I believed so many things when I was younger, and like a sizable part of my generation I was fed unending amounts of “the right thing to believe in”. I didn’t really think of it that way at the time, I was too naive, but actually it was that same old game. Probably the two most consistently pressed streams were feminism and leftism where I was. The first demos I went on as a kid were abortion rights demos (and I’d go on them again). The left still had some alternative shine left from 1968, and there were lots of the faithful doing the equivalent of Mormon outreach. If you grew up in the 1960s and 70s you didn’t need much explaining about how oppressive gender norms were; you were already trying to get away from them, and pulling anybody else out along the way was just a great thing to do. A lot of different people had common cause, which was I think part of the upheaval of the 50s – 70s, a really genuine influx of a different consciousness.
I really believed in equality and I still do. I experienced it as a living, self-evident principle, and an enormously powerful and liberating one. It was a really slow and painful lesson to find that so many of those who proclaimed it didn’t believe in it at all, but were just running a campaign for their own interests, their program, their ideology. And theirs was a strategy that found mainstream acceptance. Not so surprising really, because disingenuous ideals in the service of “me and mine” is pretty much the stuff of politics. Not that people don’t achieve things through politics (it’s part and parcel of our social organization), but when we say “everyone despises politics”, we do mean almost everyone, and we’d be arrogant to think that they didn’t have a reason to.
This is why we have this whole thing about political correctness, which everyone knows is crap, but which no one can refute without being portrayed as a “reactionary”. And that is part of the group think too. You’re either with us, or you’re against us. You’re either part of my program and my belief system, or you’re part of the problem. It’s an engineered polarization which we should recognize from fundamentalist religion. What people call “political correctness” is a million miles from liberation. It is not the change of heart. It is not the profound question. It is not the emergence of a human reality. It’s not genuine realization. It’s not equality. It’s part of someone’s program, a calculated strategy, and usually plied with guilt, moralism and coercion. This isn’t the consciousness of a freedom fighter, it’s the consciousness of a bureaucrat. And people can tell the difference. People don’t reject “political correctness” (and we do need a new term here) because they are reactionary. They reject it because they aren’t stupid. Even if I was talking about something I wanted to bring about passionately, for reasons and ideals which I considered completely evident and just, feeding it to that bureaucratic, disingenuous, cowardly consciousness would turn it into a pile of dung. Sure it runs, like a dinosaur, but that isn’t what I meant when I said I wanted change. Uncool as it may be, I feel like I still have some principles.
I have a lot of time for the fundamental questions and stated ideals of “the left”, but save me from leftists that just want conversion to their program. I believe passionately in the equality of all people irrespective of sex or gender, but I’ve met and seen enough feminists that proved to be dishonest and calculatedly opposed to equality, to know that most do not share that belief when it comes to the crunch. Sorry folks, been there, and the credit is burnt.
Maybe it is a question of form and essence, I don’t know. If equality is the informing principle, or if it’s a particular form of inequality, leading to a loss of original principle. The gung-ho, “no bullshit”, frankly materialist popularization of Marxist principles in various subcultures probably has a deal to answer for there. Far as I can see, the moral got lost a lot of places, and moral incoherence sells like hot cookies, whether it’s dished up as resources, or as absolution from what you said you believed in. Ends get to justify means, and the ends get changed, and so long as you keep throwing out the right fears, accusations and angers, no one gonna know the difference.
I believe in equality and civil rights, and that’s what I mean, and I hope what I mean is what I say and what I do. I can’t change the whole freakin world, and no one else is either. That doesn’t mean the world doesn’t need changing, it clearly does. But what I can change, I can try and be honest about, to the best of my ability.December 2012 – I made a correction to one sentence (ends and means), though people probably got what I meant anyway.