For many years I self identified as a proud progressive. I identified as such because I believed in such things as secularism, universal healthcare, affordable education, various other social safety net programs, gay rights, gender and racial egalitarianism, I was pro-choice, etc. I didn’t always fall directly in line with mainstream progressive views, but I generally did. While my political self-description has changed, my values really haven’t.
I also thought that the progressive movement and the left generally was the main home of reason and openness in North American politics. Part of this was due to my own situation. I only started paying attention to politics and social issues around 2005, so I missed the 90s PC era. I was in my 20s in Toronto at the University of Toronto in an Arts and Science educational stream, so I was heavily exposed to progressive perspectives. I had never really looked into feminism – I had simply accepted the elevator speech that all feminism is gender egalitarianism. I also simply accepted the notion that women were a marginalized class. So given this, it was very easy for me to simply adopt the label of “feminist” because, well, of course.
And meanwhile, look at how things looked when juxtaposing the left and right on a series of major issues.
When evolution was being denied, it was being denied by elements of the right.
When homosexuality was being demonized, or talked about as if it was a choice, it was more often on the right.
When wars were being waged for questionable reasons, it was being championed by the right.
When Barack Obama’s birth place was being questioned, it was being questioned on the right.
When irreparable environmental destruction was being denied, it was happening on the right.
When people were trying to shoehorn religion into public life, it was happening on the right.
When the economy collapsed, it collapsed under a right wing government.
When education and science were being avoided and demeaned, it was more often happening on the right.
It was the right that was being led by political and philosophical leaders like Bush, Cheney, Romney, Beck, Palin, Jerry Falwell and the like.
There were a lot of reasons why for a young atheist, secularist progressive from Toronto, it would appear that the left was the primary home of reason and openness.
What on earth happened? DUDE, where’s my progressivism?!
Already, I’m expecting someone to come out and say “YOUR progressivism? And why “dude”? Why do you reflexively go to a male pronoun? That’s some nice male entitlement you’ve got there”
One problem has been the rise of identity politics on the left. So much weight is being given not just to what is said but who said it. Crusaders against racism, sexism and various other forms of discrimination are seeing just about everything through a socio-demographic lens. They spent years criticizing people on the right for holding a Muslim’s religion or a gay person’s sexuality against them, but now we constantly see people on the left holding straight white able-bodied cis-gendered male’s demographics against them.
Another problem is progressivism chauvinism. For years progressive criticized traditionalist chauvinism which treated men as people who should be strong and capable, and women as people who should be nurturing and protected. Now we see progressive chauvinism, which treats men as aloof privileged lumbering predators, and women as morally and intellectually superior victims. Today, some progressives are inclined to link just about everything that is good with femaleness and feminism – equality, compassion, justice, and so forth. And just about everything that is bad is linked to males – all war, violence, exploitation, inequality, environmental destruction – is tied exclusively to the male gender and “Patriarchy”.
A third problem we see among some on the left is a strong with-us-or-against-us mentality. On the right, we used to see accusations of RINO (Republican In Name Only) to people on the right who were seemed insufficiently conservative. We saw accusations of “commie”, “traitor”, being “with us or with the terrorists”. Now on the left if one contradicts feminist, progressive or social justice narratives, they run the risk of being called a misogynist, a racist, a rape apologist, an Islamophobe, and so forth. Are you pro-life? Well that means that you hate women. But of course a pro-choicer who has no interest in giving men a choice post-conception doesn’t hate men, right? No. Of course not.
A fourth problem we see among some on the left is intolerance to views contrary to their own. In the past we have seen conservative censorship rooted in sexual prudery or blasphemy. Now we see left wing censorship on the basis of attempting to ward off “hate speech” and preserve “safe spaces”. For all of the lionizing of tolerance, diversity and safe space, just try being a Men’s Rights Activist, a pro-lifer, a critic of radical Islam, or having anything positive to say about Israel on campus.
We also see many on the radical left engaging in constant denialism of science. The right has been associated with denial of evolution and global warming. Today, segments of the left are responding with denial of sexual dimorphism and clinging to ideologically slanted misleading statistics on gender and wage, sexual violence, and domestic violence.
Lastly, mystical explanations. On the right we saw natural disasters and wars blamed on gay marriage, abortion and scantily clad women. Now on the left we see everything that is wrong with society pinned on the evil Patriarchy. That horrible invisible hand endlessly bitch-slapping women and minorities into the gutter for the glorification of his massive ego.
I used to think that the left was the primary home reason and openness. It is now apparent that this perspective was the produce of when and where I found myself, and what issues I cared about and paid attention to. There are people of varying degrees of intellectual commitment, honesty, and openness on both sides. I had existed in a time when many on the right were intellectually humiliating themselves on a series of issues that I cared about. So it was easy to have the perspective I had. Well, today’s radical left has thoroughly disabused me of my previous errant notions.