On Liberalism in the 2010s

Kids, we need to talk

Labour Poster

Yes, but can Liberals batter down doors anymore?

Last night, dealing with a bought of insomnia, I read this important take on BoJo (not to be confused with BoJack) and the conservative wave sweeping across not just the UK but most of the world. While there might be a few points of contention, I think overall it was a good state of the union on liberalism and what I like to think is a bit of a disease among educated liberals: the refusal and lack of confidence in pushing our agenda.

* * *

Born at the tail end of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, my generation was very liberal and expected the generations that followed us to be even more so. The online communities where we came of age were incredibly inclusive, liberal, and "woke". And yet, woke culture itself overextended and exposed the flanks, leading to the almost unthinkable scenario of an incredibly right-leaning younger generation, and the liberal and free thinking communities of our youth turned to the right as a reaction to the seeming authoritarianism of the new left.

The yoofs were also very much multiculturally aware, having grown up with access to different lived experiences via the internet, and very much sensitive to what it saw as liberal intolerances of differing opinions, as well as seeming mollycoddling of the more bigoted minorities within minorities. To the kids growing up on Gangam Style, it was no longer western values at stake but an overarching global value structure1 which was threatened not by the traditional scapegoat of crusty and rich old conservatives2, but by increasingly intolerant, tone deaf, preachy ivory tower PC liberals.

* * *

Long story short: Even though there is a lot of hope left in the world and its youth (in the form of e.g. Greta Thunberg, CAA protestors in Indian universities, and the younger remain voters at the Brexit polls), it is still disheartening to see some in such an educated and informed generation turn towards reactionism over progressivism.

For the libs, it is time to regroup and look inward. We must reflect on the past decade, the victories (MARRIAGE EQUALITY!) and the bitter defeats, and consider what we value the most, what our core inviolable principles are. Lines might have to be drawn where our usual support for personal preferences and freedoms infringe on the rights of the other and the collective3. It is time to raise those voices in battle cries, as the rich keep becoming richer, and use their money and influence to sow division among the working man to further their own ends. We don't have much time—the greed of our race has set the planet on fire. The rich will burrow underneath and survive, but what of us poor proles?

* * *

It is time to step away from books and back into society. It's time to make welfare great again, fight for unionisation and the rights of the worker and the downtrodden. Come to the understanding that humanity isn't perfect, but that we must struggle to make this planet and our society better, more equitable and more inclusive.

It's time to bring back civil discourse, please, and thank you. No one likes being talked down to, or being called racist because they were simply well-meaning but ignorant. Bring back the humanity, bring back the fight, bring back Travellers on the Discovery Channel. Shout from the rooftops how awesome science is, and how excited we are about exploring outer space, reforesting our planet, or curing disease. Stand against bigotry, while also acknowledging that bigotry is bigotry regardless of the source. As the great Imtiaz Bakeer Markar once said:

Think not in terms of who is right and who is wrong, but what is right and what is wrong.

  1. I would argue this dates back to enlightenment thinking and classical liberalism. 

  2. Still very much the actual villain—see Prince Andrew. 

  3. I personally do not believe it is a zero sum game. Living in a republic is based on a social contract, and some individualistic excesses might have to be forgone in the service of cohesion. 

Built using Pelican.