by Dr. Denise R. Ames
The death of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer has sent shock waves throughout the United States, and even the world. My point in this blog is to reflect upon what I see as some of the topics or questions that are being ignored or not sufficiently addressed during this anxious time. Reflecting upon what the events mean to us as Americans, may help us to start the process of rebuilding something different. In a larger sense, the fate of our country depends on our responses.
The following series of blogs offer my 12 Reflections:
#2 Exhausted Liberalism is Under Attack
I have come to the conclusion that a new political/cultural faction has seized this moment to bring their cause into a larger arena: “the successor ideology.” I have explained this idea in my book Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews (but used different terms) and came across this term to describe an advancing ideology. Liberalism, our defining ideology for several centuries, is under attack. The liberal/democratic ideals that we are all familiar with include rational discourse, data-driven evidence, religious and press freedom, right to assembly and speech, and many others. Perplexing to me, some 20-somethings and others are working to undo our liberal foundation and are advancing their successor ideology that they intend to follow after the demise of liberalism.
The youth have the vitality and conviction that their ideas are “true,” while liberals lay shaken and exhausted in the corner. Many young people passionately want to oust liberalism for many reasons, chiefly because they believe it is an exploitative system of oppression defined by racism and capitalism. The platform of the successor ideology is rather vague and shifts according to events: rabid feminism, trans rights, anti-capitalism/pro-socialism, environmental catastrophe, and probably the most fervent of all is anti-racism.
Initiating a successor ideology is not necessarily a peaceful movement, as some of the protesters have hailed the violence perpetuated by looters and the antifa movement as virtuous. Leadership is rather fluid, with some elected progressive officials taking a leadership role only to be booed off stage by those advocating more radical measures. The mayor of Minneapolis, for example, walked off-stage to humiliating boos of the assembled protesters when he wouldn’t go along with their demands to defund the police.
The successor ideology has taken root on college campuses over the last several decades throughout the United States and in the media—as the New York Times recently experienced with its Tom Cotton editorial debacle. It is also playing out in city councils, who are backing measures to defund the police, or to shift responsibilities to community-based services and programs (as yet undefined). They are impulsively doing so without data-based studies or protypes to ensure success. Even corporate America, always wanting to connect with potential customers, is calling for more diversity training and examining their white privilege. All the while, channeling millions of dollars to Black Lives Matter and like-minded organizations, perhaps to assure that they are not targeted by the wrath of protestors.
Will the successor ideology be able to take hold in America? It has the most energy behind it at the moment, but movements to make rapid and deep cultural changes often fade away as the “silent majority” takes stock of the situation and responds to retain the status quo or initiate incremental change.
This is crucial time to stand up for our liberal (broad sense, classical) heritage. It is too easy to tear down what has taken centuries to build at great sacrifice. Rapid and forced change does not last, it only stokes resentment. Hopefully, our exhausted and liberal leaders (often elderly) can find their voice, among all the shouting and shaming, to proclaim that our real treasure is our democratic institutions that can be changed but not torn down.
About the Author: Dr. Denise R. Ames
Dr. Ames’ varied life experiences—scholarly research, teaching, reflections, and extensive travels—have contributed to her balanced and thoughtful perspectives. Earning a doctorate in world history education, she has taught secondary schools, universities, a community college, professional development trainings, and lifelong learners. In 2003, Dr. Ames founded the educational non-profit, Center for Global Awareness, developing globally-focused books and educational resources. She has written seven books, blogs, lesson plans, articles, newsletters, and teaching units for the non-profit and clients.
Divided: Five Colliding Worldviews and How to Navigate Them has just been released!
Divided addresses the question on the lips of every American: why can’t we get along? The cultural divide is threatening our democracy and destabilizing our country. Divided looks at the deep cultural divide through the lens of five colliding worldviews—indigenous, traditional, progressive, globalized, and transformative. This approach helps us make sense of our deep divisions and suggests ways of bridging them.
It is urgent that we understand and bridge the cultural divide. Bridging the divide is dependent upon first understanding it. Gaining an understanding of the five worldviews enhances our success of arriving at sensible solutions and increasing civil conversations. If not, rancor and intractability ensue.
Divided is one of nine books written by Dr. Ames and the Center for Global Awareness, check out their offerings! Global Awareness Books