Flat White

Yassmin Abdel-Magied and Marx’s detritus

15 July 2017

1:59 PM

15 July 2017

1:59 PM

Yassmin Abdel-Magied recently published a piece in The Guardian Australia lambasting her critics as being merely ‘afraid of a young brown Muslim woman speaking [her] mind’. In it, she employed all the familiar rhetoric of the modern left, claiming that ‘today’s identity politics are about power – but not “real” or “traditional” power… Real power – that which lies in financial resources, the mainstream media and politics – is held by hands similar to those of 50 or 100 years ago: white, male hands.’

This sentiment will be wearily familiar to any informed citizen. Indeed, for the past decade, hierarchies of ‘privilege’ based along racial, religious and ethnic lines, as well as complex theories of liberation, wealth distribution and progress, have grown to dominate the national conversation. The politically informed observer may perceive the faint echo of Marxist dogma, yet, for a generation of socially-minded activists like Ms Abdel-Magied, it is doubtful whether they would identify their beliefs directly with the complex theology of dialectics, social realism or any other such twentieth-century madness.

There is a tendency in conservative circles to try and ascribe motives and ascertain principles from the nebulous mass that is the modern left. In vain they search for some ideological foundation for the contradictory chaos that has swept modern politics. Desperate to find a guiding principle, they look to the Frankfurt school, or thinkers like Gramsci and Marcuse, whose oft-quoted ‘Long March Through the Institutions’ sought to undermine institutions like academia and the media from within, weakening society’s bourgeois values and sowing the seeds of discord, in time to bear the fruit of the socialist revolution.

Much has been made of such political programs, and their malign influence has been felt across our whole society. Yet, when searching for what motivates the modern ‘progressive’ warriors, one would do well not to get carried away in the ideological sophistry of Marxist diatribe, but consider the cultural context in which they have developed.


After the collapse of Marxism as, what was for many, the organising principle of society, an entire worldview found itself discredited and disdained. Many thinkers rejected the tenets of Marx, yet over a century of complex theology had been invested in them, and, as such, they refused to collapse. Despite the foundations of these theories being undermined, the overarching structure of reasoning remained. Mutating almost out of recognition, this ideological structure found new means of expression, continuing to operate without any driving principle.

Fishing nets that have been lost or abandoned in the ocean are capable of continuing to fish for years after they’ve left the hands of their operators. These ‘Ghost Nets’ trawl the depths like zombies, wastefully capturing millions of marine creatures every year. In the same way, ghost ideas can continue to trawl the intellects; years after their pilots have abandoned them. So it is that the ‘capitalists’ of Marxist theory become ‘old white men’, the ‘bourgeoisie’ become the ‘privileged’ and the ‘proletariat’ become the manifold leagues of the oppressed; the ‘people of colour’, the ‘LGBTI+++’ and the all and sundry foreign ideologies that stand in opposition to the West.

A whole new generation of thoughtful individuals have been inculcated with such ideas, and with the inflation of university places, and the concurrent decline in educational standards, this modern, semi-educated generation have grown to dominate almost the entire cultural debate. Fed on a broad diet of social media, self-esteem, sub-standard humanities degrees and prosperity, this educated class replicates the sentiments and ideas that they absorbed through academia, without knowing whence they came.

This semi-educated class so universally holds these half-baked ideas that they are now proclaimed triumphantly in the national media as conventional wisdom. We have seen a proliferation of cultural commentators like Ms Abdel-Magied, who cast disdain on the average Australians who fund their elevated platforms: An aversion to patriotism, a disdain for tradition and a belief in ‘progress’ as a pre-ordained, one-way street are their central ideas, and their uniform bleat is heard in all the forums of the nation.

George Orwell wrote of the ‘English intellectual [who] would feel more ashamed of standing to attention during “God Save the King” than of stealing from a poor box’. After generations of academic tutelage, we find the modern expression of this in a whole generation of such intellectuals, and in the diatribes of Ms Abdel-Magied.

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