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 Brent Bednarik is a former Army Officer with two deployments in Afghanistan. After that he worked at one of the Big Four accounting firms in Manhattan, and is currently an entrepreneur in the tech start up space. Brent and I have been corresponding about what I like to call the new religion of Wokesterism, which has emanated from the university campuses and is finding a beach-head in corporate life. Brent is interested in what he considers a consciousness shift happening in western societies, and speaks to business owners and c-suite executives about these impending changes and the challenges they’ll face.

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

11 Responses to “KunstlerCast 313 — Chatting with Brent Bednarik about Social Justice in the Corporate Workplace”

  1. Mr Bednarick:

    35:45 “I listen to a lot of my contemporaries… talk about climate change and ecological disaster…”

    “…They talk about greenhouse gas emissions and how polluting we are, at the same time, heating and cooling their house, to maintain the optimal temperature and driving their cars wherever they want to go… there is a huge cognitive dissonance, amongst this upcoming generation, they want change, but they’re not willing to pay any price for it…”

    “…To me, its just simple math…. (basically) there is no basis in reality right now, in how to move forward. They’re upset about it. And now they’re looking for anything they can be outraged about, and for whatever reason, they grabbed onto this social engineering, this identity politics thing, which… I don’t see any long term benefits, how this is going to create the society they’re looking for, with all the different problems….”

    Well, this is just one big Straw-man argument, a global ad-hominem. To be fair, the question was sloppy, asking the interview subject to bridge one conjecture with another with whatever conflation happens to be at hand. The answer assumes much about such a conflation. Maybe there isn’t one. But assuming there is…Mr. Bednarick doesn’t seem authoritative in his impressions, in part because they amount to nothing but rambling speculation involving spurious psychological diagnoses and outright admissions of ignorance as to the motives and understanding of his subjects.

    People that run their A/C and heat their homes can also prefer that we move to a carbon-free economy. There is no inconsistency in being a hypocrite, or even ignorant, and promoting industrial or technological solutions to climate change and ecological damage. You could be flying aboard a 737 going around the world and hold the opinion that flying is a very wasteful activity. You can wear stripes and proffer that polka-dots are the most flattering pattern.

    In short, a marker of an argument’s intellectual deficiency is confusing your own straw-man ad hominem for the factual basis of a claim. It doesn’t matter WHO said it, or what their credentials are. Claims must be evaluated separately from the claimants.

    This man’s experience with social justice movements among college campuses is, to me, suspect. When does the Master’s degree program for MBA’s mingle with those other so-called ‘social justice’ disciplines? Practically never. I guarantee it. At best there are extracurriculars, or general campus activities.

    The topic of Environmental Science has nothing to do with Social Justice concerns, except where they intersect with respect to the latter, for example, the predominance of polluting industries in lower-income, class and race segregated areas. I repeat, these issues are not co-mingled in the discourse of social justice on a routine. They are separate and only conflated by a general a vague association one usually finds in respect to stereotypical demarcations of “Left” and “Right”, “Liberal” and “conservative” political orthodoxy.

    To JHK’s point, though, the existential angst and stress of climate change does bleed into every other activity in modern life.

    Young people, perhaps in an attempt to remedy injustice, find a more proximal and easier stressor to work out their instinct to fix things. Social issues involve the changing of minds on a person-to-person basis, where all that really needs to switch to produce a victory is a verbal argument. This is quite different from, say, wrangling up all the stray Perfluoroacetooctanoic Acid (PFOA) in the environment and litigating, persecuting, and shutting down a well-capitalized, worldwide cabal of corporations and nation-state actors, while a poisoned and mystified public determines to stay unaware.

    Young people, as JHK points out, grow up in a pervasive environment of dishonesty. There are objective causes and evidence of widespread environmental harm, and yet, can we blame a young adult for being confused, when they have to hold these obvious damages in mind, while at the same time, being instructed to emulate and obey their adult role models who routinely violate every ethical precept of sacrifice and honesty in their day-to-day lifestyle choices? College is a time in which a lifetime of social mal-engineering is finally allowed to dissolve. The outcome of this is predictably traumatic. Kids today are entitled to being treated for the PTSD they’ve endured. They might need safe spaces, because the adults that form the cult (culture) of society DO in fact want to wrangle them and kick them until they submit. The function of primary education and socialization is in fact a form of brainwashing. A dominant feature of the culture is a maintenance of this ideological dominance.

    Mr. Bednarick typifies this with sweeping straw man arguments alleging the bad faith and ignorance of anyone purporting to support an environmental ethos. He’s fundamentally suspicious of activism and idealism, in general. He’s still in the FOB, this time, at the frontier of corporate America. He admits being completely unable to manage Millennials, and this incompetence passes for expertise, for some reason.

    As for the policy prescriptions of an environmental and economic solution to peak oil, electrification makes tons of sense. One, because vehicles are distributed point-sources of pollution. Eliminating these makes our communities healthier. Two, locating primary energy production at power plants makes it much more cost-effective to regulate. Three, concentration on electric as primary delivery technology means efforts in raising efficiency technology can be better leveraged. Four, potential gains in efficiency can be much higher, with electric end-uses having a simpler physical pathway to performing work (fewer moving parts, eliminating chemical processes).

    Lastly, I paraphrase Dylan, (I think) when I say the Kids are alright- but not that they aren’t damaged or are stressed or in some sense unable to cope. The idea that it is their responsibility to save us is as absurd as the idea they should be in possession of all the virtue and all the means to be supernaturally consistent in their words and deeds. Their problems are our problems. Inasmuch as we are their problems, I don’t think we gain anything by judgment and diagnosis, and instead, should simply maintain an effort to have honest discourse in good faith.

    The Universities are a mess for a lot of structural reasons having little to do with the quality of the transitory species in that environment- students- and have more to do with the permanent classes- faculty and administration, unelected boards, and other apparatchiks like politicians- in terms of Mr Bednarick’s analysis, another insidious factor is corporations and society. His prescription for applying a doctrine of a quantitative metric to admissions decisions is precisely a species of this type of invasive colonization of Academia by its opposite- society at large, in particular, economic and political influence.

    The system of education is breaking down because “Money” invaded and influenced Academia. The proper role of Academia in classical liberal society is separate- an arena where knowledge, not money, is the ultimate arbiter.

    It should have been protected from this, but the assault was continuous and the erosion extreme, now, to the point where Colleges have become a kind of sweatshop, where corporations outsource their training debt, and filled with careerist pseudo-intellectuals.

    It must all seem perfectly absurd for an MBA graduate happily ensconced in vacuous corporate setting… the function of academia, for them, was a footstool to making cash in a self-interested effort to achieve rational self-interest and prestige in a society that values little else. But the fact is that most normal human beings have broader, more inclusive needs for intellectual and moral engagement, not just in supporting ancillary business functions of an economy, but with respect to questions like, what is a good life? What is my self-worth? What is a society for? What can I contribute? How can I help? What is real? How can I learn to think? Deep shit, in other words.

    The fruit of functional Academia is philosophical: the realm of questions, claims, arguments, and ideas, and not churning out corporate functionaries. Harvard puts a hard limit on Violin-playing, Calculus-ravaging Asians not because they aren’t qualified. They do it for less sinister reasons: because a student body is enriched with a few poor kids with not so great grades that grew up in a crack house and yet writes great poetry. There is, in these deliberations, a sense that diverse accommodation that would be obliterated in a reductionist program of quantification. And yes, it has its own problems, if you consider George W. Bush at Yale and the children of rich alumni having some preference. There will always be a danger, though, for a society to intrude in the prerogatives of Academia in this regard.

    • shabbaranks February 27, 2019 at 12:47 am #

      Perhaps you can boil your complaint about Jim’s guest down to a couple of salient points. You lost me at the claims of both “straw-man” and “ad hominem.” Yada yada yada……

  2. Walter B February 27, 2019 at 12:24 pm #

    Thank you James! I enjoyed hearing from someone that has seen the problem and is taking corrective action to fight it. I hear that less than 1% of Americans serve in the military and if this is true it would go a long way to explain how things have decayed so badly in our society. I am not talking about the fighting and warring that goes on, but the education that a person is given in dealing with the issues of real world, learning at least a little bit of discipline, and acquiring the motivation to do something about what is wrong.

    I think that there is no doubt that now that they have fought their way into the men’s workplace, many women have realized that it is more of a torture than a party. Every man I have ever worked with in the private sector was competing against me for raises, promotion, and for getting ahead and leaving me behind. It is NOT a friendly place at all and most of us never get any trophies.

    Both Brent and you clearly understand that far too many college administrations have sold out for paychecks and pensions, and that bullying, as much as it may be denounced today, is even more rampant that it ever was at every level.

    Unfortunately as Brent said at the end, we are probably far removed from the day when America is going to get off of it’s hairy ass and take any corrective action because we do indeed have far too much to lose. Fat and happy never resists oppression. The people must get cold and hungry before they grow enough spine to act out. That may never happen here. TPTB understand this and as long as they feed them well, nothing will change, things will only degrade.

  3. 100th Avatar February 27, 2019 at 12:46 pm #

    Why don’t we protest?
    Where do we go? The subdivision collector road to the Kohl’s & Target strip ranch?

    When there is no civic center, there is no civics.
    In Europe you come down from your flat or stroll into village center.

    Also, a friend who was an agency deputy had to call in a handful of millennials to explain to them if they don’t do their job they get fired.

    He never had to do that before in his career.
    Needless to say, he has since taken a pre-retirement sinecure in the swamp to ESCAPE the insanity
    We are doomed. Rightfully

  4. Canuckster February 28, 2019 at 10:29 am #

    Hi all, this is my first time commenting on the Kunstlercast, although I’ve been listening to it since the height of Matt Simmons’ influence, when Duncan Crary was cohost!
    Allow me to first express my gratitude, Jim, for your years of eloquent and insightful writing and speaking about subjects of great importance to us.
    I’m writing today to clarify one particular point in the interview with Mr. Bednarik, which was discussed starting around 29:00 into the podcast. The conversation touched on Canadian professor Jordan Peterson and Bill C-16, and Peterson’s public protest regarding ‘compelled speech’ in the form of gender-neutral pronouns. Most of us are familiar with his claims on the matter, but what you might not be aware of is that the actual language had already existed in the Ontario Human Rights Code, and is outlined in publications of the Human Rights Commission of that Province.
    In other words, there was no legal change covering that topic, as it relates directly to Dr. Peterson.
    This is important when assessing the competence of Peterson’s claims that he might be jailed for refusing to address students by their preferred pronouns. Not only has nothing like this happened under Ontario HRC, but I don’t think there is a qualified Canadian legal expert who agrees with Dr. Peterson on that point.
    It should be noted that Dr Peterson is not a legal scholar, nor legal expert, and personally I found some of his rhetoric to be irresponsible and inflammatory. Bill C-16, it appears, simply added gender identity to a list of already existing human rights protections in Canadian Law; in terms of criminal offences under the law, the legal tests are pretty high – you’d have to reach the level of hate speech to meet the test.
    The HRC tribunal can’t criminally prosecute anybody, they apparently are only able to assess whether a claim of discrimination etc.. is valid, and they can recommend various remedies.

    If Dr. Peterson had only taken some competent legal advice before making public statements, I think the outcome would have been quite different. Ironically, he would have been much less famous and wealthy, in all probability.
    Here’s a link to a fairly good article about it, but of course you can read more legal opinions via The Google. Cheers


  5. doggersize March 4, 2019 at 10:35 am #

    lower class woman have worked industrial jobs for as long as there has been industry.

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  6. lateStarter March 8, 2019 at 4:11 pm #

    Great conversation. Unfortunately, when the next big economic downturn occurs and hangs around for a while, I forsee a lot of these SJW types getting lined up against a wall and shot. I’m not advocating it, but people will need their scapegoats. What have we come to?

    We have been brought into the present condition in which we are unable neither to tolerate the evils from which we suffer, nor the remedies we need to cure them. – Livy


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