The Activist Never Sleeps

In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling on gay rights in the workplace, Andrew Sullivan asked what sounded like a reasonable question -- when can proponents of a cause claim victory? This, of course, is a rhetorical question, as Sullivan himself later admits. The answer is “never,” and it is as applicable to our current turmoil as to the Court decision. Victory means the game is over. That is not how activism works. Activism is an industry whose only goal is self-perpetuation. Activism provides livelihoods, social, and political power, and a sense of relevance. The refusal to take ‘yes’ for an answer means debates continue long past their expiration dates:  

  • When young, professional women are lamenting the lack of financially suitable men, the original feminists have won.
  • When environmentalists continue playing the same movie, no one believes the ending will be different this time. 
  • When the new battleground for civil rights is ice cream, it may be time to lay down arms. 

Like any industry, activism has a marketing wing to manufacture demand for outrage when none exists organically. Sometimes, it’s through a deep dive into someone’s past with the information presented as if it occurred this morning. And other times, it is by attacking a one-time ally who dares to challenge some aspect of the dogma. Either way, the offender is publicly browbeaten, perhaps fired from his/her job, and activists proclaim how “we’re not there yet.” You’ll hear no mention of where “there” is or how it can be reached because it is a rhetorical unicorn. Even reasonable questions are treated as hostile acts. Heresy must be silenced.

It’s been more than 50 years since Elvis sang “In the Ghetto,” the haunting melody of a child born to a single mother in Chicago who had too many mouths to feed as it was. The boy took a wrong path and never reached manhood, cut down by violence. The song even posed a challenge:  does society ignore the making of an angry young man or does it reach out to help him? Fifty years later, the song is practically a cliché and not for lack of preventive effort. Or effort that gives the appearance of prevention. Like the war on poverty does.

Since the mid 1960s, the rate of Americans considered poor has consistently hovered between 11 and 14% despite more than $20-trillion dollars spent on a sprawling poverty-industrial complex of roughly 100 programs at the federal level alone. One hundred programs. Which work? Which don’t? Which duplicate others? No one knows. No one wants to know. Closer scrutiny might reveal malicious truths. Ineffective programs would be culled, effective programs would mean fewer people in need and this, in turn, would necessarily mean fewer bureaucrats, clerks, and administrators.

It is a perverse and structural disincentive for a staff whose livelihoods depend on perpetuating poverty, not reducing it. The issue is compounded by punishing recipients who get pay raises, work more hours, or find better jobs with an immediate loss of benefits. If a person can have X standard of living by working hard or reach X standard of living by not working hard, which is the more likely outcome? Self-sufficiency has been made self-defeating. A simple suggestion is to subject benefits to a time limit, say one calendar year. A recipient who improves his/her life in that time continues to receive benefits, and this serves as a running start to self-reliance and a potential hedge against backsliding into dependence. But this requires treating reduced dependency as the goal.

The industry also a recruiting arm that you're bankrolling. In a time when the U.S. spends more on education than most of the developed world but gets less in return, the classroom is going to become even more woke than it already is. More time in which Johnny will not learn to read. Then again, if Johnny could read, he might also think. He might question. He might notice that to grow up in the U.S. is to live in an environment where the bottom rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are largely taken for granted. The average American, certainly the average child, has no concept of the grinding poverty experienced in parts of the world where meeting basic physiological needs can be a challenge; nor is there an understanding of what genuine oppression looks like.

The never-ending propaganda campaign serves to cultivate the next generation of activists. Youth brigades are hardly a new approach and there is no example of where they have ended well. The Nazis may be the most famous example, but the same story unfolded in Mao’s China, during the Cambodian killing fields, and today with radical Islam. This may sound like hyperbole, but that’s what people said a couple of years ago when some wondered how long before attacks on Confederate statues moved on to memorials of former presidents. It seems no potential consequence is out of bounds any more, no bit of supposing is too far-fetched, but that’s what happens when activism is not moored to any limiting principles. 

It’s hard to imagine how raising children in such a mindset is healthy, but anyone wondering sees children as people, not cogs to be manipulated in service to the activist machine. We have reached the point of having the luxury of debating first-world problems. Unfortunately, we do not have the self-awareness to realize it. Actions always have consequences, but when the consequences are foreseeable, that is not an accident. It has been more than a decade since we were told of a coming fundamental transformation. Perhaps it is time to take the people who say such things at their word.

In the wake of last week’s Supreme Court ruling on gay rights in the workplace, Andrew Sullivan asked what sounded like a reasonable question -- when can proponents of a cause claim victory? This, of course, is a rhetorical question, as Sullivan himself later admits. The answer is “never,” and it is as applicable to our current turmoil as to the Court decision. Victory means the game is over. That is not how activism works. Activism is an industry whose only goal is self-perpetuation. Activism provides livelihoods, social, and political power, and a sense of relevance. The refusal to take ‘yes’ for an answer means debates continue long past their expiration dates:  

  • When young, professional women are lamenting the lack of financially suitable men, the original feminists have won.
  • When environmentalists continue playing the same movie, no one believes the ending will be different this time. 
  • When the new battleground for civil rights is ice cream, it may be time to lay down arms. 

Like any industry, activism has a marketing wing to manufacture demand for outrage when none exists organically. Sometimes, it’s through a deep dive into someone’s past with the information presented as if it occurred this morning. And other times, it is by attacking a one-time ally who dares to challenge some aspect of the dogma. Either way, the offender is publicly browbeaten, perhaps fired from his/her job, and activists proclaim how “we’re not there yet.” You’ll hear no mention of where “there” is or how it can be reached because it is a rhetorical unicorn. Even reasonable questions are treated as hostile acts. Heresy must be silenced.

It’s been more than 50 years since Elvis sang “In the Ghetto,” the haunting melody of a child born to a single mother in Chicago who had too many mouths to feed as it was. The boy took a wrong path and never reached manhood, cut down by violence. The song even posed a challenge:  does society ignore the making of an angry young man or does it reach out to help him? Fifty years later, the song is practically a cliché and not for lack of preventive effort. Or effort that gives the appearance of prevention. Like the war on poverty does.

Since the mid 1960s, the rate of Americans considered poor has consistently hovered between 11 and 14% despite more than $20-trillion dollars spent on a sprawling poverty-industrial complex of roughly 100 programs at the federal level alone. One hundred programs. Which work? Which don’t? Which duplicate others? No one knows. No one wants to know. Closer scrutiny might reveal malicious truths. Ineffective programs would be culled, effective programs would mean fewer people in need and this, in turn, would necessarily mean fewer bureaucrats, clerks, and administrators.

It is a perverse and structural disincentive for a staff whose livelihoods depend on perpetuating poverty, not reducing it. The issue is compounded by punishing recipients who get pay raises, work more hours, or find better jobs with an immediate loss of benefits. If a person can have X standard of living by working hard or reach X standard of living by not working hard, which is the more likely outcome? Self-sufficiency has been made self-defeating. A simple suggestion is to subject benefits to a time limit, say one calendar year. A recipient who improves his/her life in that time continues to receive benefits, and this serves as a running start to self-reliance and a potential hedge against backsliding into dependence. But this requires treating reduced dependency as the goal.

The industry also a recruiting arm that you're bankrolling. In a time when the U.S. spends more on education than most of the developed world but gets less in return, the classroom is going to become even more woke than it already is. More time in which Johnny will not learn to read. Then again, if Johnny could read, he might also think. He might question. He might notice that to grow up in the U.S. is to live in an environment where the bottom rungs on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs are largely taken for granted. The average American, certainly the average child, has no concept of the grinding poverty experienced in parts of the world where meeting basic physiological needs can be a challenge; nor is there an understanding of what genuine oppression looks like.

The never-ending propaganda campaign serves to cultivate the next generation of activists. Youth brigades are hardly a new approach and there is no example of where they have ended well. The Nazis may be the most famous example, but the same story unfolded in Mao’s China, during the Cambodian killing fields, and today with radical Islam. This may sound like hyperbole, but that’s what people said a couple of years ago when some wondered how long before attacks on Confederate statues moved on to memorials of former presidents. It seems no potential consequence is out of bounds any more, no bit of supposing is too far-fetched, but that’s what happens when activism is not moored to any limiting principles. 

It’s hard to imagine how raising children in such a mindset is healthy, but anyone wondering sees children as people, not cogs to be manipulated in service to the activist machine. We have reached the point of having the luxury of debating first-world problems. Unfortunately, we do not have the self-awareness to realize it. Actions always have consequences, but when the consequences are foreseeable, that is not an accident. It has been more than a decade since we were told of a coming fundamental transformation. Perhaps it is time to take the people who say such things at their word.