In Gulliver’s Travels (1726), the land of Lilliput is gripped by a furious controversy about hard-boiled eggs. Should they be opened at the big end or the little end? The opposing sides slaughter and persecute each other over the issue. Jonathan Swift was satirizing the absurdities of religious dispute in his day and the wars it caused between different sects. There’s a special term for this phenomenon: odium theologicum, or “hatred among theologians.” Because there is no objective means of establishing truth in theology, the only definitive argument is force.
Centuries later, the modern left is full of atheists and secularists who have no time for religious nonsense like that. Instead, they conduct furious controversies about chairs and haircuts. Two giants of the British left, Richard Seymour and Laurie Penny, have recently been excoriated as racists, colonialists and white supremacists:
But… wait a minute, you might ask. What was it that Seymour and Penny did to bring down this rain of criticism on their heads? Did they invade a country? Or did they lynch someone?
No. Seymour was talking about that chair – you know the one that looks like it is a black woman, that Roman Abramovich’s girlfriend had herself photographed sitting on for the [London] Evening Standard. Seymour did not say he liked the chair. He said it was racist. But he made the terrible error of pointing out that some sex play involved racial acting out (which is a bit outré, but not actually an endorsement of racial oppression).
Penny’s crime was even greater: she wrote an article in the New Statesman about short hair being (a bit of) a feminist statement… except that she did not say anything about the hair of “Women of Colour.” Yes, that’s right: Laurie Penny’s article “does not include any mentions (even as a side note) of WoC hair issues.” (Further adventures in intersectionality, The Charnel-House, 31st January 2014)