Unpacking Our Cultural Knapsack: Taking A Closer Look at the Attack on Western Culture

If you have ever taken a college course in recent years, or even have been through the public school system, you may have come across terms like “political correctness”, “social justice”, “diversity”, “systematic racism”, “decolonization”, “white privilege” and others like it. These terms while describing different things, all have an interconnecting thread: The argument that US society, politics and culture, and more broadly Western culture in general are deeply flawed and immoral at the core. In this worldview, we live in a society surrounded by systematic racism, white supremacy, colonialism, and every other negative word in the book! It’s a society where “black and brown people” are oppressed, subjugated, dehumanized and cannot succeed in a system stacked against them at every turn, and where some lives don’t seem to matter. Indigenous peoples were subjugated through colonialist forces, and the country was built on the backs of those we enslaved. In this cultural dystopia, the only winners are (gasp!) white people, and more specifically white males. For the privileged class, our stolen privilege permeates every fiber of our being and while the underclass feels its sting everyday, the lucky few go about completely unaware of how simply being born into this country makes them complicit in this horrendous affair. Or so we are told to think. 

But to use a metaphor from the Left, let’s “unpack” some of these assertions. For those unfamiliar with the metaphor, it comes from an article written by Peggy McIntosh called “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” where she compares one’s unearned privileges with handy items in a knapsack to help you get through life easier such as money, maps, extra snacks etc… She argues that white people have more items in their knapsacks than others, and made an extensive list of so called privileges only whites enjoy. That metaphor has now been extended to mean closely analyzing and critiquing what is seen to be taken for granted or is problematic. The Left says we need to unpack our cultural biases, but has anyone unpacked their assertions about our society? I want to help unpack a few major criticisms of our society and the West, (as in Western Culture) at large.

A common one heard echoed throughout the halls of academia and even at protests, is that we need to “dismantle” and “decolonize” the country and the Western World. They argue that the US was founded on stolen land, taken away by genocide from Native American peoples. In other places, they evoke the imperialism of many European countries. Because we conquered various peoples around the globe, and often treated them harshly, those who argue for decolonizing say we’re still oppressing them to this day and need to back off big time! Now, on its face it seems right, and many Western powers have let got of the vast majority of these formerly colonized territories. However, this decolonization movement has gone far beyond simply giving back certain places their independence.

Using the US as a case study, they talk about decolonizing school curriculum to tell a narrative of how evil and oppressive we were, assert that all white people are guilty of oppressing Native Americans to this day, that all of our country’s innovations are fruits of a poison tree, and academia being impartial or daring to undergo the anthropological and archaeological study of indigenous peoples, is forcing colonialism among other charges. Also, our founding fathers, the pioneers who settled the West, and pretty much every non-native American are actually immoral oppressors. Now to unpack this, no one denies we did some pretty brutal stuff in our history. The slavery of the past was wrong, and many even at the time thought so. The physical and cultural subjugation of Native peoples is also not our shining moment either.

No one is arguing we glorify these blights on our history. However, for as much as we were wrong in doing these things, have people honestly forgotten literally every human group partook in conquest and the subsequent domination over the conquered? From the great Roman Empire, to the Comanches taking over part of the Great Plains, humans can be tribal and territorial with a thirst for better resources, and power. Also, many human societies including many Native American tribes had some form of slavery. Why are these more easily overlooked? Hard to talk of “stolen land” when your group stole it from someone else. Also, calls to decolonize and reaffirm indigenous groups sound nice, but what substantive things would we do to dismantle our society for them yet still have room for us? Must we go so far as to have a self imposed exile over the lands we too now, have been on for generations? If not that far, then how far exactly must we go to atone? How much moral culpability do we have for the sins of our forefathers? Why does the West get double condemnation for what should be considered equally immoral for all who partake in it?

Changing gears a bit, one assertion a little closer to home for many is the argument that society is systematically stacked against people of color, and in favor of white people. Which means that people of color cannot achieve as much due to societal constraints while conversely, white people benefit from society’s inherent power structures so they cannot claim they “worked hard” to earn what they achieved.  I’ve touched on this one more in depth before, but I’ll summarize what I argued. Many of these claims of systematic disadvantage are rooted in historical oppression, much of which has been overturned legally and socially. For example in the past, black people were discriminated against in the job market and housing. However, there are laws now explicitly prohibiting such discrimination and programs like affirmative action and immense social pressure to hire a more “diverse” workforce and have more integrated neighborhoods. Getting denied a loan might be because you have credit card debt like the majority of America, not simply because they looked and saw you were a person of color, or someone was hired instead of you despite your stellar credentials because they were the manager’s cousin and you just didn’t know that and you concluded it was because they were white. You can’t blame every setback on “the system”.

To bring up a newer insight, many argue that white people are systematically privileged and do not deserve full credit for what they do achieve and that hard work as a way to success is a myth. The social system is the true controller of our destiny no matter what our race they argue. However, what happens when people of color do find success? They often say it was their determination and double hard work despite the oppressive forces, but wait! Isn’t that also the myth of meritocracy? That they achieved because of their individual effort, not that society allowed them to achieve success?

To highlight the absurdity and contradictory nature of this, I recently read an article written by a former minimum wage black security guard who was able to become a doctor at the hospital he worked for. Med school is super competitive, and there are countless white people for whom medical school is only a pipe dream. Yet, this lowly security guard had what it takes to climb that social ladder to a place of privilege and prestige in this country. What other countries could he have done so outside the West? And yet, the focus of his article was not on how he achieved his dream, his determination, or one iota of gratitude for the society that enabled this success, but on how he is still the victim in a society who thinks his life doesn’t matter. If social systems determine where we will end up more than our own free will, then couldn’t one argue it had to have enabled his climb up the social ladder?

On a related note, the last but definitely not the last thing to unpack is the assertion that Western Culture is built on white supremacy. The Left says that the White race built Western Civilization, and even invented the concept of race solely to oppress others, so they could twist my whole article saying I’m blowing some “white supremacist dog whistle” or something. Defending the West to them becomes about defending white supremacy. However, in that assertion, it is they who hold the racist assumptions. Ever heard phrases like the “Great American Melting Pot”? Or that historically, the vast Roman Empire was very cosmopolitan stretching from Britain to North Africa to the Middle East and of course contained people who looked vastly different from one another. My point in bringing up these examples is can you think of another non-Western culture that has such immense ethnic and racial diversity? Since the West has been so influential around the globe, people of all races and many ethnicities have been touched by it in some way, and many live in the cosmopolitan countries of today that make up Western civilization. Their stories too have helped influence and shape the West. Western does not equal White necessarily.

I’ll conclude by saying that in focusing so much on what makes our culture bad, we ignore what makes it good. Such as advanced technology and medicine. Scientific innovations. Lower mortality rates. Higher standards of living. A utopia compared to where some live and many risk everything to get here. Somewhere where hard work and determination get you further in life. Somewhere where everyone can belong regardless of class, race or any other label. No culture is all good, a perfect utopia where zero inequalities and disparities exist, but certainly no culture is 100% bad. Certainly not ours.

So why can’t some of us see it that way? Let’s unpack that… 

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What Makes a Strong Woman?

In this day and age, the cultural Zeitgeist is all about “women’s empowerment” and raising “strong women”. We think we know what these ideas should mean and have a mental picture of what they look like, but what really does a strong woman look like? Many cite qualities like independence, autonomy, assertiveness, leadership, etc… Many see her in some sort of high position of power, or with fancy degrees in some high-status career like doctor, lawyer, politician, some STEM field. It’s common to think of her being able to do “anything a man can do” with slogans like “girl power” and “girls rule the world”…

However the question is raised, is that what really makes a woman “strong”? How exactly does one define “strong”? Is it in her assertiveness almost to the point of aggressiveness? Her job title or her credentials? Her assertions that she doesn’t need a man for anything? Her ability to throw off traditional gender norms and clamor for all things masculine? The irony that many qualities she strives for in herself she would now label “toxic” in a man? The fact that she has liberal “woke” politics and ideologies unlike the “gender traitors” who are conservative women? They say a strong woman can think for herself, yet labeled those who stood by Kavanaugh or Trump as “gender traitors”. Is that what strong women are expected to do? Feel threatened enough by others whose opinions you don’t like that you have to shut them up?

Thing is, while many qualities above in moderation such as independence, assertiveness or leadership are okay, I argue our current concept of what makes a woman “strong” really betrays a type of weakness and vulnerability as well as implicitly sexist. The most problematic aspect of how we think of a strong woman is rooted in the implicit idea that she must be like a man, and throw off her traditional gender roles as a woman because male=empowerment and female=oppression. To truly be “equal” in this frame of mind is to be able to be and do anything a man does, but no mention of anything uniquely “woman” in her fight for equality. Whatever a man can do is better than what women traditionally have done. She must want a career, because her “dreams” must go beyond “mere” house keeping and child raising. She needs to earn her own way, or else she’s too “dependent” on a man thus virtually enslaved! Being a wife and mother apparently is not enough to foster her “personal development”. She must literally wear the pants, because dressing as a woman is the “uniform of oppression”. She is “empowered” when she can silence any man who dares speak his mind on issues pertaining to her, cry victim anytime she wants, be pushy and rude and call it “assertiveness”, shun a more feminine identity and reduce it to a “stereotype” and declare that the world is stacked against her. Now, many women who consider themselves as strong don’t feel they support this idea of it, however their attitudes implicitly support many of these ideas.

When you tell a girl “But what else do you want to do? You’re still young…” When she says she wants to raise a family when she grows up.

When you say “You can’t comment on this issue because you’re not a woman!”

When you tell your daughters “Never depend on a man for anything.”

When you say to fight “stereotypes” of women such as being married, home making, and wearing dresses.

You are perpetuating a distorted view of what it means to be strong. To me honestly, such ideas about strength betray weakness and vulnerability. The idea that being a traditional woman is a sign of oppression and that to have any worth in society, or to be considered independent is to take on traditional masculine characteristics belittles womanhood as a whole. Also reinforcing the sexist and misogynist idea that women are second class or lesser members of society, and must imitate men to bear a semblance to anything worthy of being called empowered, equal and strong.

What does it really say about society when the clamor for prominence and power in the public eye are valued far greater than the upbringing of our future generations? Just because a role is not as visible, doesn’t mean the job is any less needed. Motherhood, while more behind the scenes, IS a job in itself. A 24/7 job for life. Standing by your man does not mean you don’t have your own identity. Pants don’t equal freedom from some oppressed role and skirts and dresses don’t mean you’re second class. Wife and mother are just as important titles as CEO or PhD. Power and prestige are not all there is in life. Equal does not always mean identical; men and women can have separate gender roles and be equal in dignity and worth to each other. Putting men’s roles on a pedestal for women to be able to climb to inherently devalues traditional women’s roles even if cried for in the name of equality. Guarding one’s sexuality is not a form of coercion by the patriarchy when women have so much more to lose if she slips up. A woman’s purity is to be honored, not mocked and derided as “old fashioned”. A strong woman and a traditional woman exist side by side and are in no way mutually exclusive! 

So what does it mean to be a strong woman? A strong woman is many things in my opinion:

The confidence in her identity as a traditional women as valuable and meaningful in of itself without the need to be like a man to be worth something.

The ability to value her husband and children over any job title or credential she might earn.

Seeing her privilege, not her victimhood.

A self identity that is strong enough to not feel threatened by taking her husband’s name upon marriage, being “given away” at the altar, being called “Mrs.” or the idea of marriage.

Feeling as empowered and capable in a dress or skirt with long hair as in pants and short hair.

The strength to know she can depend on others like a father, brother, husband etc… for her care and safety and still be independent and strong in her own right.

Taking pride in the fact that she has the choice to give life, not in the choice to take it.

Who can handle words like “mankind” and “man” in the general sense without feeling excluded and microaggressed.

The fortitude to hold the family together in times of trouble, but also let a man take the lead and be the rock when she is given the chance.

Being a rock in her own unique way, as a moral compass of virtue, elegance, and grace for all to see in her family and in the world.

Dressing modestly as a sign of her inner worth and dignity, and having no need to flaunt her body for all to see for her to be “liberated”.

Who is strong enough to think for herself and not feel threatened by another’s opinion nor the need to force other women to think as she does.

Recognizing her ability to achieve her goals not in spite of being a woman in an “oppressive” society, but because of her determination, work ethic, and perseverance as a person. 

The strength it takes to be uniquely feminine, in her own right.

To me those are some things that make a strong woman 🙂

Strong woman

(I made this graphic myself!)

Classism: The Left’s Less Talked About Hypocrisy…

The Left often purports to be the party of egalitarianism… Anti-racist, anti sexist, the party of “tolerance” etc… etc… and yet, they have been proven time and time again to show they themselves display some of the most blatantly racist, sexist and intolerant ways of thought and action to groups they deem “less than”. However a less talked about aspect of this lies in another domain: prejudice and stereotyping based on socioeconomic status, in other words, classism.

You probably hear the Left saying how they want to dismantle social and economic inequality such as lessening the poverty gap and stopping rich elites from getting their privileges at the expense of everyone else. They may even talk about doing away with capitalism which to them, is the “enemy”! They say they are for the common man and woman, and yet, their true actions like much of what they do show through the facade of their utopic plans…

I would argue that on many counts, they are actually quite classist and demean the common man and woman and especially blue collar families. They say they want all these benefits to blue collar workers such as higher wages, more worker’s rights, more opportunities to advance, and yet, characterize them as these stupid ignoramuses! The Leftist politicians who come from wealth and privilege talk about how billionaires shouldn’t exist while raking in millions of dollars and living a lifestyle of gated communities, private jets, designer clothes, etc… and saying how they came from humble roots when in fact, they have always known privileges the common man and woman have not. Apparently this blatant hypocrisy is supposed to have gone over our heads and lead us to believe they were just like us! They treat us like low information voters, “sheeple” if you will, who will vote however they ideologically herd us.

Not to mention, they only care about the poor and blue collar they pick and choose, like the cradle to grave welfare leech who won’t work and lives off what others work to earn all their lives, or the illegal coming into the country to get those illicit votes. The Left “cares” about them, yet tells the blue collar worker earning his own wage he’s a “racist” for daring to ask why he has to earn his living and support his family when others who can work are supported through his salary. Regular blue collar folks, especially white families who are working poor or blue collar, and even middle class in some cases are seen as invisible to the supposed “benefits” the Left wants to hand out.

However the greatest example of the Left’s classist attitudes comes out when stereotyping who a conservative is. The stereotype of the average conservative in the Left’s mind is a white blue collar or middle class family. The people in what they call “Middle America” especially. Basically characterized as ignorant, backwards, uneducated hicks! Blind to their “white privilege” despite the fact they’re struggling to make ends meet, pay their bills, support their families, send their kids to college for a leg up in life etc… and dare to then question why these families are bitter over the cradle to grave welfare recipients and illegals who are getting free or subsidized healthcare, college, food, and such while they must earn everything they ever have.

There is also the incredibly insulting classist stereotype as well that these “deplorables” as Hillary called them, that can only be explained as the poorer and blue collar people having this mindset of anti-intellectualism or not wanting to better themselves socially and economically. This idea that while these families may come off as “upright” and have wholesome family values, that is rich in morals but little else, they have settled into their lot in life as lower wage workers without thinking of advancing themselves up the social ladder. While being seen as having wholesome values is a positive thing in itself, like the black people as athletic stereotype, it implies negatively that they are not smart or educated so while not directly negative, has a negative insinuation inherent in the stereotype. Using the language from a class I took once, the Left stereotypes the common man and woman as high in warmth but low in competence. Whereas I think why not see them as both? Related to the “wholesome values” stereotype, an extra-negative spin on this is that their values are actually very narrow minded and excludes others whereas the Left of course, has more tolerant and “inclusive” value systems. In essence, these common men and women are actually very narrow minded and excluding of those unlike them as well rejecting more “enlightened” values and goals of advancement.

The most stinging and hurtful stereotype to me personally at least is the one relating to anti-intellectualism. My family background is mainly blue collar. My grandparents on both sides came from poor immigrant families with nothing, who worked their way up to gain whatever social and economic capital my family has today. My grandpa was a factory worker and my grandma was a house cleaner who dropped out of high school. My other grandma was raised in the Mid West in a farming family who had to grow everything they had in the depression. However due to their sacrifices and saving, both of my parents had the chance to go to college and one to go even further to earn a master’s degree. I have been able to have an easy path to college and higher education and a comfortable middle class lifestyle because of their hard work. My family prized education and sought after it themselves. My maternal great-grandpa fought to keep my grandmother in school after 8th grade even though they told her to drop out as “she’d marry anyways”. My paternal grandpa got his college degree in his 70’s as he never had the chance in his youth but he believed it was never too late to better oneself. I have always been encouraged to prize academics and college was the default plan for me since infancy. I personally always identified as an intellectual who loves to think deeply and critically and pursue a love of the sciences from a young age of my own volition. I look up to the high powered professionals; scholars, scientists, doctors, professors,  researchers etc… I hope to be among their circles in a professional career where I use my mind everyday.

So you can guess why then it is a very personal thing to me to be stereotyped as seen as an anti-intellectual or of some mindset to not go above my social class because of my family’s middle class and blue collar roots and especially as a conservative. My family is made up of common men and women who are not rich elitists and value common sense and street smarts as well as prize education and opportunity for advancement up the social ladder. And they also are conservative. The most shocking thing is though, even more middle class intellectuals and people with higher degrees from a more humble background are starting to think of people from similar backgrounds with that snobbery and disdain as well! For example a professor I once had came from a blue collar working conservative family but had nothing but disdain for Trump supporting conservatives and his blue collar gun-owning father once he got a PhD and entered academic circles. Maybe it’s like the Left’s internalized prejudice concept where the oppressed group internalizes the message they’re inferior.

It’s incredibly alienating to feel that my future colleagues if they knew I’m conservative would characterize me as some backwards anti-intellectual ignoramus! Or to think if I chose a career in the sciences they would think me anti-science because they also stereotype conservatives as anti-science. Or because of the fact I embrace reality instead of “your reality” that means I’d be cold and insensitive as a psychologist. Or because I do think some cultures have more backward values that I believe ours should not embrace or let in the country I’d make a lousy anthropologist. Or because some conservatives don’t accept the theory of evolution they think I wouldn’t either. Or even in the intellectual secular community them not able to reconcile the fact I can indeed be a conservative without religion.

Many conservatives are great academics, smart, intellectual and critical thinkers, they just don’t get the chance to shine among their radical Leftist colleagues. Many are from blue collar working class backgrounds but are far from anti-intellectual ignorant hicks or of a closed mindset in terms of bettering themselves and their children. Intellect can be made of many dimensions, book smart being just one. Common sense goes a long way too and you don’t need letters after your name to:

Want your country and its people to be put first by its leader.

Want your children to be in safe neighborhoods instead of sanctuary cities overrun by criminals and leeches.

Want to raise your daughter to be a lady and son to be a traditional man.

Want to be proactive about the dangers in life, and live in the world as it is, not just what it should be like.

Want real protection in the hands of the common man and woman to protect against the next mass tragedy.

Want to stand up for your heritage and culture and not let everyone else erase and smother the values that give the country its reputation in the free world.

Want your hard work rewarded and others to earn their way as you had to.

Want the truth, not “fake news” and propaganda and lies assuming you are a low information voter.

Want to be known as something more than a “deplorable”.

Amazing it took what many would consider a rich elitist to keep the promises America wanted, really speak to the common man and woman, and help make the country great again…

Image result for leftist elite conservative cartoon