The problem with cultivating a victim culture is that it is inherently socially divisive. If women, racial minorities and other minorities are inherently victims, then everyone else is inherently an oppressor. Identity politics can only lead people to see one another not as fellow citizens but as enemies. It creates and perpetuates division among citizens and a loss of faith in the nation and its institutions. This is worrying because critical theory and identity politics, according to Pluckrose and Lindsay, “tend to regard mainstream liberalism as complacent, naive or indifferent about the deeply ingrained prejudices, assumptions and biases that limit and constrain people with marginalised identities”.
No one can deny that young people in the West have legitimate grievances, in particular the massive debt that will be left to them by older generations. In the US, many young people have been saddled with massive university debts without any jobs to walk into. Australia also has the problem of prohibitive house prices in the main cities where most of the jobs are. Perhaps remote working will ease this somewhat, but it has left a generation of young Australians cynical about their future prospects. Add to this the cynical readings of Western civilisation and Australian history emanating from our educational institutions, and we are left with a generation vulnerable to ideologies that erode public esteem of the nation and its institutions. A dangerous state of affairs.
Australia’s future has its challenges, two of which are the rise of a China that is becoming increasingly intolerant of Australia’s criticism of its internal and global policy, as well as our own ever-increasing social polarisation. The last thing Australia needs is an America — still by far the world’s most powerful military force and a historical ally of Australia — so preoccupied with its own divisions that it can’t afford to pay attention to China’s increasing aggression towards other countries.
If Australia is going to put up an effective resistance to China in the future it needs a population that is united by a commitment to the essential goodness of the nation and by a commitment to liberal democracy.
In this respect the more critical theory and identity politics take root among the younger generations, the more divided and less self-confident Australia will be in the future. Among our greatest weapons is a proper appreciation of the history of the West in general, and Australian European history in particular.
Yes, the West most certainly practised intolerance and forms of oppression. But out of the Western tradition came their strongest critics. A correct understanding of Western civilisation shows our history to be flawed but hopeful and far from irredeemable, contrary to what critical theory and identity politics would assert.
John Anderson AO served for 19 years in the federal parliament and was leader of the Nationals and deputy prime minister from 1999 to 2005.