What is a person? What is a statement, a critique, an opinion? What is the value of a very loud and egotistical person screaming about a petty injustice? What is the weight of a modest and self-effacing person’s quiet sober testimony? What is a theory, what is proof? Most of all – what sort of ideas are so powerful and fantastic that they are worth hurting real individual people over?
There was a time, many decades ago now, when I would have confidently said the left understood that extreme thinking was always unfair – because it pretended there was just one single model of human goodness, and all other approaches were heresies, even where well intended – or proven effective. It was also commonly understood that such extreme judgement orthodoxies were unkind, because by narrowing the good to one single model, mediated by a power hierarchy or priesthood, all sorts of bullying and social injustice could be created, and then frozen in place forever. Opportunities awarded only on the basis of team, instead of character and contribution.
Tragically, there is no longer any appetite on the left to stand up for basic respect. The more closely popular thought takes on the persecuting tone of the Spanish Inquisition, probing endlessly for sin, the more the old traditional leftist allies, the hedonists, shake their heads and walk away, and the free spirits too – for reasons of even deeper principle. The left used to be the fun and funny side, welcoming everyone – with a huge advantage in creativity and expression – mostly because artistic work does a rough personality sort on the way in. Imaginators tend not to be overly persnickety.
The thing is – the fundamental philosophies and ideas of the left are suffering now, because they are being associated with people who think the act of criticizing others, makes them more virtuous – another behaviour the left used to ridicule widely. Being good makes you good, being nice makes you nice. Finding fault with other humans and then attacking them for it – mostly makes you crazy.
Should it seem unclear to anyone – I am still a firm believer in ending war, in education dignity and health care for everyone, in breaking up the monopolies which stifle the benefits of genuine market activity, and also in restraining government from any invasive control which is not clearly helpful.
I don’t think business or government are sacred – they are both structures of human organization – the idea is to use each sensibly, for what it can do well – and to end the gravy train of ridiculous subsidies which monopolist corporations have been extracting from citizens for the last century or so. We keep criticizing our politics as if it is what it says it is – perhaps we should really try it just for once – without all the monopolist scams and corruption gumming up the works – before we throw up our hands, declare western civilization a lost cause and burn the whole thing down.
I don’t believe all men are evil, or all white people are evil – and I don’t think that stuff just because I am a white man. People are even more different than ideas – we’ve all noticed and know this. The labels which so many now pretend describe us most importantly, tell me absolutely nothing of any use whatsoever. I mean literally zero, I would know a lot more about a person with a list of their top five favourite books movies and pieces of music. Birth-nation? Colour? Social Class? That’s the external vehicle their spirit is riding around in – but honestly, I’ve always thought cars were super boring – what I’m interested in is the driver.
This is not to say that people don’t ever experience things as groups – they most certainly do – but that isn’t the whole of the story for anyone, and our differences in that category don’t put us miles apart separated by concrete, we’ve been living right next door for years, and the walls are paper.
Long past time for us to put down these high-noon megaphones and begin to whisper-share our midnight dreams instead.