Opinion: A Repudiation of the Empirical – A Teen's Take
Daniel Idfresne: "My generation's reliance on emotion invigorates an Age of Narratives."
According to a YouGov survey, 49 percent of my Gen Z compatriots favor socialism. This is enough to consternate Americans who witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Cold War, and other occurrences in the twentieth century.
However, this interest in the economic system is fueled by the cultural promulgation of leftist attitudes rather than an intellectual appraisal of socialism. In layman's terms, being a socialist gives someone like me ( a gen z'er ) more likes on Tik Tok, so a socialist I will be. After all, 43 percent of Gen Z can't define Marxism.
In New York City, elite white female Manhattanite teenagers post about the social justice warrior issue of the day: yesterday about climate change ending the world in seven years and today about the validity of your antiracism if you are not anti-capitalist. Seeing these "anti-capitalist" teens indulge in Starbucks every day, the only thing I see being exploited is their parents' wallets.
There is a plethora of empirical evidence refuting the viability of socialism, yet there is still an alarming number of young Americans espousing socialist ideology. Despite the ostentatious behavior of most of these self-proclaimed "activists," there are staunch ideologues as well. These ideologues adamantly deny socialism's role in twentieth-century atrocities. On what grounds can they dissociate socialism from its disastrous effects? From police brutality to gender ideology, Gen Z is adopting an epistemology of storytelling.
Here's a teen's take: Generation Z and millennials have adopted quasi-Heideggerian metaphysics, and critical theorists utilize this to fuel their epistemological framework.
Martin Heidegger did not believe reason can answer questions of Being. When employing reasoning to answer such questions, it ends up in absurdity. If there is no reason for Being, that is absurd since everything must be explained by reason. If there is reason for Being, then reason is outside Being - outside of Being is Nothing, which is also absurd. Ultimately, Heidegger concluded that feelings of anxiety were closer to Being.
How so? When experiencing anxiety, reality becomes indistinguishable, and one disconnects from one's unique individuality. Our sense of being strips away and Being is left. Thus, we should embrace feelings of anxiety, boredom, or any emotion that dissociates us from our unique individual selves.
Now, I am not aware of any fellow Gen Zers subscribing to Heideggerian philosophy. Critical theorists, however, would appreciate this Heideggerian contention on Being, though they would not care for what type of anxiety one feels – the disconnection of individual being or anxiety at a particular. Critical theorists seek to critique, meaning the validity of such criticism is irrelevant. They also need enough dogmatic supporters to regurgitate this criticism; despair, anxiety, and boredom can be impetus for embracing ostensible criticism. These emotions provide epistemological cover for critical theorists in ways empirical methods do not.
Critical theorists openly voice their hostility to objective methods. In Tracking Epistemic Violence, Tracking Practices of Silencing, Black feminist theorist Kristie Dotson writes, "It is epistemic violence to not know other ways of thinking. One method of executing epistemic violence is to damage a given group's ability to speak and be heard." What constitutes epistemic violence? An emphasis on the empirical. Who needs to be heard? Those who feel oppressed despite the countervailing evidence. Stop denying their lived experience. You're hurting them. This deference to narratives allows room for socialism's utopia or baseless claims that blacks are exterminated by the police in exorbitant numbers daily.
Not enough proof? Feminist writer Audre Lorde asserts, "the master's tools will never dismantle the master's house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change." Will Kurt explains Lorde meant "we cannot solve problems of oppression working with the tools of a system of oppression. Academics cannot rely on the tools of academia to combat racism…Instead, we must understand and embrace the true power of difference."
What are the tools of academia? What is the true power of difference? The white male upholds white supremacy through epistemic exclusion. This resembles a Foucauldian power-knowledge dynamic: we only disseminate knowledge "the white way," so whites hold power. A blatantly ignorant and racist assertion, by the way. Minimal understanding of history is required to know that scientific achievement extends beyond the white race.
Speaking of Foucault, critical theorists even weaponize antirealist philosophy like postmodernism. In Mapping the Margins, Kimberlé Crenshaw contends that postmodernism has a fatal flaw - it can deconstruct arguments critical theorists make as well. So, Crenshaw removes deconstruction for "oppressed voices" and leaves that privilege for the evil white male. This politicized form of postmodernism, what I call "applied postmodernism," asserts there is no mind-independent reality, simplifies everything to power dynamics, and applies literary deconstruction to the oppressor – the Western Canon.
Perhaps, Democrats and the media wish to end this repudiation of the empirical. After all, they have been sounding the mantra of "ending misinformation." Brian Stelter decries FOX News and OANN, advocating for their removal. California House Democrats Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney asked what cable providers are doing to combat centers of misinformation on official letterhead. Kevin Roose at the New York Times ponders if the Biden Administration can create a "reality czar" to "tackle disinformation and domestic extremism."
If Democrats wanted to restrengthen an epistemology of reason, they would tell the fringe elements of their camp—those who wait for utopia more passionately than a child on Christmas Eve—to drop socialism. Instead, they feed them red meat, allowing Antifa to burn and loot. They would denounce the violence that occurred during protests last summer. Instead, they call it the language of the unheard. They would refute the now ubiquitous yet menacing idea that objectivity, science, mathematics, and realism are tools of white supremacy. Instead, they embody it, impose it by weaponizing our beloved institutions, and indoctrinate millions of Americans, particularly the young.
I am not surprised, though: Integrity is an element of a rarity in Washington D.C.
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About the Author:
Daniel Idfresne (17) is a junior at Brooklyn Technical High School located in New York City.