Camille Paglia, a self-styled progressive and Democrat, is among the sharpest critics of those who wear those labels. Perhaps that’s why she keeps being interviewed by conservative and libertarian journals, and is, along with Jordan Peterson, the most fearless and scintillating assailant of the ranks of political correctness and entrenched elites of any political stamp.
It’s only a few weeks since we quoted her on religion (she is an atheist, but one who can't stop talking about religion) from an interview with the Canadian website Quillette. On that occasion she was asked whether politics and in particular social justice (i.e., anti-racism and feminism) were becoming cults or pseudo-religions? She agreed that it was, but that politics was unequal to the task of replacing religion – that is, giving meaning to life – and said her own alternative was art.
Now in the Spectator USA she returns to the theme of religion when asked, What is true multiculturalism? Her answer is worth quoting in full. Referring to her own new book, she says:
“As I repeatedly argue in Provocations, comparative religion is the true multiculturalism and should be installed as the core curriculum in every undergraduate program. From my perspective as an atheist as well as a career college teacher, secular humanism has been a disastrous failure. Too many young people raised in affluent liberal homes are arriving at elite colleges and universities with skittish, unformed personalities and shockingly narrow views of human existence, confined to inflammatory and divisive identity politics.
“Interest in Hinduism and Buddhism was everywhere in the 1960s counterculture, but it gradually dissipated partly because those most drawn to ‘cosmic consciousness’ either disabled themselves by excess drug use or shunned the academic ladder of graduate school. I contend that every educated person should be conversant with the sacred texts, rituals, and symbol systems of the great world religions — Hinduism, Buddhism, Judeo-Christianity, and Islam — and that true global understanding is impossible without such knowledge.
“Not least, the juxtaposition of historically evolving spiritual codes tutors the young in ethical reasoning and the creation of meaning. Right now, the campus religion remains nihilist, meaning-destroying post-structuralism, whose pilfering god, the one-note Foucault, had near-zero scholarly knowledge of anything before or beyond the European Enlightenment. (His sparse writing on classical antiquity is risible.) Out with the false idols and in with the true!”
When the Spectator suggests there is a similarity between her and Jordan Peterson’s, Paglia agrees that there are “astounding parallels” – particularly in their regard for psychologist Carl Jung, who emphasised the importance of the individual psyche and the personal quest for wholeness. She observes:
“Peterson’s immense international popularity demonstrates the hunger for meaning among young people today. Defrauded of a genuine humanistic education, they are recognizing the spiritual impoverishment of their crudely politicized culture, choked with jargon, propaganda, and lies.”
As I have said before, you don’t have to agree with everything Paglia says, but she says enough, and with enough wit, that most thoughtful folks will find something that strikes a chord. See what she has to say about US politics in the rest of the interview, which is headed, ‘Hillary wants Trump to win again’.