trouble.

Young people today are concerned about controlling hurtful speech or ideas with which they disagree, while our civilization faces a frontal challenge from Russia through its continuing aggression against Ukraine and the barbarism of its soldiers.

Ask a young person what they think of tge war in Ukraine, and you’re likely to draw a blank.

William Butler Yeats 1865-1939) described a similar phenomenon in the “The Second Coming”, as follows:

The Second Coming (1919)p

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

The Spirit of Voltaire

Freedom of Speech Reading and Thinking


1) Celia Walden, “Gen Z want anyone over 30 to be a walking apology for the past; According to sensitive readers, Virginia Woolf is guilty both of having lived in the past and of recording it as she experienced it,” The Telegraph, July 3, 2023 (7:00 pm);

2) “Generation Z”, Wikipedia

3) “Millenials” (generation Y), Wikipedia;

Those who are unwilling to defend a culture, or a civilization, may see it crumble.

The latest assault on culture and civilization includes the censorship of words or thoughts that might cause discomfort to the reader or listener.

George Orwell foresaw much un his 1948 novel, Nineteen-eighty-four. But he dis not anticipate that WRONGTHINK and RIGHTTHINK could be imposed not by the totalitarian state itself, but rather by the population itself.

Celia Walden’s article in The Telegrapgh illustrates the ridiculous lengths to which this phenomena has gone.

My only quarrel with Walden is her use of the now fashionable “GEN x” moniker, her referring to “Gen Z” as those born in 1997 and later.

The whole idea of labeling generations is ludicrous. It is utterly unscientific, but a useful tool for writers too lazy to think and actually describe differences between different age cohorts.

Let’s review some of tge current “GEN x” usages.

Reading and Thinking Social media

Jonathan Heidt, citing evidence, urges smart ohones be banned from schools


1) Hugh Hewitt, “Why we should ban smartphones in schools,” Washington Post, June 9, 2023 (6:00 am EDT);

2) Jonathan Haidt, “Get Phones Out of Schools Now; They impede learning, stunt relationships, and lessen belonging. They should be banned,” The Atlantic, June 6, 2023;

Reading and Thinking

Maureen Dowd: “It is not only the humanities that are passé. It’s humanity itself.”

1) Maureen Dowd, “Don’t Kill ‘Frankenstein’ With Real Frankensteins at Large,” New York Times, May 27, 2023;


Trustees at Marymount University in Virginia voted unanimously in February to phase out majors such as English, history, art, philosophy and sociology.

Political eloquence is scarce. Newt Gingrich told Laura Ingraham that the secret to Donald Trump’s success is that “he talks at a level where third-, fourth- and fifth-grade educations can say, ‘Oh yeah, I get that.’”

It is not only the humanities that are passé. It’s humanity itself.

Republicans have consecrated themselves to a war against qualities once cherished by many Americans. Higher principles — dignity, civility, patience, respect, tolerance, goodness, sympathy and empathy — are eclipsed.

Food for thought.

The Spirit of Voltaire

Reading and Thinking

U.S.: Eigth-grade history and civics scores drop

1) Donna St. George, “Students’ understanding of history and civics is worsening,” Washington Post, May 3, 2023 (12:00 a.m. EDT);

2) Danielle Allen, “We hit rock bottom on civics education. Can we turn it around?” Washington Post, May 23, 2023 (6:15 a.m. EDT);

Academic freedom Freedom of Speech Identity Politics Race racial equality of opportunity racial equity of results

Beyond race: “Reflections of an affirmative action baby”

See, Pamela Paul, “This 1991 Book Was Stunningly Prescient About Affirmative Action, New York Times, May 25, 2023

Reading and Thinking

Solvang: Cultural battles in California’s Little Denmark

1) Philipp Wittrock, “Etwas ist faul im kalifornischen Klein-Dänemark; Das Städtchen Solvang in Kalifornien wirkt idyllisch, doch zuletzt gab es Drohungen, Schimpftiraden, eine Regenbogenfahne brannte. Hier tobt der große amerikanische Kulturkampf. Sogar Kopenhagens Bürgermeisterin mischt sich ein, Der Spiegel, den 8. Mai 2023 (15.33 Uhr);

2) Philipp Wittrock, “Something is rotten in California’s Lesser-Denmark; The town of Solvang in California looks idyllic, but recently there were threats, insults, a rainbow flag burned. The great American cultural struggle is raging here. Even Copenhagen’s mayor interferes, Der Spiegel, May 8, 2023 (3:35 pm);