Monday, 13 February 2017

A bad person asks what's so funny 'bout peace, love and understanding?

Intolerant, judgemental, excluding, bigoted, closed-minded, sneering, insulting, rude, divisive, ignorant, aggressive and downright offensive. Shallow, unpleasantly personal, condemnatory, bullying and, sad to report, violent.

These are the sorts of words that spring into my mind when I consider our politics right now. I guess that, what with Donald Trump in the White House, Brexit and the rise of populism across Europe this is how many of you - especially the left wing ones - feel too. What you don't realise is that it's you I'm talking about. I'm fed up with the narrow, bitter little world that you inhabit and the manner in which you think anyone prepared to consider other opinions, ideas from the right, is essentially a bad person.

I've known I was a bad person for a long while. It's not just that I think capitalism is brilliant, empowering and liberating. No it's a wider conservative agenda - the bits about rejecting the world of equalities top trumps created by left-wing group think. It's about thinking that we should take people as individuals - in the round.

I know a bloke. Have a drink with him now and then. We'll call him Steve. He's a racist. And I've told him this loads of times. But I know he also fusses over elderly neighbours and will go out of his way to help someone hurt or stranded. I've seen him do this. So tell me, am I to reject him because he's a racist? Or should I mention his sin to him and continue to see the good that he does? Truth is it's better I hear his argument, engage with his concerns, than simply walk away.

But then I'm a bad person. I don't agree with your left-wing agenda. Take abortion - for sure I'm not opposed to it. But I do think it's a damned sight more complicated than the simple slogan 'women's right to choose' tells us. Yet people who don't agree with you about abortion - terrible people. Bad people. You know something? I want to hear those people, to treat what they say with respect.

A couple of days ago this gay, journalist 'came out' as a conservative. Now I appreciate that this is the USA where there's an enormous liberal temper tantrum going on but this little quote sums up for me the problem the left has with the idea that people don't all accept their worldview.
Frostiness spread far beyond the bar, too. My best friend, with whom I typically hung out multiple times per week, was suddenly perpetually unavailable. Finally, on Christmas Eve, he sent me a long text, calling me a monster, asking where my heart and soul went, and saying that all our other friends are laughing at me.

I realized that, for the first time in my adult life, I was outside of the liberal bubble and looking in. What I saw was ugly, lock step, incurious and mean-spirited.
The left wing commenters I read seem to speak a lot about values - how politics should be value-driven and how we should all fight to defend their values. Yet, these are values that think it's OK to ostracise someone from a community because he wrote an interview with someone right-wing? Think I'm exaggerating? Here's a chunk from a riposte to that gay journalist by another gay journalist:
Gay conservatives aren’t welcome in gay spaces because the people they support are an existential threat to our rights and our community. After all, queer spaces (such as bars, bathhouses, community centres, and even bookstores) were founded and instrumental in radical sexual politics and political engagement. You can’t divorce that from the social aspect, because doing so would deny the history of our community and the present reality of so many vulnerable LGBT people.
You're not allowed to be in the gay community if you're not left-wing.

For a while I worked for a voluntary organisation in Oldham. I never made a secret of my politics if anyone asked but I never brought those politics to work. I did my job, talked about all the other things in life but left political debate on the doorstep. This was hard because one or two colleagues with robust left-wing views were always ready to loudly proclaim their opinions (including in front of me, saying that conservatives are all ignorant, racist bigots).

You, my left wing friends, really must stop this (and I apologise at this point for the left wing friends who've already stopped). Not just because I'm telling you it's not very nice but because this attitude is destroying your parties and political prospects.

This chart, from Political Betting's Mike Smithson, shows that Labour is in third place among C2DE voters. Take a second to absorb this fact. This is, if you want a definition of it, is the 'working class'. Now ask yourself why? I know your response - the media, Brexit lies, racism, bigotry. Every single time this is the explanation from the left.

Perhaps you want to take a step back and consider whether it's actually your outlook and values that are doing the damage. That friend of mine, Steve. He's a Labour voter (except he's not any more). And there are loads more like him. Inadvertently, Paul Mason, left-wing former BBC journalist captured the dominant left wing view of people like Steve:
“They’re not working class Tories… most of the UKIP people are either people who haven’t voted or have flipped in a radical way from Labour. They are toe-rags, basically. They are the bloke who nicks your bike.”
The search for understanding of these voters stops once you've satisfied yourself that they hold views you consider unsavoury such as wanting fewer immigrants, worrying about Islamist terrorism, supporting the armed forces, liking grammar schools, backing tough penalties for criminals, thinking the international aid budget is too big, believing that lots of people on benefits are essentially scroungers. I could go on but you get my gist.

All of these unsavoury views have a sensible, considered policy response that, when people hear it, gets them to to nod - even if thy don't always leap enthusiastically to support that policy response. Right now these people are voting for right-wing' parties because those parties do at least seem to have half an ear for the things that are bothering folk. What's the left's response? Mostly it's to call them racist, homophobic, misogynist bigots. Or, for the more considered, to mutter about 'dark forces' and genies being out of bottles followed by arch references to the 1930s. That and calls for violence.

But then, I'm a bad person. A conservative. I probably don't share some of your values. I certainly reject the idea that we are defined by the groups you've placed us in - it really is possible to be a gay conservative or a black libertarian. Such people are not weirdos, strangely deluded folk who probably need a re-education camp (and who we should surely ostracise before their unsavoury views contaminate our caring liberal places). You, my left wing friends, have a long way to go - you've allowed this to happen:
Ranking institutions as either red, amber, or green in terms of how restrictive they are, the survey of 115 universities found that 108 – when taking university administration and students’ unions as a whole – censor or chill free speech to some degree. Some 73 were assessed as red, 35 were amber, and only seven were green, meaning that as far as Spiked was aware, they placed no restrictions on free speech and expression – other than where it was unlawful.
Red means that the university - often under pressure from left-wing student activists - has "banned and actively censored ideas on campus". And trust me on this one - no left wing ideas have been banned not even the most extreme of communist apologists for historic genocide and current oppression. Indeed some of these lovely folk are the very activists campaigning for restrictions on free speech.

The bitter, snarky, judging and excluding way in which much of the left behave - not just the extremes but people who'd consider themselves moderate - suggests that it is having something of a crisis. Now I know there remain open, engaging and thoughtful left-wing folk out there and I feel for them. But what I don't see is that openness to a diversity of ideas that once was the hallmark of modern liberalism. Those hippy values - peace, love and understanding - have vanished, replaced with a unwavering and judging creed founded in groupthink and the rejection of free speech.



Anonymous said...

It wasn't 'hippy values' that informed previous times, it was just as it is today. In 1974 at University a fellow student communist activist exclaimed that he wanted to find out who in the Department were members of the Federation of Conservative Students and go to the car park and damage their cars! ' very adult ' I thought (being neither a member or owning a car). There were hoards of people like him around too. These were just the same type of people then as we have to 'encounter' today.

Lisboeta said...

True. But there seem to be a lot more of them around now. All yelling slogans, trying to drown out everything but the sound of their own voices.