Friday, June 30, 2023

Critical Theory

Critical Theory vs. critical thinking
Cheat Sheet No. 2.

This is a weekly column consisting of letters to my perspicacious progeny. I write letters to my grandkids — the Stickies — eventual selves to advise them and haunt them after they've become grups and/or I'm deleted.  

Trigger Warning: This column rated SSC — Sexy Seasoned Citizens — Perusal by kids, callowyutes, or grups may result in debilitating psychological trauma.  


Featuring Dana: Hallucination, guest star, and charming literary device  

"People of various and sundry hues claiming that all people of pallor are racists born with unearned privilege is pure, unadulterated bonkercockie." -Me 

From Cheat Sheet No. 1: Cheat Sheets are a sort of distillation of all the stuff I would like to mention, or reiterate, to the Stickies and my daughter and son-in-law in the event of my sudden demise.

(I'm turning 70 this year.)

Hopefully, this will provide some life guidance and provide comfort for their devastated hearts (and for the lack of cash left on the table).

Dear Stickies and Gentlereaders,

To explain, in my semi-humble opinion, what Critical Theory is, I would first explore what critical thinking is.

Long story short (this is a cheat sheet after all) critical thinking is one of the hoogely important reasons that I, and hopefully you, find myself living in one of the unbelievably prosperous and reasonably free countries that are the products of Western Civilization.

Nowadays, the term Western Civilization has been demoted by many to merely Western culture. For reasons of political correctness, it's no longer cool in certain circles to espouse that despite its flaws it's the best H. sapiens have done so far. 

To think critically means to use logic and reason to try and get to the bottom of something while setting aside, at least as much as possible, emotion. To think like a good scientist for example. To seek out, continuously, what is objectively true (enough) to be of use to almost everyone. 

{Continuously? True (enough)? Almost everyone?} 

The writer finds a way to cleverly dodge the endless bonkercocky devoted to debating whether anything is actually objectively true, Dana, whether there's such a thing as settled science, or whether it's possible for a human being to ever completely set aside emotion (it ain't, trust me).

Suffice it to say, to a practical, pragmatic, and well-adjusted adult, true enough will suffice till the next paradigm-busting breakthrough comes along. Please google the terms Scientific Revolution and Age of Enlightenment for edification and clarification. 

The only thing Critical Theory has in common with critical thinking is the word critical. Critical thinking aims to figure out what something is, how it works, how it got that way, etc. Equipped with this information, and by adding a dash of evolved tradition and a pinch of what we've learned the hard way (history), you can then try to figure out what to do with this knowledge. 

Used more or (often) less wisely, and with a bit of luck, flawed, imperfect H. sapiens have managed to construct the most advanced civilization the planet Earth has seen so far, assuming of course you think prosperity and freedom are good things. 

Critical Theory, on the other hand, is the opposite approach. Choose a desired result, Utopia, and then set aside human nature, what's realistically possible, the law of unintended consequences, history, etc. — and then get to work. 

The first step is to destroy the existing traditions and institutions that stand in the way of establishing heaven on Earth. This ain't easy since, as Karl Marx warned us, many people are so dumb they don't realize they're somebody's victim and need to wake up (be awokened?).     

Critical theory is that kid you knew in high school that never got tired of saying, "Real communism has like, never really been tried." 

What can an intelligent, highly-educated (and embarrassed) Marxist do in the 1930s when it's been revealed that the Russian revolution has unleashed a bloodthirsty ideological monster that will murder, give or take, 100,000,000 counter-revolutionaries by the time the world is partying 'cause it's 1999? 

And worse yet, for some mysterious reason, the world's oppressed masses, due to their false consciousness... 
("False consciousness denotes people’s inability to recognize inequality, oppression, and exploitation in a capitalist society..." -Encyclopaedia Britannica) 

...have declined an invitation to the party and aren't burning down the house, and everything else, as foretold by St. Karl?

A group of professors (the "Frankfurt School") in Germany, and others, coalesced around Critical Theory. Still Marxism, but New and Improved! They weren't about continuously, often painfully, seeking out the Good, the True, and the Beautiful (a preoccupation of many a critical thinker).   

"A critical theory is any approach to social philosophy that focuses on society and culture to attempt to reveal, critique, and challenge power structures." (My emphasis.) Max Horkheimer said that Critical theory seeks "to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them."

In other words: Western Civilization isn't the result of thousands of years of groping around in the dark, trying to find the best possible way to live, given that we're flawed by nature and Utopia is impossible. It's merely how people that conducted/conduct their lives accordingly have enslaved everyone that doesn't. 

But killing the nay-sayers, starting from scratch, and organizing one, big, happy commune wherein everyone shared everything equally didn't work out very well in Russia.

Plan B? Figuratively burning it down by revolutionizing the institutions one at a time. The professors who invented the Frankfurt school fled Germany to avoid being killed by the Nazis and landed on U.S. college campuses. 

{Did they say thanks?}

The virus slowly but steadily spread from there, eventually bonded with postmodernism, and is now an epidemic. Everyone can "self-identify" as whatever they please, truth is whatever anyone says it is, and the de facto motto of many in the West is: If it feels good, do it.   

Bottom line: Wokies genuinely believe that there are only two kinds of people in the world, the oppressors and the oppressed, and that the tenets and traditions of so-called Western Civilization are merely a paradigm devised by Caucasian males to exploit everyone else. 

Wokies genuinely believe that if you don't accept this you're asleep and thus not worth debating much less being allowed to freely state your heretical views. Confess your sins or be canceled.

Poppa loves you,
Have an OK day

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