You have a right to your prejudices. You are not evil for having them, nor are they necessarily wrong because you did not arrive at them by reasoned argumentation. You are allowed your instincts, your intuitions, the misgivings you can’t explain.
The reason I think this needs repeating is that prejudice has been turned, by sleight-of-hand, into a dirty word. It has been made synonymous with bigotry. Bigotry is a vice: an intractable hostility toward someone or something based on false judgments or false reasoning. But a prejudice is not a vice. It is merely a conviction that comes baked in, an opinion ingrained into you by your upbringing.
Because these opinions can be catastrophically mistaken, we have been taught that they are all mistaken per se. Thus we were gulled into believing the nice thing to do is abandon prejudice altogether. “We’re never so outraged as when a cabbie drives past us or the woman in the elevator clutches her purse,” wrote Barack Obama in Dreams From my Father. He was evoking the rhetoric of microaggression, according to which our knee-jerk reactions to things are assumed to be racially coded and therefore, if we’re white, bad.
I get how sorrowful it must be for upstanding black people to meet with knee-jerk suspicion. But a woman alone in an elevator has her reasons for being cautious, too, not all of them based on thoughtless tribalism. She knows from experience, and from a lifetime of mother’s warnings nested deep in her bones, to go on alert when next to a strange man in a confined space. Obama is asking her to disarm that survival instinct because he suspects it has a racial component to it. Lived experience for me, but not for thee.
It’s perfectly healthy to examine your prejudices and ask how many of them hold up to rational scrutiny. But bad actors have used this self-consciousness against us to strip away our every cultural assumption, arguing that each in turn is offensive to someone. The trick is that if you scrap enough cultural assumptions, eventually you’ve scrapped your culture.
Take for example the indignities we are now asked to contemplate in the name of “Science!” “The cicadas are coming. Let’s eat them!” Not one, not two, not even three, but countless invitations to eat the bugs have issued in unison from predictable outlets as Hot Cicada Summer approaches. If we demur, we are both science deniers and enemies of the planet, which will soon implode because of our selfish meat fetish. Our harmful revulsion at bug-eating is deemed irrational, unexamined, mere prejudice.
My response to this accusation is perfectly and completely encapsulated by the Chad “YES” meme. Yes, I have a prejudice against eating bugs. No, I will not live in the pod. There’s a reason these sorts of bald assertions have become rallying cries for the dissident Right: when we make such claims, we mean that we don’t have to argue for them. We are right about this. Eating bugs disgusts us, we consider it degraded, and no utilitarian argument can convince us to degrade ourselves.
That is an example of a healthy prejudice, a vital prejudice, one which defends us against the global campaign to bleed us dry in the name of efficiency. Reflecting in his more mature years on why his Birth of Tragedy had struck such a nerve, Friedrich Nietzsche noted his instinctive reaction against the rise of scientism at the expense of all things natural, vigorous, and human. “Is the resolve to be so scientific about everything perhaps a kind of fear of, an escape from, pessimism? A subtle last resort against—truth?”
Our current oligarchy—our Bill Gateses, our Klaus Schwabs, our bug-eating Davoisie—are grey and withered descendants of those cold rationalists Nietzsche deplored, those men without chests C.S. Lewis warned about. If you insist on cherishing your native land and ways of life, they will rebuke you with zealous fury. They will associate you with all the worst atrocities of history, call you names no decent man or woman should stand to be called.
But by that very indignation, they give the game away: our scientific clerisy is not here to help you. They are here to cleanse you of your sin by cutting out your soul. If you let them, they will guilt you into abandoning everything you know in your heart to be true, even if you cannot say why you know. There is another way. “Instead of casting away all our old prejudices,” wrote Edmund Burke of the English, “we cherish them to a very considerable degree...and the longer they have lasted, the more generally they have prevailed, the more we cherish them.” Americans, patriots: let us do likewise.