Richmonder Doug Monroe is the founder of The Praxis Circle. an organization that explores philosophical and theological world views, primarily though not exclusively from conservative and Christian perspectives. Doug has interviewed dozens of literary and philosophical giants in the United States and United Kingdom and distilled key insights into short, digestible video clips. He also publishes a blog highlighting the work of his contributors. In his most recent post, Doug discusses the work of Mary Eberstadt, the Washington, D.C.-area author of “Primal Scream: How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics,” which could not be more timely. — JAB
by Doug Monroe
A few weeks ago Mary appeared on a British program, Triggernometry (see the YouTube clip above) to explain how her theory in Primal Screams helps explain the violence we saw last year in America and Europe. It’s a fascinating interview that clearly had the favor of her religiously agnostic, engaging, and off-beat British hosts, Konstin Kisin and Francis Foster. Mary summarized her argument in the introduction she gave to our Praxis Circle class linked here.
What we can say is that the events of last summer involving over 10,000 incidents of violence nationwide and over 500 incidents of serious damage or injury were unprecedented since the 1960’s, and that they made Mary look like a prophet with Primal Screams clearly on record in 2018.
Since last summer Mary has investigated many of 2020’s violent incidents and the people involved and found that the reasons for the violence were often not the repeatedly-claimed ones of racism, sexism, or poverty. To determine the true reasons, one must determine the intentions of actual people. (See this link – a PC video clip classic with Dr. Jim Hall, 3:12).
In fact, most Americans do not believe the claimed reasons because America is by far the wealthiest and among the most-free countries in the world, and in general, the average American person anywhere near Main Street today with a long memory simply does not see racism, sexism, and poverty anywhere comparable to the days during and prior to the 1960’s. While feelings are real, these are straw reasons. Canards, so to speak. Something else must be going on that is more fundamental and catastrophic than these weak “isms.”
What is Mary’s theory? As she states in her Introduction to Primal Screams, “My purpose is not to excoriate identity politics, as other writers, left and right, already have. It is rather to put forward a new theory of why so many people seem to have lost their very selves, with the result that Western polities and societies now resound with loss, fury, and rancor.”
Well, the years leading up to 2018, Primal Screams’ publishing date, hadn’t seen any sound and fury like we saw last year.
Mary calls her theory involving the loss of meaning in the lives of many Americans, particularly Millennials and Zoomers, The Great Scattering (TGS). TGS is the unprecedented familial dispersion and destruction that’s occurred in the West since the Sexual Revolution that blossomed in the 1960’s, in conjunction with the vast growth of the Welfare State, which has made it all possible. Indeed, our federal and some state governments now actively work against their own people by encouraging TGS.
Mary cites familiar, appalling statistics of increasing divorce, out-of-wedlock births, abortions, child abuse, fatherless families, pornography, euthanasia, suicides, and clearly-related crime, as well as corresponding decreases in marriage, childbirth, and the size of extended families. The clear winners are sometimes selfish parents, and the clear losers are always defenseless children – who have now grown up. We Boomers, who are primarily responsible for overseeing TGS, have noticed a dangerous social loss of a collective sense of humor and an ability to see relationships with the opposite sex in enduring, romantic, loving, and even miraculous ways. Many today have lost their sense of meaning and purpose in life.
We will only cite one statistic here, and that is approximately 33% of children have no father at home, and the numbers increase to 40 – 50% in various population sectors. This is a social tragedy and national disgrace to our collective manhood, though women also have a large influence. At home children lack fundamental role models for divine and human leadership essential for a good and stable society.
Sociologists are in agreement that the family is the basis of social order worldwide and throughout history, and that the Western family has been devastated with nothing whatsoever offered to replace it. Fathers are no longer wanted, and mothers are said to be seeking other, more important roles and support substitutes. One can only say with so much time and evidence of social nihilism that this has become the West’s willful act. We believe in the long run this is national suicide.
Though in general, the vast majority since the 1960’s has insisted upon an equal role in society today for women and all races, greater freedoms for all across the board, and government assistance for those in need, American has long since hit diminishing returns. In fact, surveys continuously tell us TGS is the opposite of what most women and men want. Children are left without families, role models, and meaning in their lives. They want to know and be close to their biological parents and embrace their roles as males or females. They want to call themselves son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother, uncle or aunt, cousin, as well as friend, associate, or CEO.
Social scientists also agree nearly to a person that human beings are intensely social creatures with a religious or spiritual essence – so that when unnatural social and spiritual voids are created, human beings always fill them another way. We seek connection, identity, meaning, and purpose, and we want the truth at the highest level of every consideration. Good intentions and self-interested, increasingly large governments at all levels and universities nationwide have manufactured this void since the 1960’s, with democratic support, and Identity Politics has filled it.
The problem is, of course, that IP denies that we are naturally capable as human beings of bridging our biological or class differences, which is nonsense. IP offers completely inadequate substitutes for family connections that lead to perpetual conflict and dead ends. Intentional or not, elites inside governments, educational institutions, NGO’s, non-profits, big business, and the media have trapped us inside IP’s perpetual racial, sexual, or class-oriented shells. They’ve orchestrated a self-interested loop providing solutions for problems they create. Last summer was a sign we might be running out of time.
With The Great Scattering, IP reifies violent, dialectical conflict. Sprinkle in COVID, fear, boredom, and money financing the crowds on both sides in an election year, and we had a very serious crisis in 2020.
While the reasons for many of our social trends are hard to isolate due to our inability to place real life into experimental laboratories, all the evidence and the common sense of many who remember the 1960’s like they were yesterday tell us that Mary just might have hit the nail on the head. What to do about it now while we’re given some breathing room is the issue, and we will have more to say on this as 2021 moves along.