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In Shadi's latest piece for The Atlantic, he writes, "Somehow, progressives have fallen under the sway of a set of ideas so off-putting that they threaten progressivism itself." Progressives ought to read the article. However, for me, the more subtle point made by Shadi is the admission that overcorrections made by the cultural progressives are likely made with the of best intentions. This concession is all too often omitted by critics of progressivism's excesses.
At the core of the current iteration of our perpetual culture war are various disparities between identity groups—and disagreements over why such disparities exist. The nastiest disagreements center around the question of whether America is systemically racist or not. In his latest newsletter for The Atlantic, David French argues that from economic opportunities to coaching in the NFL, racial disparities persist, nurtured by our grisly racial history. His piece provides a useful, and all-too-often overlooked, starting point for our national discussion around race:
One of the most troubling realities of American life can be summed up in a single sentence: Systems and structures designed by racists for racist reasons are often maintained by nonracists for nonracist reasons. This reality applies both to formal legal rules and to informal cultural norms.
People can in good faith disagree on how much current social outcomes are predetermined, but on the whole, it would be foolish to argue that our current racial disparities would be the same without our deeply troubling historical context. And even in circumstances where class is a more determinative variable than race for a specific issue—which is often the case—it is still important to acknowledge that the racial distribution of Americans into classes is a byproduct of our past as well.
What To Do About Genocide
Last month, billionaire venture capitalist and Democratic super-donor Chamath Palihapitiya kicked off a firestorm across the political spectrum over a recent statement he made. "Every time I say that I care about the Uyghurs," he said, "I'm really just lying." He corrected himself in the following days on the wording but stood by the point he was trying to make: as much as we all might claim to care about tragedies across the world, our actions speak louder than words.
This month, the United States is staging a diplomatic boycott of this year's Olympics in China, due to "the PRC's ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity in Xinjiang and other human rights abuses." Notably, the US is one of just a handful of countries staging this protest and is one of just a few nations willing to label China's treatment of the Uyghurs a genocide.
The explosive pushback Chamath received is due at least in part to the pent-up frustration among activists struggling with this discomfiting reality. China is committing crimes against humanity, but due to its size and importance, there isn't much we are willing to do about it. From trade relationships between every major country and China, to international businesses that want access to its gargantuan market, to the Olympics, the world's tacit acceptance of genocide is staggering. We are all complicit.
Closer to Home
The past few weeks have seen the health of kids used as a political cudgel by both the left and the right. The right accuses Democrats of failing our children by implementing too many restrictions. The left counters that lax safety measures during COVID have resulted in teacher shortages across the country, and that a general lack of willingness to spend money on public education is short-changing the next generation. "The future of our kids" is clearly going to be a hard-fought issue in the midterms.
But take a bigger step back, and none of us come out looking good. As of October, 11.8% of households with children didn't get enough to eat. American children typically experience higher rates of poverty than any other age group. Of all the types of cynical political grandstanding, using our children as props strikes me as especially grotesque, especially when you consider some of these most basic statistics. Again, we are all complicit.
Liberalism Has an Unhappiness Problem
In Shadi's latest Monday Note, he argues that liberalism is more vulnerable to critique than it has been in recent decades. Yet the proposed alternatives still feel as impractical in the real world as they always have. Check this piece out if you missed it, it's Shadi at his best.
Is Progress Real?
Our latest debate gets at one of the most quintessentially Wisdom of Crowds questions. Shadi believes that a certain amount of social progress is self-evident, only to find Damir attacking the very premise of progress. This led to a spirited back-and-forth which I really enjoyed grappling with. I ultimately found myself helplessly in agreement with Shadi, but Damir does an excellent job laying out his position. Give it a read (or a listen).