Saturday, August 23, 2014

What the Redskins controversy is really about

Now that religious religion is unfashionable, we have to have secular replacements for it. With the cultural decline of traditional religion, we get, as substitutes, either some kind of vague, New Age religiosity or, if you are of a more scientific rationalist bent, you can go in for New Atheism, which makes a religion out of opposing religion.

You can either go to lectures by the Dalai Llama, become a vegan, practice yoga, and advocate for animal rights, or you can take up the Global Warming cause, fight creationism, harass smokers, and go post monosyllabic insults against Christians on P. Z. Myers' blog. Both stem from the same fundamental impulse, which is religious and which, when repressed, manifests itself in any one of the various moralistic secular crusades, all of which involve some cause for which the follower can at least pretend to sacrifice, a cause whose detractors can be plausibly treated as heretics.

In fact, these secular enthusiasms become more extreme and supercilious the less formally religious they are. Having no way to meet their deeper spiritual needs, their acolytes become all the more preachy and intolerant.

Detractors are not just wrong, they are "homophobes," or "sexists," or "IDiots." The gay rights movement is full of it. So are some environmentalist sects.

The irony is that so many of these people profess, not only to be irreligious, but to be ethical relativists at the very same moment that they demand the absolute and unconditional submission to their secular dogma at the cost of cultural ostracism.

Almost anything, however trivial and inconsequential, can serve this secular religious purpose. The most recent example, of course, is the effort to force the Washington Redskins to change their name.

There is very little at stake in this Politically Correct crusade other than the establishment of one's liberal bona fides. There is no rational basis for concerns about the name. There are very few actual Indians who are upset by the mascot, and Washington fans root for the Redskins, not against them. Not a single Indian (Oops, were we supposed to say "Native American"?) will suffer from the sports franchise continuing to use the name and not a single one will benefit from its removal.

Indians, like every other minority, serve as a Politically Correct totem: They are one of the sacramental objects that gives meaning to the lives of secular liberals. The Redskins controversy simply offers another occasion to strike a secular sacramental pose.

When it's over, there will be something equally meaningless to fill the spiritual vacuum.


Anonymous said...

Redskins fans don't want a name change and neither does the Redskins owner. Unless the NFL itself intervenes, that's the end of the story. Hail to the Redskins, and to hell with PC pansies.

One Brow said...

Not a single Indian (Oops, were we supposed to say "Native American"?) will suffer from the sports franchise continuing to use the name and not a single one will benefit from its removal.

Mental anguish is not suffering, and the removal of the source of anguish is not beneficial?

Some Native Americans do indeed find the term offensive. It's been linked (not conclusively) to a term for collecting bounties for the scalps of Native Americans. It's not as if it is difficult or overly expensive for a professional franchise to change its name. Why would you support one choosing to treat people so disrespectfully?