Without a moral tribe: Are the left and the right two sides of the same coin?

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about binary thinking. This week (11/12/2017) I published what I hoped was a thoughtful and admittedly provocative piece on the problem of Social Justice Warriors. The second article seemed to prove the previous one correct, in as much as many people are incapable of nuanced and complex thought, particularly on the issue of politics. I have since closed my Facebook page and my entire account for now, to preserve my mental health. Consequently this fairly ill thought out mini project endeavouring to make sense of partisan groupthink may not see the light of day. But I’ll carry on regardless and we’ll see where it takes us.

Ok, some background, politically I am in general an Anarcho-Syndicalist, with a touch of Democratic Socialism for good measure. I suspect the purest ideologues are already twitching at the thought of there being a mixture of views. My main issue of interest is economic inequality, primarily the effects of this on health, education, diminished social mobility, the environment, perpetual wars and many other factors. I side with Marx viewing most of our struggles although currently unpopular, through the lens of class warfare. My reasoning being, the ruling elite are the most powerful entity on the face of the earth, therefore, they are capable of the most damage. They are particularly adept at unbridled fossil fuel extraction and major wars, both capable of causing catastrophic damage across the globe.

In contrast, I view race, gender or even a topic such as Brexit although important, as useful distractions for the plutocracy, as it delays any cohesive opposition to challenge their throne. I subscribe to the notion of equality no matter who you are and where you come from. Which again is unpopular in the world of identity politics, where it is suggested people should be socially credited purely on melanin levels and genital configuration. I believe that if we bomb a nation, we must display the moral integrity to accept the consequences of our actions. For example at least accepting we have contributed to the increase of refugees and that we must be pro-active in developing a viable solution for their welfare.

You could argue from a social and political philosophical standpoint I veer towards universal liberalism. I subscribe to universal human rights, which then frees people up to follow their own particular interests and abilities. Although I’m aware that this can be taken to the extreme, whereby one person could exercise their freedom at the expense of somebody else (sucbenthamh as most CEO’s). Therefore, this idea of freedom works to a point, which in my mind is tempered by my more analytical side. This segment of my brain acknowledges utilitarianism as a compelling philosophical counterweight, Jeremy Bentham states; “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. This statement strongly resonates with me, in his book Moral Tribes Joshua Greene describes utilitarianism as ‘deep pragmatism‘. Utilitarianism can be a difficult concept to entertain, as it can appear devoid of emotion, but that is kind of the point. Greene suggests it requires overriding your emotional instincts, at times giving up your convictions to do what’s best. Although I have a socially liberal side,  deep pragmatism is undoubtedly my dominant philosophy. It endeavours to reach the best overall outcome for the most amount of people, although quite possibly at times to the detriment of the individual.

This philosophical preamble is designed to demonstrate that I like many have a set of views that by no means fit snuggly into a box. They can appear highly contradictory and are also open to revision. For instance universal liberalism and utilitarianism will often rub up against one another, but never at any point did I state I had this all straightened out in my mind. Unsurprisingly the majority of us are on some sort of spectrum regarding our opinions, we are reassuringly complicated. Life is constantly changing and often our views reflect this, primarily due to our experiences and interactions over time. Using this notion, you would think being exposed to a variety of opinions and unfamiliar situations could only be a good thing? Alas, when it concerns our political sentiments it would appear not. During such times we often retreat to our respective partisan political bubbles, while surrounding ourselves with people who reflect our established ideologies.

It is evident that on both sides of the political divide each extreme faction deals in absolutes, for which I spectacularly and joyfully fail to adhere to. My recent unfortunate episode started when I was horrified regarding the response of women on a leftist webpage, posting about the health research funding that was assigned to each gender. Many female members of the group were apoplectic with rage that certain men on the page had the audacity to suggest that males receiving 6 cents in the dollar for health research funding was a little unfair.

This prompted me, possibly unwisely to write a slightly provocative piece suggesting Social Justice Warriors were detrimental to the left. My description of the group as SJW’s in itself appeared to be abhorrent to some, although a some people do seem eternally and conveniently offended by a collection of words. Furthermore, I explored some of the foundations of modern day ‘radical feminism’ which seemed ever more tenuous on scrutiny, particularly their motivations. Primarily these were the trifecta of feminism; the patriarchy, rape culture and the gender pay gap. As you could imagine among certain sections of the left, this went down like a sack of shit. As the people who fail to critically think, who devour all that the illiberal left has to offer without question (although I don’t consider SJW’s as left) didn’t hesitate to roundly criticise this piece. It was at this point that my rambling thoughts on binary thinking were being confirmed.

I noted in the offending piece that I uncomfortably found myself agreeing with Milo Yiannopoulos on the issue of free speech in an interview with David Rubin. Yes, I agreed with the notion of free speech, so what, shoot me! The person espousing it was irrelevant to me, but not it would seem to the adherents of identity politics. My admission was deciphered by some, as some covert inference aligning me to the alt-right and that my views were apparently inconsistent with the left.

This astounding, hastily formed conclusion by a couple of posters, was made on the back of one sentence I wrote, without reading or caring about the context of this post or the content of previous posts. The criticism was devoid of any knowledge in relation to my background and what indeed shapes my politics. All this despite the fact that my literary heroes in a modern sense are writers such as; Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, David Harvey and New Zealand’s own Jane Kelsey. Complete blind obedience to a doctrine seems to be expected in certain corners of the left, which consequently is exactly the same crime we accuse the right of committing.

Another critic also suggested that my politics were more aligned with 1950’s socialism, as this poster smugly informed me that there is such a thing as ‘intersectionality’. Indeed there is, but I don’t subscribe to such a dreadful idea. I suspect this confession excludes me from the SJW Christmas Party (although I should imagine we probably can’t use the word Christmas or possibly even party). It appears that any dissenting voice away from this authoritarian orthodoxy results in banishment from the village of the pure and righteous?

In brief terms intersectionality recognises that as humans we are members of many categories such as; race, gender, nationality, culture or religion. Unlike universal liberalism which focuses on universal needs and individual interests, intersectionality prioritises groups, mainly; race and gender. This idea was born out another contentious theory called postmodernism, which started in France in the 1960’s and promoted by Jean-François Lyotard, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida among others. It generally rejects ethics, reason and clarity, while being scathing of Marx’s simplistic use of class systems to explain society. Most disconcerting for me is this doctrine is largely anti-science and baulks at the idea of objective information.

This moral and cultural relativity, leads to the point where the meaning of what the speaker is trying to convey is less important than how it is perceived, no matter how radical the interpretation may be. This philosophy suggests that lived experiences, perceptions and beliefs are more important than empirical evidence. Postmodernism is chiefly the philosophy that underpins much of the SJW movement, which is one of the reasons I reject it. It is implied that what you feel takes precedent over a rigorous exploration of the facts. Indeed the far/religious right and the social justice activists of the far left are both responsible for the use identity politics at the expense of the value of the information presented.

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Hillary Clinton, is a proponent of intersectionality, when it suits her politically.

Intersectionalism uses identity politics and systems of privilege while aligning itself politically to the left. This concept requires the believer to buy in to the entire system consisting of all the oppressed groups for example; black people, LGBT’s and woman, as they are ranked in order of oppression. Where this becomes difficult is, not everybody in society thinks in line with this minority group, furthermore, peoples’ perceptions are nuanced and complicated.  Lets take the UK as an example; it is roughly 50% right wing and 50% left, slightly more woman vote left than men, 33% of black and middle eastern voters tick Conservative, while 52% vote Labour. On top of this the majority of LGBT people vote Labour, however, people with disabilities are split down the middle.

The problem with SJW’s aligning themselves to the far left (socially not economically) is this group closes the door on large sections of woman, people of colour, LGBT’s and disabled people. The theory fails miserably in the attempt to represent most people. Take feminism, surprisingly only 9% of women identify as a feminist and yet I suspect in many of the liberal college echo chambers this would seem unthinkable. Immediately that’s 91% of women lost in one go, because remember what I stated previously, intersectionality expects you to be all in with your support for the entire assortment of oppressed groups, otherwise this gets you castigated by the law of absolutes.

A point needs to be made regarding women’s relatively small number who identify with feminism, despite the low figure,  two thirds of people rightly subscribe to the idea of gender equality, but not to modern day feminism. It transpires unsurprisingly that not all members of a group for example, African-American’s think the same way on an issue either. With all the varying dimensions involved in a certain group’s decision making process, the logical conclusion is we make individual decisions based on a multitude of factors. Intersectionality ignores individuality, autonomy and distinctiveness, in favour of group ideology, which places individuals in an uncompromising collectivist position more readily found on the far-right.

By subscribing to views of this doctrine we are not following the general views of women, LBGT’s, the disabled and people of colour. We are abiding by a theory pushed by an economically privileged class, espousing a minority ideological view. A position that is forced on us by a specific section of the population who have studied social sciences and all the relevant components to drive this supposedly pure ideological theory. It only takes a casual glance at world history; the Nazis, Stalinism, KKK, Rwanda, Yugoslavia, Christian and Islamic fundamentalism to realise that purity of any form rarely ends well.

Here’s my major gripe about SJW’s, they hardly ever go on the offensive regarding economic equality. Rarely do they pursue the billionaires who hide their money in offshore accounts or corporations who pay minimal taxes. These are taxes that could go towards education, health, the poor and the vulnerable. There are other groups that are in need of support; the disabled, the elderly and the working poor, all of which suffer, economically, physically and psychologically. These also rarely make it on to the SJW’s radar, possibly because it has no direct affect on them. Many of these SJW’s are middle to upper middle class and display the average emotional age of a 14 year old, with more than an substantial dose of narcissism thrown in.

This general lack of compassion appears to inhibit them from seeing anything that is not in front of their face or is of personal interest. So yes they can hide out in their safe spaces pontificating about mansplaining or the merits of Halloween costumes, while homelessness and suicide rates are at record highs. But I guess it doesn’t matter to them as invariably, such as in the UK these are white men, the ultimate examples of privilege, those evil white CIS males. Well, try coming out of your college endorsed hidey holes and explaining your privilege theory to a victim’s loved one who has been gunned down on the wrong side of town.

So here was me naively thinking that the left was on the side of reason, science, compassion and inclusion. I hate to even label them as the left, but this ideological group pre-occupied with intersectionality and radical feminism are a self serving cult. They are no more interested in the working class and the poor than the Conservative Party (UK), National Party (NZ) or the Republican’s (US). The ridicule I have received, because I had the temerity to investigate and examine views outside the narrow spectrum of the identarian left was spiteful but not surprising.

I believe in free speech and hearing all sides of the debate. I’m not afraid of opposing ideas, I don’t need trigger warnings, as I am comfortable with my values and testing my opinions against others. I have previously called these radicals the alt-left, maybe they should be the ‘intolerant left’. But while this ‘cult’ feign outrage from ‘microaggressions‘, the ruling elite will continue to exploit the poor with macroaggression, simultaneously destroying the planet and everyone on it. I know where I think the worthy battle lies.

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Are SJW’s the left’s kryptonite: Is this the end for Socialism?

This has been an incredibly odd week. The kind of week you re-evaluate what you believe in both morally and politically. A period in time that has consisted of numerous running battles with radical feminists, whilst finding myself at times uncomfortably agreeing with the so called alt-right guru Milo Yiannopoulos. Admittedly he’s big on rhetoric, but there is more than an element of truth when he voices severe reservations about Social Justice Warriors and in particular radical feminists. Where we agree, is I believe all voices should be heard and you test your theories against opposing ideas to see how they stack up. Preventing certain speakers or comedians to attend university because a specific section of the campus doesn’t agree, curbing words, actions (such as clapping), banning particular books or even topics of conversation is authoritarian and veering ever closer to fascism.

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Chris Rock among others refuse to play colleges due to the numerous restrictions on the contents of the performers acts.

As a libertarian socialist, I find this sort of social control puritanical. Unfortunately it has a large number of subscribers, who spend copious amounts of time in echo chambers generally found in ‘so called’ liberal colleges working on for example a ‘gender studies’ degree, without any discernible experience in life. I fear that Social Justice Warriors, the illiberal left or the alt-left as they could be called, are the biggest threat to a unified left that we seriously need, to challenge neoliberalism. I strongly suspect it is one of the major reasons the Labour Party lost swathes of working class voters in the 90’s and 2000’s, as the ‘pretend’ left under Blair and Clinton in the US, moved away from fighting the rich and became part of the establishment.

These so called leaders of the free world suddenly readjusted their focus and embarked on a social justice war, using identity politics as their main weapon against the scourge of free thought. Race, gender and sexuality were suddenly the topics of this culture war as politicians gave up fighting for economic equality. As if by magic the scope of acceptable debate was diminished and the use of a set of authorised words to describe someone became more important than the homeless, unjust wars and the environment. All the while during these periods of distraction the rich rejoiced at the prospect of victory on the war of economic theory, as the left pitifully moved full circle in a social sense and landed on the authoritarian right.

I need to take deep breaths, as I’m a little triggered, although I’m pleased to report I don’t require a safe space as yet. So what sparked my rant you may ask. In a nutshell, men’s health, more specifically the funding for the research of men’s health. It was in an article that came out of New Zealand suggesting that men receive a tiny amount of gender specific health funding when compared to women. To put this in perspective, according to the article for every dollar 6 cents goes to male medical research and funding. It concluded by stating the Professor bringing this to light was also keen on establishing a centre for men’s health at the University of Otago. This post was published innocently on Wake up NZ’s Facebook page only to spark a mini internet earthquake.

This outburst was initiated by women who were incensed that we would even have the audacity to suggest that men should have funding for medical research too. What was more disconcerting was the mental gymnastics these activists were performing to justify keeping their 94 cents out of the dollar. In fact one of the aggrieved even suggested they were entitled to more funding as men’s health issues were their own doing. The lack of facts to support their rage were clearly apparent, instead we were treated to a smorgasbord of anecdotal ‘evidence’, coupled with accusations of misogyny and ever more anger. This avalanche of abuse was despite the fact I kindly supplied article upon article in support of my position.

Silly me, what was I thinking, I should know it’s not the value of what you say, but who’s saying it. Welcome to the crazy world of identity politics. Stupidly, I thought I was helping out, but this injection of facts just added more fuel to the fire. For a group who are blisteringly quick to reprimand anybody who supposedly ‘victim blames’, a few of these women even had the gall to reprimand men for their predicament. Insinuating that men somehow didn’t deserve the funding as they seldom go to the GP when they should. Even for radical feminists this felt like it was scraping the barrel and suspiciously Orwellian in nature. This relentless radical offensive was performed without any obvious knowledge of health or research, just driven by pure emotion and blind ideology.

With all this vitriol being spewed out by a group of angry young women, it’s worth considering a few facts about men’s health. Firstly, New Zealand has one of the worst suicide epidemics in the world, with the ratio being 3 men to 1 woman. Furthermore, between the ages of 50 and 75 the number of deaths are 30% higher for men than for women. This disparity of funding isn’t peculiar just to New Zealand either, in Australia  men are 60% more likely to die of cancer than women, however, since 2003 men have received 4 times less funding for health research. Inexplicably breast cancer received $60 million more than prostate cancer, while ovarian cancer attracted $64 million more than testicular cancer. This despite men living on average 4 1/2 years less than women. Although nobody in the right mind is suggesting that they are against women’s health being adequately funded, equally, I would challenge anyone to suggest that the current status quo makes any sense.

Even the World Health Organisation stated that the recognition of the men’s health gap must be included in the global health equity agenda. The article highlighted that out of 67 identified risk factors, 60 were responsible for more male than female deaths and the top 10 risk factors were all more common in men. With the mounting evidence you would of thought the radical feminists may have re-evaluated their stance or offer a little compassion. Sadly statistics, facts and a solid case did not seem to interfere at all with their entrenched ideology. In fact if anything they appeared more inclined to dig their heels in further. This was generally displayed in a myriad of accusations equating to misogyny, mansplaining their oppression and something to do with smashing the patriarchy. The response was visceral and reactionary, as if reciting a mantra from some spiritual book. Which made me think, what do 3rd wave/radical feminists really want?

The premise that modern feminists seek equality is laughable. This current incarnation is driven by a belief system that doesn’t stand up to scrutiny and displays many traits of a cult. The doctrine generally answers nuanced and at times complex issues with blanket explanations. Firstly, the gender wage gap, this is a misnomer, it is poorly calculated by taking the mean or median of each gender’s wage and then divide one by the other. A gender wage gap in my view is comparing like for like jobs while taking into account the experience levels plus a multitude of other factors. Once you do this, the gap shrinks from the much publicised Obama endorsed 79cent on the dollar to a more modest 1.6cents.

I am not in any way suggesting there are no issues regarding women in the workplace, on the contrary men tend to occupy the top spots, but it is thought unlikely that this has to do with any form of systemic oppression. Hours worked, career paths and starting a family can all contribute to a differing take home pay or career success.

Secondly, the patriarchy, this is defined as a society where men hold power and women do not, it’s the bedrock that holds modern day, radical feminism together. Well, currently in New Zealand the Prime Minister is a woman and 7 out of the 20 inner cabinet members are indeed women. In the UK my place of birth the Prime Minister is indeed a women, contrary to popular belief. There are also many women in the upper echelons of academia and in business, admittedly these ratios could be higher. However, the reasons for this are considered to be a multi-dimensional conundrum, quite similar to the ‘gender pay gap’ and not necessarily down to a convenient single entity such as the patriarchy.

Business Leaders Gather For B20 Summit In Sydney
Rupert Murdoch – The archetypal cantankerous, white, old man.

Indeed crusty, old, white, rich, men are inclined to dominate at the elite end of society, but their determination to hold on to power isn’t just about discriminating against women, it’s about excluding anybody who is not like them. From gender to race all the way through to class and academic upbringing, they will rule you out purely because you are not in the club and it’s well documented likes attract likes. With respect to the patriarchy, if men were at the top of the tree so to speak, why do we send them to die on the battlefield through the draft system? If they are so superior why do we reduce their numbers through indiscriminate murder?

It doesn’t seem like the most intelligent strategy I’ve ever encountered. Although, what we do know is many of the future ruling elite don’t go to war, while the poor kids tend to fill up the infantry front line and are used as canon fodder. You only have to look at George W Bush, Bill Clinton and Dick Cheney as examples, who were all more than happy to send others to die, but they were quick to make a run for it when they got their papers a few decades earlier.  So back to patriarchy, tell me, why do we make sure women and children get off a sinking boat or out of a burning building first if men are the masters of the universe? The idea of an all pervasive patriarchy sounds way too simplistic for me, in a world that is infinitely complicated. Most contests of power are quite often in line with class, not a gender struggle, but, dividing us by race, gender or religion keeps us fractured and the rich in charge.

Another myth we have doing the rounds currently is ‘rape culture’. This is not to devalue the fact that rape is horrific, obviously all efforts should be done to prevent this type of crime and sexual abuse at all costs. I’ll make it very clear, rape is not accepted and it certainly isn’t the norm anywhere I have ever been to. We do not celebrate this as something that’s part of our culture and we rightly lock these people away. But the figures need to be explored, in the US, figures of 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 tend to be used as the ratio of woman who suffer from sexual abuse or sexual assault on college campuses. These statistics are then used to strengthen the case of a ‘rape culture’.

Again this bold claim does nothing to adequately tackle the serious crimes of rape and sexual abuse. Critique’s of these papers suggest that the above figures tend to result from poorly thought out studies, such as self-selecting survey’s. It’s not surprising that people who have been on the receiving end of such dreadful abuse are more likely to respond to these surveys, while others may well decline to take part. In one particular study, survey’s were sent to nearly 800,000 people and only 19% replied, this poor response rate and methodology instantly doesn’t help the credibility of the data collected. Furthermore, the terms of sexual assault have been broadened, to include such incidents as, “rubbing up against another person in a sexual way at a party”. Contrary to the stats above the Bureau of Justice Statistics in the US reported that 1 in 53 women will be raped or sexually assaulted while at college.

This is not in any way a foolish attempt to belittle the victims of such a despicable crime, as this has no place in our society, but the question is, why the disparity? Nobody is suggesting the BJS stats are perfect, that’s just not possible with these types of issues, however, 25% in one survey and 1.89% in a federal study is a serious indicator that something just doesn’t add up. Tellingly America’s largest and most influential anti-sexual-violence organization RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network) disagrees with the term ‘rape culture’ concluding that rape is a conscious decision made by an individual to commit a violent crime and that these people are a small minority within a community. Unsurprisingly these suggestions by professionals from this field appear a more sane and thought-out summary when making sense of this heinous crime.

So why do we have these if not bogus then highly suspicious stories projected by radical feminists that simplify certain issues and constantly encourage women who are primarily college age, relatively affluent and supposedly intelligent to be permanent victims. These ‘activist’ feminists seem to want to be life-time participants in the oppression Olympics, when many of these adherents to the ’cause’ are some of the most protected and ‘privileged’ women in the world. With all the travesties throughout the globe their targets of rage are rather lukewarm to say the least, highlighting issues of mansplaining, manspreading and microaggression, while their ‘sisters’ in places like Saudi Arabia have to fight tooth and nail for every basic right, such as driving.

It’s no secret that Muslim women face potential traumas such as genital mutilation, forced marriage and honour violence, however, many western feminists are conspicuous by their absence when it comes to supporting these issues. Alas it appears this is not about equality and is much more likely to be about control. They behave like spoilt teenage girls who want their own way, putting their collective hands over their ears so they don’t have to hear any contradictory voices for fear of invalidating their experiences. Feminism in this form should be redundant, as it’s built on the assumption that women are systemically worse off than men. Life is often not fair or simple for that matter, whether people like this or not, we are unique and we want different things.

Some aspects of life men undoubtedly have the upper hand, although on other issues mainly health and education outcomes women have it better. For instance women tend to live longer than men, young boys are more fragile physically and psychologically than girls, therefore, males are more susceptible to diseases, these are just a couple of examples to suggest that it’s not all one way. Unfortunately to many of the ‘radicals’ including the ones online it seems they espouse the view that if it’s against women it’s oppression, but if it’s against men it’s just life. Finally all this fighting for equality has actually seen a decline in happiness and life satisfaction. As gender equality has gradually levelled, so has the disparity between the two sexes happiness scores, woman are now as equally miserable as men, but I’m sure it has all been worth it.

So how do SJW’s affect the left or more to the point socialism? One of the problems is in the US, Social Justice Warriors get termed annoyingly as leftist. I suspect this is primarily due to an absence of a strong left that focuses on economic factors, in addition to over 20 years of the so-called left fighting in the arena of identity politics. Although thankfully in recent times Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn have successfully managed to push the topic of economic inequality back into the public sphere. The one area the US right have been successful with is coining the mystical term ‘Cultural Marxist’ for these activists. The tale regarding ‘Cultural Marxism’ is that their plan is to slowly, but stealthily dilute and subvert Christian, white western culture, this apparently would open sovereign nations to be ruled by a one world corporate body. I would strongly argue that a globalized business model and multiple trade agreements advocated by the right have beaten them to it.

Anyway, this bizarre theory goes back to a fringe idea by Jewish German academics and is widely known as the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, from the early 20th century. This moniker is something that has been used by anyone from anti-feminists to the Daily Mail and also the man I mentioned earlier Milo, all to discredit the left. This is where life is nuanced, I think radical feminism and SJW’s are exceptionally destructive for the left, however, I find the idea of Cultural Marxism totally ludicrous. The reason the attachment of this label is to the detriment of the left is the clever use of the name Marx with a group that appears intolerant, easily offended, against free speech and authoritarian. This plays straight into the hands of the right; when working class people see privileged young activists behaving like entitled 14 year olds, while much of the western world is struggling with homelessness, economic inequality and disappearing incomes, they’ll think “the left sucks”.

We on the contrary should endeavour to be the ultimate form of democracy, listening to varying points of view, with representation at every level of society, including the workplace and the commons. In recent times there now seems to be an emergence of some form of cultural libertarianism, which encourages critical thinking, rigorous research and lively debate coming from across the political spectrum. This is in response to radical feminism and SJW’s who endeavour to shut down debate, polarise opinion, while setting the terms and conditions of any prospective dialogue.

The ‘Factual Feminist’ Professor Christina Hoff Sommers states that she is an equity feminist which aims for the moral, legal, and social equality of the sexes. Surely that should be the goal for all us, or is it just about winning at all costs? I am constantly frustrated as we are continuously pushed into resolving our social ills within a narrow corridor of acceptable discourse, primarily created by sheltered SJW’s. So I shall excuse myself from this authoritative table of Social Justice Warriors, as this lefty vehemently refuses to play your juvenile game.

 

From Brexit to feminism: Why are complex issues distilled to a binary decision?

Everyday we are posed with challenging dilemmas such as; do you agree with trident, as a man are you a feminist, do you support Brexit, amongst many others. Admittedly some decisions are easier to make than others, but often we are given two choices to a multi-faceted issue. Quite regularly there is a consensus of opinion that drives debate. The problem that arises is if you are not fully on board with the sway of public opinion, then you are cast to the margins, as there appears no room for nuanced debate anymore. Many of these opinions are formed by strong social justice bodies, government departments and corporate lobbyist.

The major issues are not the topics per se, but the fact that the answers are required in absolute terms (yes/no), when morality rarely works in such a way. As individuals our complex thoughts and feelings, which have been developed over time from our genetics, environment, education, personal experiences, family background and so forth are clumsily distilled into a binary decision. More often than not this an over simplification, it generally doesn’t work to the benefit of society and is deeply dissatisfying.

As a lefty there will be aspects of a socialists worldview that resonate with me more than others. In my opinion, to critically think your way through each issue as it arises is healthy, as opposed to taking the entire medicine given with no questions asked. Sadly, in a world that has become increasingly polarised, nuance has been replaced by blind belief. That’s not to say I’m a centrist, nothing of the sort, but within my left (more than) leaning ideas there are an array of complex and sometimes contradictory thoughts, that with compelling evidence may be subject to change. If we stop asking questions regarding our own ideas, then who are we to challenge people with differing views. We could quite easily find ourselves on the road to following a religious type system rather than something that is anchored in research and moral rigour. If after an internal inquiry, our political ideas are incongruent with our core moral beliefs then I suggest we are in trouble.

So lets look at an extremely emotive and controversial topic for a variety of reasons and that is feminism. There are some subjects that I think I possibly shouldn’t write about on this blog, however, I am equally happy to be provoked and to provoke. Firstly I will begin by suggesting feminism is used by politicians as a political football, in as much as they support the rights of women as they are the people who support them. For example lets take Hillary Clinton…………as far away as humanly possible hopefully. In all seriousness, Hillary has used feminism and feminists to the nth degree. She has been more than happy for her wealthy backers and showbiz celebrities to project her as this beacon of feminism, all the while supporting military campaigns in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Syria.

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Incidentally, these are countries where many women and children have been murdered and obliterated by years of bombing by the US. Which begs the question; how down with the sisters is she really? Another disturbingly memorable moment occurred in New York during her failed Presidential bid, when fellow war-hawk and ex Secretary of State Madeleine Albright threatened a rally crowd yelling “there’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help each other”. Which is interesting as I don’t remember her helping out Serbian women whilst they were being bombed back to another millennia. I guess like I alluded to earlier, life isn’t straight forward. Maybe you can be a feminist whilst condoning mass murder of thousand of civilians in Kosovo, many of whom were women. Although that distinctly sounds like Orwellian doublethink to me.

Quite possibly the question some might want answering is; am I a feminist? I would have to answer with a wry smile on my face and declare that it’s not that simple. However, do I believe women and men should get paid equally for the same job requiring the same experience and skills, without question. To complicate matters, do I believe there is systemic wage gap as suggested by Obama, Trudeau and any other relatively liberal leaders? Well yes and no, evidence suggest it exists but not at 79 cents a dollar as Obama hinted, it’s more like 1.6%. The reason being most studies crudely take the mean pay of women and divide it by the mean pay of men. This crude arithmetic does little to explore a true gender pay gap. For example if a male police sergeant with 15 years experience gets paid more than his female colleague of equal experience, that is obviously an issue and needs to be corrected.  Most of the studies unfortunately do not compare ‘apples with apples’ and instead fall back on the use of means or medians for their methodology.

At this point in people’s minds, I may be considered by some who are reading this as a misogynist for not buying into the gender wage gap theory, but as I did concede earlier life can be particularly challenging. Obviously I wouldn’t suggest such a controversial opinion without a chance for you to read the data. The study I refer to has been described by some in NZ as American in an attempt to delegitimise it, however, the study utilised data from 33 different countries. To add a further layer of complexity to this debate in an attempt to dispel binary thinking, it is without doubt that there is a problem with gender and employment in as much as there is a dearth of women at the top end of the employment chain. Men dominate in high paid roles and boardroom position, which is why the crude version of the ‘gender pay gap’ looks more like a chasm.

The term gender pay gap is actually a misnomer, the main problem is getting women into the upper echelons of the employment chain, for those who wish to do so. It’s the politicians who like to peddle catchy slpay gap crapogans such as ’79 cents on the dollar’ for women to rally around and often get angry at men who question it. When in reality there is a difficulty getting to the top, where you will find the very politicians and corporate leaders trumpeting ‘the gender pay gap’. The good news is there is an excellent reason for companies to increase the amount of women employed at the top end, that is, corporations and organisations alike gain substantially. Greater gender diversity is associated with an innovative work culture and from a bottom line perspective, woman in the boardroom is linked to a 15% profit increase. Reading further down the previously mentioned article it also suggests how to recruit, develop, promote, reward and retain women in the workplace. I hope I’ve started to demonstrate that life is much more than ‘either or’. We don’t have to accept the entire stack of an ideology if we don’t agree with what is being presented, we can pick and choose, particularly if there is compelling evidence on the contrary.

Unfortunately it would appear that in the 21st century if you are not in the club 100% then without question you are banished from the village and cast as one of life’s Dr Evil’s. This ensures that no dissenting voice or indeed debate is heard in the confines of the tribe. This cultivates a cosy echo chamber of which can be found within all political parties, social justice groups, religious groups and race orientated organisations. Sadly the echo chamber insulates you from uncomfortable opinions, opposing theories, straight forward general enquiry and even truth. Within this bubble the belief system strengthens and positions harden, as they are rarely allowed to be challenged from the out group. One such environment that is a regular feature in liberal colleges and used by the likes of feminists are ‘safe spaces’.

Contrary to being a helpful environment, it’s suggested that these safe spaces shut women away from public life and back to the metaphorical kitchen. Suggesting women are incapable of looking after themselves or their emotions, which is frankly ludicrous. This whole problem of an ideological retreat is disturbing, in so far as; how do we know what we are opposing if we are not prepared to listen to any challenging points of view. On many occasions we have already decided what our opponents are espousing before we’ve really heard them. To listen doesn’t mean you have to agree, at times it can strengthen your current position in a healthy way, by analysing your views through discussion. In fact recently it appears if we don’t hear what we expect, quite often we create a ‘strawman’ to justify our attack, this style of engagement is a regular occurrence on social media.

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It would seem as there is no direct physical threat on social media, we therefore, feel less need to negotiate with our foes, thus we often adopt polarised views. There is nothing more evident than Brexit, where our opposing views are entrenched, our detractors are vilified and finally dehumanised with nicknames such as ‘remoaner’. Personally, I haven’t got a side, because it is my view that this was a neoliberal construct to further unpick the last remaining stitches of society. However, each side proclaims that the rival faction is stupid, uneducated and easily led by the media, without them even listening to one another.

To many liberals ‘brexiteers’ are often described as racist, although I suspect it’s highly unlikely that nearly half the voting nation is racist or/and xenophobic. Unfortunately we now inhabit a world of black and white thinking rather than shades of grey, whereby every person who voted to leave will be lumped together along with UKIP and Britain First supporters in a nice neat parcel with a purple bow on it. This is regardless of any individual underlying reasons that may have contributed to their decision-making processes and this of course works on both sides of the Brexit divide. The pro-Brexit clan are as equally dismissive as the pro-Europe contingent and this behaviour pushes the two parties back into their respective corners.

So, do we have to agree with every view we encounter? Of course not, we are not obligated to shift from our initial ideas one inch. Equally we don’t have to subscribe to the full catalogue of ideas that make up, feminism, the Labour Party, socialism, libertarianism, religion, immigration, Brexit or any other stance or ideology. It doesn’t have to be a meal deal, we can look at the information presented and choose what we want to consume. Maybe watch Fox News, for Kiwis read Mike Hosking in the Herald or for Brits browse the Daily Mail at some point and rather than dismissing it, look at it with a critical eye.

Critique what you are witnessing in the moment, not what your pre-conceived ideas are telling you. You may draw the same conclusions, but at least you will have done this consciously rather than using a ready made mental script. If I look for example at ideas such as the theory of the ‘patriarchy’, I think this view is littered with flaws and is essentially highly simplistic, as it ignores any individual agency. So when I dig down and weigh the information regarding the ‘patriarchy’ I often side with the right leaning media. This for me as a lefty who reads Bakunin and the likes is incredibly annoying and perplexing. All of which confirms that indeed life is complicated, nuanced and eternally confusing. More importantly we are wonderfully unique, we are politically made of complex shapes that don’t fit in to neat little boxes and that’s a good thing.