They told me that Brexit would turn Britain into a barbarous land, and they were right: U.K. Starbucks is now raising money to promote the chemical sterilization and surgical mutilation of children. The British branch of the beverage-slinging behemoth is selling special mermaid-shaped cookies to benefit transgender lobbyist group Mermaids, whose founder infamously took her underage son to Thailand to be castrated.
That personal extremism sets the tone for the group’s agenda, which is all about earlier and more permanent transitions for children, with less screening and fewer safeguards beforehand. That Starbucks is supporting this group illustrates how thoroughly radicals have conquered both the LGBT movement and corporate culture. In a few years the fight has shifted from government recognition of same-sex relationships as legal marriages to mastectomies, sterilization, and castration for children.
That raises the question, both in this specific instance and more generally: why doesn’t anyone say no? Why didn’t someone at Starbucks speak up and say that, even though the company is left-leaning and LGBT-friendly, fundraising for a group that is pushing to permanently transition children earlier and earlier is going too far? More broadly, why don’t people speak up in other settings, from universities to newsrooms to the current Democratic primary—why can’t anyone on the left say no to the radicals?
After all, true believers in the left’s fashionable shibboleths regarding gender, race, sexuality, etc. are a small minority of the population, and often a minority even in left-leaning institutions. Yet they nonetheless wield disproportionate cultural power.
This is partly due to familiar social dynamics. It is not news that a dedicated minority may dominate a disinterested and disorganized majority. After all, dissenters who initially speak up will be targeted, and therefore many who might quietly agree with them will nonetheless be too cowed to join in. But this does not explain why leftist ideologues in particular, as opposed to some other minority viewpoint, have achieved such power.
So, once again, why? Why do university presidents grovel before student protestors? Why did Chick-fil-A capitulate to LGBT complaints despite the chain’s incredible success? Why did Starbucks executives agree to fundraise for a radical group pushing to chemically and surgically sterilize children? What is it in the makeup of our educated, professional classes that leaves them so vulnerable to particular kinds of left-wing cultural pressure?
A partial answer may be made by considering how members of this class view the imperfection of the world. They are not likely to think in ancient terms of personal virtue and vice. Nor do they usually subscribe to the Christian traditions of reflection on the Fall and human sin, both original and personal. Yet the imperfection of the world, the social order, and ourselves remains a fundamental human reality that all daily experience.
By historical standards most of us, and our elites in particular, are extraordinarily well-off. Nonetheless, the world remains flawed, and our leadership class increasingly faces that reality without a strong tradition of philosophical or theological reflection to draw on. Even many who are nominal Christians have very little idea what Christianity teaches, especially on uncomfortable subjects like sin.
But a substitute is available for them. The theories of intersectional leftism, with their analysis of power, privilege, and oppression, function very similarly to Christian doctrines of original sin. According to these ideas of social justice and injustice, what is wrong with the world is that we are divided into hierarchies and power structures built around race, class, gender, sexual identity and so on.
We are all born into this, and participation in the systems of oppression constructed upon these categories can no more be avoided than original sin can be in the Christian tradition. However, we can identify our privileges, and work to deconstruct and dismantle the systems of oppression they are derived from.
Thus, these ideas have analogues for both the Christian concepts of original sin and personal sin. Just as Christians move easily between the two in discussions of sin, so too do leftists move easily between racism, sexism, and the rest as forms of systematic oppression that we are all guilty of by being born into society, and racism, sexism, and the rest as personal wrongs that we are also guilty of in specific instances.
Thus, efforts at diversity and inclusion of the marginalized are both penitential and redemptive. They atone for our unavoidable participation in general systems of oppression and for the particular wrongs we have committed under the influence of these systems. Although the struggle will never end, these efforts move toward a less oppressive world.
From this perspective, claiming to be innocent of wrongs against social justice is as ridiculous as a Christian would find claims of innocence regarding original and personal sin—claiming to be pure just shows how deadened one’s conscience is. Only a perfect victim, oppressed in every possible category, could be pure, so there is none righteous, no, not one. Still, there is relative righteousness, and those who identify as transgendered can claim it under this system.
Western elites, such as the people running Starbucks in the U.K., have largely been catechized into this view. They do not necessarily give it much thought—there are plenty of nominal believers in this system—but they often know little else. In particular, they lack a framework by which to contest the claims of the ostensibly oppressed. Like lukewarm Christians surrounded by the faithful, they cannot very well say no when a revival arrives and is embraced by the true believers; at the very least they have to go through the motions.
Thus, it is no surprise that no one at Starbucks stopped the trans children cookie fundraising extravaganza. Standing up to Mermaids would call into question much more than the group’s radical views on diagnosing and treating gender dysphoria in children. No one calling the shots at Starbucks was going to challenge the left’s entire theory of social justice.
After all, if trans adults are particularly oppressed, trans children must be doubly so. Doubting them (and their self-appointed spokesmen) is therefore an almost sacrilegious act of blasphemy against the holy. So the left progresses back to eunuchs and genital mutilation—funded by Starbucks cookies that are probably as average as the coffee.