Every now and then I read something which seems to capture the spirit of the age. A friend recently forwarded me one such item, calling for the government to provide free menstrual pads and tampons to women. So far, so Old Left. I disagree with the conclusion but I do understand the argument. It is set forth with a logic that is clear and comprehensible. The author and I may differ in our politics but we speak the same language.
It was not, however, the main article which caught my eye. Rather it was the editor's note at the start:
Editor’s note: This blog post refers to individuals who menstruate as women because the author wanted to highlight gender inequality in health care. We acknowledge that not all individuals who menstruate identify as women and that not all individuals who identify as women menstruate, but feel this generalization is appropriate considering the gendered nature of most health care policies.
I am not sure what is more depressing/amusing: That the editor felt it necessary to add this platitudinous preface; Or that we live in a world where such nonsense now passes for a coherent comment. Some white people now identify as African Americans. Somewhere out there someone who did not die on St. Helena in 1821 might nevertheless still identify as Napoleon. Is it now the case that we will not be able to talk about race or about the history of nineteenth century France without some equivalent caveat? One might translate what the editor is really saying as ‘the concept of being a woman is now utterly meaningless but we have decided to preserve the fiction at those points where it is politically convenient for us to do so.' Notice the editor's use of the vague term feel and the slippery adjective appropriate. As ever, in our aesthetic age, it is impossible to argue against a feeling.
Strange to tell, such gibberish may give some hope for the future, for this is where the New Left looks set to undo itself. The very language upon which it depends for articulating its moral and political ambition—e.g., equality, gender, humanity, rights, etc.—was predicated upon reality being more than a linguistic construct or the creation of individual egos. The editorial note indicates that such language is now about to evaporate or itself become susceptible to accusations of hatred and bigotry unless qualified as it is above. And when it is thus qualified, it loses all of its rhetorical power and simply looks . . . well, ridiculous. So perhaps there is hope. In the meantime, welcome to the Age of Gibberish.
Carl R. Trueman is Paul Woolley Professor of Church History at Westminster Theological Seminary.