In Santa Cruz, where self-styled intellectuals cluster when they want to give up thinking and simply embrace whatever fashionable substitutes for thinking are in the air, a local club owner recently canceled an appearance by singer/songwriter, Michelle Shocked. Ms. Shocked, who has a long history of political activism, previously had made a comment that offended the gay community. Bill Welch, the aforementioned Santa Cruz club owner, cancelled her upcoming gig at his joint, saying, “We will not be bashing Michelle Shocked. Rather, we will celebrate music, diversity, and send some healing Santa Cruz energy her way.”
Don’t you just hate that? I do. It is so self-righteous, so deeply offensive to thought. Implicit in those words is a smug moral superiority that puts all of its constructs beyond question or criticism. George Orwell once cautioned us to be wary of abstract language. When words stray far from the concrete, when they do not evoke tangible images, when they demand unthinking assent, someone is choosing those words to manipulate or obfuscate. On the left wing of the political spectrum, the word “diversity” is the equivalent of the way words like “patriotism” or “liberty” get tossed around on the right. These are concepts beyond question, though they can cover a wide range of meaning. Words like these are bludgeons. What, you don’t automatically “celebrate” whenever the word “diversity” is uttered? You must be a bigot. You don’t snap to attention when someone says “liberty”? Surely you must be a godless communist.
Then there’s that “healing” bullshit, a word employed with little thought, and even less meaning. Here, Mr. Welch uses it to proclaim how swaddled in psychic health the entire Santa Cruz community is while extending a passive-aggressive swipe of his hand to the woman he wishes to diss, condescending to her with his ever-so-kind healing “energy.”
You can hear this crap most any day right here in Chico. You can hear it on KZFR, where the good “us” is opposed to the unhealthy “them,” expressed in the lexicon of clubby group speak like “sustainability,” “multiculturalism,” or “critical thinking.” Over on KPAY, you hear the reverse side of that coin, with the word “real” used to modify the word “American,” the word “liberal” as shorthand for “bad,” and the word “urban” employed as a euphemism for “black.”
Bullshit to the left; bullshit to the right. But it’s thought-denying bullshit no matter the direction it’s coming from.