This is just so eloquent and heartfelt:
This is just so eloquent and heartfelt:
I was saying to a friend of mine just the other day that the moral hysteria of the so called “liberal” Left was getting to the point where some of these people will actually become dangerous. Their catastrophe ridden, dark fantasizing is getting to look like a cartoon scripted by a tweaker, with a copy of The Communist Manifesto as their entire historical compass.
Hitler is coming, fascism is coming, America is now run by white supremacists, and Europe is about to succumb to its own 4th Reich (presumably run by Trump, Putin, or both, in collusion with the KKK), and all this is linked to hate speech, hate crime, and a million little fascist acts of everyday life that Hilary Clinton, or a strong EU, would have saved us from. Our betters have deserted us, deposed by a Cthulhu like body politic, and the only answer is to fight or die, protest or disappear, sloganise and demand. Yaaaar!! They just can’t even.
It’s a familiar mechanism to anyone who remembers the countercultural Left of the 70s. There are “revolutionaries” and “fascists”, and if you are on the side of good then you are a revolutionary, and gotta smash the fascists. The difference is that now the Left has decayed the popular conception of Social Liberalism to the point where it is an illiberal concern with collective identity, entitlement and guilt, fused with Leftism to produce a Frankenstein of socially compulsive agitprop, offence taking and demanded retribution in the name of a greater good.
But the goods were meant to be delivered in this revolution-by-other-means by the bad guys being forced to change everything in accordance with your demanded vision. The prototype of this was probably feminism’s “Patriarchy”, that yet was going to fix it all, just because. I mean, who you gonna call? It was looking like quite a brave new world for a while there, if you focused on the internet especially. This post-modern Leftism, in Liberalism’s gutted sheep skin, had become highly influential in the media and academia, and a good deal of social policy making.
But it all hinged on a few things. Number one was that the bad guys would cave in to your demands and stay on their knees. Closely linked to number two, that some kind of popular mandate, or at least acquiescence, could be secured for carrying this out, if not by sincere agreement, then by shame and invalidation.
And these things haven’t gone as planned in Britain and America (if expressed in somewhat different ways), and don’t look like they are going to last that long in the rest of Europe either. The cult of the “Liberal-Left” did not take account of democracy, and it failed because it actually isn’t that democratic in temperament, and being driven by the Left, it had no intention of being Liberal in the Classical sense of the word (valuing individual liberty, freedom of speech etc). This was a liberalism that sneered at the Enlightenment. The election of Donald Trump as President was it seems the unthinkable refutation of this project.
But this was a failure of the central praxis of this kind of Leftism. Daddy being shamed into remaking the world for you was the key. And now, not only is Daddy not doing it, but he seems to have other children, who moreover don’t hate him. Big trouble up in the tree house.
You can tell how serious this is for the modern Left by the hysterical reaction, first to Brexit, but more especially to the US election. Flailing, largely incoherent protest. Mad predictions of the return of Hitler. The demonization of enormous sections of the voting public. Nazis everywhere!
The media, being so wedded to the “liberal” (cough) project, have largely shown the kind of partiality you would almost expect from a State controlled media. The contempt for those who didn’t vote as they were told to has been sustained and palpable. And it just confirms what those voters knew already. It tells them that for their money, they voted correctly. You can call people fascists, racists, xenophobes and nazis, but when you are talking to the people themselves it doesn’t work, because they know that they aren’t.
Sections of the Left though have reverted to true form, as the sheep skin slips off. In terms of the hard left, and Marxist ideology, violence is inevitable, necessary and more than justified. And the liberal media are scrambling to try and reintegrate this shift into a justifiable narrative, while the ground work has already been laid by the mirage of the “Alt-Right” being banded about. You have a vague, largely misused term like “Alt-Right” to attach to people, or associate them with, and you then associate that with racism, white supremacy, the KKK, Nazism, and with a little zeal and a lot more intellectual slop, the association becomes an equation. Soon, pretty much anyone you can misname Alt-Right is a Nazi, and there’s only one response to Nazis, right?
The latest demonstration of this was at the University of California, Berkeley, where a talk by Milo Yiannopoulos had to be cancelled, and Milo evacuated, after protests turned into a riot with burning and destruction of property, and members of the public physically attacked by masked protesters. The Mayor of Berkley tried to misrepresent Milo as a “white supremacist”, while various media outlets termed the riot a “protest”. The talk was on the subject of “cultural appropriation”. Berkley was the birth place of the campus free speech movement in the 1960s. The irony of using violence to shut down free speech shows how far we have travelled away from those ideals. These are the same kind of people that said they would burn Milo’s book when it was published, because he was a Nazi. Book burners against Nazism. They weren’t even joking.
The thing is, these people can’t accept they have lost, and can’t believe they have lost for any reason other than the mythical forces of oppression. It couldn’t be that enough people are just sick of them. It couldn’t be that they have failed, and lost their way. It couldn’t be their fault. They spend every fibre of their being fighting the gender-binary capitalist patriarchy, the bad man, and everyone knows that it’s all the bad man’s fault. That would be it. Problem solved. Just double down and revert to type. Screaming tantrum or street thug. I hate you dad! They say, with fits of tears, a petition, a pepper spray, a molotov cocktail.
If you’re really upset about Trump or Brexit, or a gay Jewish British provocateur, just do yourself a favour and calm down. The politics of the Left have failed, but that doesn’t mean that all that remains is the Right. Conservatives and Liberals need to talk to each other, because they can learn from each other, and whether people like it or not, conservatives have more respect for real Liberal values than either the Left, or what passes for liberalism is places like Hollywood. It’s just a fact.
I think we need Liberalism to return, but as Classical Liberalism. And we need to have real respect again for ordinary people, as well as all us freaks and weirdos. You can do that, when you deal with individuals rather than collectives and collective identities.
But people are going to have to take a step back from all this Nazi hunting bullshit, because it is just the rotting carcass of failed Leftism. And if people want to drag that around, well guess who’ll still be President in 2021.
And if you’re not going nuts about Trump and Brexit, or Milo, whether you are for or against them, well done. Hang on in there. Just remember, you are actually the vast majority of people in Britain and America, and we still have democracies.
I had hoped that the US presidential inauguration would be something of a cathartic release. You know, get it done, get over it, get on with things. People finally accept who won the election (by the absolutely standard rules of every US election), who’s President, and work with it. No more crying and bleating and hysterics. Boy was I wrong.
I watched the oath taking on TV, and listened to the beginning of Trump’s speech, which seemed pretty good to me. Standing by the ignored and culturally dispossessed, focusing on America, the blue collar reviled, standing by your local people rather than the big global game.
But even before he became President, and before he had done anything, the Left were protesting. Protesting what? Protesting that it was him. Protesting that they lost (again).
But the ferocity, the desperation, the irrationality soon became noteworthy. And the media reported it as if it were some kind of legitimate protest at a something, rather than the ideologically driven tantrum that it was. Within 12 hours of the inauguration there were riots. And if you listened to social media, you would think that a bona fide fascist had seized power, and death squads were imminent, rather than the peaceful transfer of power to a newly elected President.
Rather than accept reality and get ready to work with him, criticise him, hold him to account, once you saw what he was actually going to do, there was just a scream of fury and denial. “Not my President!”. Oh really?
Everything seemed to be being thrown about to try and delegitimize the election.
And then there was the Women’s March. For what? For “women” I guess, though woe betide you if you weren’t the right kind of woman with the right kind of politics or collective identity. Really, it was just against Trump. He dared to insult their feelings (and he did not “boast about sexual assault”, so just STFU about that lie please), and he was elected, including by women. Unforgivable. More lemmings. More sheep with a mission.
There are plenty of things to be concerned about the Trump administration, plenty of things to work on, hold him to, and quite possibly protest if they happen, but most usefully, to explain why they are unwise or destructive or unfair, if they are. But what we have seen is the howling face of the Left in denial, and illiberal “liberals” who can’t believe that their gospel didn’t play out as planned. And if this howling and denial continues, with the idiotic riots, and the headless marches of the righteous, and the misrepresentations of the media, well get ready for eight years of this, because Trump got elected for a reason, and these screeching, media beloved hang-overs of baby boomer politics are an illustration of why the Left will fail again, unless it starts listening to people and their concerns, rather than their own plans, and causes, and collectivist obsessions with identity and shame.
I’ll admit that I’m shocked that the denial of reality was this deep rooted, this stupid, and this desperate. But then there really are people who think Trump is a fascist, and everyone you disagree with is Hitler, and a white supremacist, and on they march to the eventual glorious new dawn. Just a little bit of projection going on there, maybe.
I think it might be time to ease off on the politics a bit for the blog, as it just gets too negative and draining in some ways. Not that it isn’t necessary sometimes, but analysing mass-spectacles does end up tiring, even if things like the shearing apart of the populace and the old media and political classes are interesting.
In fact a great deal of what has happened recently has some astrological backdrop. In part it is the drawn out end of the Uranus-Pluto square, but it has also been the Saturn-Neptune square which has just disengaged, which is an aspect of mass disillusion (and there has been a lot of disillusion). Political institutions are seen as corrupt, ineffective and unaccountable. The media is seen to be lying and peddling a kind of glamour that is out of touch with reality. We’ve had the migrant crisis, Islamist terrorism, a turning against the EU, and the weirdest US election I can remember. Waters (Neptune in Pisces) without a map (square Saturn in Sagittarius). People want authenticity (Uranus in Aries) rather than established power (square Pluto in Capricorn), and disentangling the effects of the original Uranus-Pluto conjunction of the mid 60s can surprise with exactly what is what. Threats and supposed discrediting of reputation, or calling on the moral clichés of 4 decades, aren’t working to control people’s choices, and that also makes astrological sense in fact.
The Saturn-Neptune square is essentially over now though, and the Saturn aspect that now takes over is a trine to Uranus. This is a progressive (in the real sense), workable, reconstructive aspect, and deals in answers that work, ideals that can be made concrete. It’s good news for a good deal of the rest of Saturn in Sagittarius, and for the end of the Uranus-Pluto square.
So maybe this is a good time to drop some of the politics (not promising mind you), and focus on the important stuff of our lives.
It was difficult to not notice the wave of political moralism mounting on the internet over the last half decade or so. Even when you agreed with the basic concerns being articulated, you felt like there was an unreflective process going on here, and one where the pressure of shame and approved consensus was applied to try and modify behaviour, or exact punishment; not in response to the breaking of the law, but in response to people voicing the “wrong” opinions. Whether it was supposed “hate speech”, or the refusal to bake cakes for people, or wearing a supposedly “sexist” shirt, or the publishing of an article that criticised a “protected” group, or failed to deal with an issue “sensitively”, or just offending a sacred cow sensibility – the twitter hoards would descend, the online petitions would demand sackings, and sometimes people did get sacked, or felt obliged to make public apologies, like something out of Mao’s cultural revolution, making public amends for their thought crimes.
In typical fashion, the internet seemed to have catalysed and over heated this process, but it had been going on in different ways for decades. It came with the rise of the “New Left” of yesteryear, with feminism and identity politics, and with the decay of “revolution” into opinion creation and the influencing of behaviour, a kind of moral re-education; not in the tradition of ethics, but of the sins and virtues of oppression and victimhood. A kind of pseudo-Marxist social scheme, but one where the oppressed are saved not by themselves and their agency, but by a censuring and controlling authority. And all of this couched, not in terms of the individual, or the universal person, but seen through the lens of a kind of collectivism. Not who you were, but what you were. Enacted increasingly through the media, academia and policy making.
It’s funny looking back on this, though not amusing after all this time. The Left held enormous intellectual sway over parts of my generation, and over whole swathes of the intelligentsia during the 20th century. The moral failure of Soviet communism in the face of Stalinist totalitarianism was I think part of what led to the “New Left” (amongst other things) after the rise of the counterculture in the 1960s. It seemed like an answer to the idealism that the old Left had spoken to, an idealism which had come to supplant the idealism of Liberalism in popular youth culture, as being harder nosed, more incisive, and (to not put too fine a point on it) just more glamorous. Add to this mix women’s, black and gay “liberation” (truthfully quite different phenomena) and their place in the media and on TV, tied together with a frankly trippy semi-marxist spawning of ideologies, and you have the starting of identity politics.
There are plenty of dead ends along the way: lesbian separatist communes, anarcho-punks, true believing Trots, psychedelic revolutionaries, West European urban guerillas (remember Baader-Meinhof?), but something here got distilled into a post-modern phenomenon. Not an upsurge, but a dissemination, a lot it seems into the media and academia. Some of this was simply what ideologues gravitate to: ideas, their study and transmission. And some of it dovetailed with an ideology of bringing about change, not through violent conflict (as is necessary for Marxist theory), but still through coercion in effect. Struggle by other means. And I’m not making this up, because I know how we used to think, and sad as it might be, some people old enough to know better still don’t. Baby boomers, I tell ya. Or rather a section of us.
Where this kind of decomposed, virally recooked ideology found its perfect home was in things like feminism and post-modern gender theory it seems, along with “anti-imperialist” analyses of race and culture. Places where it could get from genesis to influence without too much objective examination. The popular expression of this was the arising of political correctness. Naming it as such is of course now viewed as a kind of malevolent tool of the Right, as one thing this frosty, sophistical ideology retained from its ancestry was the division of the world into revolutionaries and counter-revolutionaries, liberators and reactionaries, us and the fascists.
But what this ideology, and its predecessors, has never been able to do, is understand human nature, or speak to the greater number of ordinary people. They would say that this is because human nature is the result of oppressive preconditions which can be changed, and because people need to be educated to be set free. But a far more likely reason is simply that they are wrong. Not morally (which is another discussion), but factually.
What we seem to be seeing recently is the rejection of this entire cultural project, through democratically expressed choice, and the rejection has come not from the machinations of “the Right”, but from the abject failure of the Left. Whether it is Brexit or the election of Donald Trump, political correctness, elitist contempt for large sections of the population, pandering to identity politics and collectivism rather than common humanity and intelligible ethical stances, and smooth, unaccountable globalism have driven people to give their answer. The spell seems to be broken, and well comrade, you done did it yourself.
The response of Left has of course been to double down and characterise those who had the audacity to oppose membership of the political institution of the EU, or the historic sainthood of Hillary Clinton, as racists, xenophobes, misogynists, homo and transphobes and pretty much the irreducible dregs of an old order. There was even the advice to “just not bother” with appealing to white men, and the famous characterisation of “the deplorables”. The Remain campaign in Britain fell into a panic of wounded identity, and quickly rallied into demonstrating their sense of moral superiority. Guardian readers against the approaching Fourth Reich. The response to a democratic mandate to leave the EU was ….. a petition to overturn it. Enough said.
The Left unfortunately cannot see anything other than Left and Right, or if under stress, The Valiant and The Fascists. Thus the need to turn this popular revolt into the work of “white supremacists” and “racists”. Hillary Clinton’s hilarious (mis)identification of the so called Alt-Right has since also given the media (which is still reeling) a way to characterise even people who have explicitly said that they are not part of the Alt-Right as white supremacists, as if you can attach “Alt-Right” to someone, then you can pretend they are part of a vicious fascist movement with inflated numbers, and imaginary unity and organisation.
All this, to avoid the obvious. That you were factually wrong, and people are sick of being told that they are morally wrong, when they haven’t done anything to be ashamed of. That they are sick of being told they have privilege by journalists and academics in luxury condos, and the student children of the rich, when they can’t pay their bills. That when they think, like the vast majority of humanity, that there are two genders, they are called bigots even when they respect someone for going the whole hog and transitioning. That when they see a mad raging queen going off on someone, they have to pretend it’s ok, however much reason they have to rage themselves, if they didn’t have manners and common decency.
It’s all that radicalism you shoved down people’s throats, with all the charm of a cold eyed fish. It’s all the common sense you ignored, because it wasn’t approved. It’s the problems you ignored, because they didn’t make ideological capital.
It’s over, but it probably won’t go without a whole load of drama.
And it’s nothing to do with “the Right”. It’s to do with having forgotten what Liberal actually meant, and why having “enlightenment values” isn’t an insult.
[2nd December 2016 – minor edit to 5th paragraph]
It’s difficult to look at the media, whether social or mainstream, and not see that there is a lot of confusion and projection going on. There is a social and ideological shift happening, and no, it isn’t the rise of fascism.
We’re still being encouraged to think in terms of left versus right, and our social commentators can’t understand what’s happening. The youngsters fed by baby boomer academia and media are panicking, because they’re swallowing the narrative that has ossified into respectability since the 60s. If it’s not Left, it must be Right. If it’s Right Wing, then it’s fascism. If it’s “liberal” it must be Left Wing, otherwise it’s Liberal, and that is Right Wing. Identity politics must be good, because it is for “rights” and left-wing causes. If you are against identity politics, then you must be wanting to take away people’s freedoms. A lot of it in effect has become about what kind of person you are. Cowboy or Indian. Jane Fonda or Hitler. Righteous or irredeemable.
The broad mass of people, while they are certainly manipulable and capable of mob sentiment, have a lot more wisdom than is fashionable to acknowledge. It’s the insight of people who don’t have power, and who aren’t going to care about the etiquette and fear of falling which elites live under, in order to maintain their status and comfort. This doesn’t come from mass feeling, so much as shared individual experience, and there is a difference. Especially when their opinions have no official validation. And I think a broad mass of people in the West have noticed that things don’t add up, that they’re not listened to, and the world as officially presented doesn’t make too much sense. Moreover, the world view that has been imposed on them increasingly is being imposed, through a kind of culture of shame, and a culture of neglect. Political correctness, selective “hate” crime, cyber “violence”, “positive discrimination”, and the vilification of the old working class, and of men in general, have mounted to the point, not where they engineer the change that their architects intend, but where people notice they are being pushed and made to pay for what doesn’t benefit them. And people don’t like being pushed, especially when they know they have done nothing wrong.
If we just moved away from the tired old trope of Left versus Right, and instead took a look at things in terms of libertarian versus authoritarian, freedom and responsibility versus dependence, censure, control and shame, then I think we would see more clearly what is going on, and what the word “liberal” really means.
The responses of the Left to the changes taking place really just seem to reflect any other millennialist type of philosophy. The end of the world is threatened. I think you can expect this to repeat periodically, just like it does for some evangelicals, as the Left shrinks. But the demise of the authoritarian, collectivist Left doesn’t mean the rise of the far right. Unless that is the only option people feel will listen to their concerns. And that suits the Left, as it justifies their existence. Which is why they will keep pushing their failed ideas, and scream their narrative ever more hysterically. They’ll double down, and people really should ignore that, and just make up their own minds.
I would choose freedom and responsibility myself, which precludes both the Left (as it is right now) and the far Right.
What I wouldn’t choose is authoritarianism.
I’m writing this as a homosexual, part of a “sexual minority”, the son of an immigrant, with a disabled husband. I’m one of those people who were meant to be served by “identity politics” and the “liberal-left”; meant to love and be grateful to the righteous celebrities, and abjectly horrified by Brexit and the election of President Trump (two phenomena that share some causes but are also quite distinct in nature).
Anyone who reads my blog will know that I despise identity politics and “social justice warriors” though, and I find those celebrities risible. Relatively late in life I realised that the whole project of what used to be the “New Left” was a spineless but determined, dishonest kind of authoritarianism, the kind you used to find amongst gossiping, puritanical congregations.
With the election of Trump (which I think does mark the overdue end of something), time has been called on an illusion, and people raised on that illusion seem to really be losing their shit, understandably. “Millennials” particularly seem to be taking this badly, and I can understand why. They’ve been programmed to do just that, to think the sky is falling if “the program” fails. They’ve become ideologically dependent, and the supply looks endangered. So I’m writing this partly to millennials (while knowing that you aren’t a homogenous group), and partly to fellow sexual minorities, and I’m writing this because I want you to be happy. Not victorious, justified, or marching towards a glorious future for humanity, but happy. You don’t get to be happy when you can’t face reality.
I grew up at a time when it was illegal to engage in homosexual activity as a male, when it was considered a mental illness, and you could be given electro-shock treatment and aversion therapy to “correct” it, and prison on conviction. I was 9 years old when my future became legal (after the age of 21). Homosexual equality was an issue for neither Left nor Right, rather it was a humanitarian issue for liberals, which in those days wasn’t cobbled together with “-left” in a Frankenstein merger. The cultural upheavals of the 1960s in the West contributed to our freedom, but it wasn’t like it is now. It was more liberal psychedelia than earnest flag waving. We got freedom because a shift occurred in the population which meant that we, as a minority, were empathized with enough by enough people. Don’t let all that “man the barricades” bullshit fool you. If people weren’t ready for us, we’d have been a stain on the pavement, because minorities don’t have power, except by voluntary and sincere appeal. Sorry to burst the bubble, but the pseudo-marxist rhetoric was just people wanting to use you for their ideology. It’s ordinary people that gave us our freedom.
In the intervening 50 years we’ve come a long way, and some things have got easier, but some things have got ever more ideological in ever weirder ways, and to me gay scenes largely look as dysfunctional as ever, and I really do question just how happy a lot of people are. I count myself very lucky, but I have lived for myself and my loved ones, and instinctively resisted the whole glittering, synthetic dust devil of “gay culture”. The ideologues just keep marching on though, and their brittleness and steely determination has always given me pause for thought. Is this what my life is about?
LGBT rights, anti-racism, and the appalling spectacle of modern feminism have become the central planks of identity politics. A series of minorities, and a non-minority demanding to be treated as a helpless minority (though feminists themselves are indeed relatively small in number). Identity politics increasingly came to look like the tolerated, mouthy weak kid, seeking vengeance on the rest through the demanded actions of authority, the “adults”. Only in identity politics, the protecting authority is itself attacked. “Do what I say or else!” they say to daddy. “You’re the oppressor, protect me!”. And daddy largely has actually. And if he loses his patience, well there, “told you so!”. You see it at demos all the time. Cop baiting the people who are there to protect you, and other people from you. It’s a kindergarten outing.
My question to all these people is this: how are you going to find a happy life? Are you going to create it from scratch? Surrounded by people like yourself (believe me, that should give some pause for thought)? And when you’ve smashed “the Patriarchy”, what then? When you realise that “The Patriarchy” is just a sneery name for real life. You know, just like about everything you live in, work in , drive on, and most of what you eat, was overwhelmingly built, made, grown, tended or long hauled by heterosexual men. But in the revolution we just say “how dare you!”, and “that’s sexism”, “straight male privilege”, “oppression”, and we say “you owe us”. And keep on taking from them anyway.
Personally, I say thank you. Because I have some manners, and I like men.
There comes a time though, when daddy listens to his other children. Not just the mouthy, demanding, complaining ones that he has tried to understand and listen to for 50 years, but the ones who just take on stuff and don’t complain. And that’s what’s happening now. And yes, we do have to be careful that us weak, relatively powerless kids don’t get left to fend for ourselves entirely, because let’s face it, we aren’t Superman or Wonder Woman, and the cultural revolution is not coming. It was never meant to come. And by now you’ll have guessed that I’m very glad of that.
Much of this has been blamed on “old people” and their values, and you know they are right. Us baby boomers. But the old people responsible aren’t old conservatives. Gun toting, redneck hillbillies, and suburban lawn defenders. No. It’s the old radicals that have brought this on you, with their illusions taught as fact, their ideologies as truth, and their demands as credible. My generation, we did fuck up. We largely gave you the “New Left”, modern feminism, queer theory, political correctness and Orwellian “social justice”, all of which has seeped into academia, the media and policy making. The baby boomer Left did this. I apologise on their behalf, though I realised decades ago that it was seriously full of shit.
Do me a favour. Don’t listen to those people. They mean you no good. And if your mother is one, well look, everyone has to grow up. We all have our burdens.
Life is hard, but it’s worth it. We can come through anything when we kick on the engine in ourselves. Your happiness is not going to come out of the barrel of an idea, or banding together as identities or victims. It’s going to be in real life, relationships, hearts and bodies, deep nature, your own questions. Nature is the only politics that lasts, and you have Nature. You got this.