July 20, 2021

"The political philosopher Isaiah Berlin turned an obscure fragment by the ancient Greek poet Archilochus ('The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing') into..."

"... an intellectual’s cocktail-party game.... Karl Marx was a supreme hedgehog: Everything, for him, was about the conflict of economic classes. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a restlessly improvising fox. The world’s hedgehog population tends to expand in times of stress and change. Lately it has exploded in the U.S. Hedgehogs are thick on the ground, all of them advancing One Big Thing or another—each peering through the lens of a particular obsession. At the moment, the biggest One Big Thing is race—the key, it seems, to all of America, to the innermost meanings of the country and its history....  Beware a hedgehog claiming the immunities of an innocent victim. Beware when victimhood is his One Big Thing. The victim wants revenge, and who is more justified in committing any crime or injustice than a blameless victim acting in historic retaliation? Virtue, feeling vengeful and tasting power, grows manic—dogmatic, dangerous. Critical race theory ends by fostering the evil it professes to combat—racism and the hatred that comes with it. 'Those to whom evil is done, do evil in return,' W.H. Auden wrote. The 20th century taught the lesson over and over again, but it seems to be wasted on the 21st."

 From "The Hedgehogs of Critical Race Theory/They start with important truths—slavery was wicked—and get carried away into monomania," by Lance Morrow, who is a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center (WSJ).


Ann Althouse said...

Nancy writes:

"The first time I remember hearing of the fox and hedgehog was in this scene — "https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhYyGy6t9ko"

Ann Althouse said...

Temujin writes:

"This was a very well thought-out and worded column by Mr. Morrow. I think he verbalized what many see and feel, but cannot express as clearly, and put it into the large context that he provided. We've seen this sort of mania before. And nothing makes one slap their forehead in frustration as watching the worst of our histories rise up again, within the lifespan of a single generation. As if we've learned nothing. Mr. Morrow's line, "Americans need to desanctify the subject of race—to mute its claims, which have grown absolutist and, as it were, theological in their thoroughness, their dogmatism.", seems to me essential. There are those for whom the idea and topic of race is everything. It has been sanctified. It is now a multi-billion dollar industry. So it's been more than sanctified, it's been monetized. It is the hedgehog's calling card. It is the finger to accuse you, the club to beat over your head, the button used to turn you off, and the key to locking you away.

"Except that the hedgehogs have not thought out what happens at the end. What is the endgame of today's hedgehog? What do they actually want? And when will they know when they are finished?

"They won't. They don't have an endgame. To the hedgehog, the game is the end, it is everything."