A false ideology: Why identity politics doesn’t add up.

We now inhabit a world where influential people in academia and increasingly the government decide who is privileged and who is not, purely by which group we belong to. These are not organised by who’s rich or poor, educational attainment, health levels, class status or even the environment we may live in, sadly nothing quite so objective. Individuals are crudely grouped by what cannot be changed (generally), this being genitalia and melanin levels. This grossly unscientific method, purposely ignores many parameters as outlined above and boils what is termed “oppression” down to race and sex.

To get to grips with how this occurred, our journey starts in France, with some very smart but terribly misguided philosophers. This bunch were largely responsible for a type of philosophy called postmodernism. Postmodernism is at the root of identity politics and underpins social justice activism. The movement, primarily artistic and philosophical began in 1960’s France. It claimed that life was viewed through a male, middle class perspective and sought to rally against this. Additionally, postmodernism outright rejected philosophy that valued ethics, reason and clarity.

This brand of philosophy dismissed overarching movements such as structuralism, which was an attempt to analyse human culture and psychology. While Marxism, endeavouring to make sense of society through class and economic structures was considered simplistic. Furthermore, the movement deeply criticised science, in particular, the idea of objective information. Postmodernists postulated that knowledge without human perception was just another example of arrogant western assumptions. Historically, the term “postmodern” was first used by Jean-Francois Lyotard in 1979, in his book The Postmodern Condition. Above all this was a rejection of meta-narratives, used to explain large phenomena such as religion and science.

In their place Lyotard offered that mini-narratives should be used, with the aim of getting smaller, more personal truths. This thought process led to epistemic relativism, or a belief in personal or culturally specific ‘truths or facts’ and also towards the advocacy of privileging. In summary Lyotard simply ranked “lived experience” above empirical evidence. In addition, postmodernism regularly promotes a type of pluralism, privileging the opinions of minority groups over views of a consensus, such as science or even a liberal democracy.

Another one of the French postmodernists was Michel Foucault. Foucault suggested that people were culturally constructed and a “product of the relation of power exercised over bodies, multiplicities, movements, desires, forces”. In Foucault’s world, cultural relativity is expressed through structures of power, while shared humanity and individualism are practically ignored. Using this theory, people are constructed entirely by their position in relation to the dominant culture and labelled as oppressed or oppressor.

The third musketeer, in our postmodern yarn is Jacques Derrida. Derrida focused heavily on language, rejecting that words referred to anything in a straight forward way, suggesting that there were only contexts without any absolute anchoring. He implied that the author of a text is not the sole authority and that the listener provides their own equally valid meaning. Derrida’s main contribution to postmodernism was a literary critical method called ‘deconstruction’. This was utilised in an attempt to overturn what he perceived as biases in language.

derrida
Jacques Derrida

Deconstruction arose from the belief that all concepts appear in opposing binaries and that language privileges one concept over another. For example “male” and “female” or “good” and “evil”, the first term usually having dominance over the other. Derrida suggested that this showed great inequality in western/modernist thinking. Derrida’s second idea, was to offer that the identity or meaning of words could not be understood except in relation to what they are not. He suggested that the only way to overcome these inequalities was by deconstructing text and thereby the language which was thought as the inherent power within the binary structure.

Derrida achieved this by equalising the opposing “inferior” and “superior” terms, then placing the “superior” term merely as an expression of the “inferior” term. Using this train of thought, we could say “good” is just an expression of “evil”. Derrida suggested at this point that the terms were meaningless and subjectively imposed by violence as the identity of words are overturned by différanceDerrida used this term to point out that the meaning is not final, rather it is constructed by differences specifically by opposites.

By now, if all this postmodern speak has “baked your noodle”, to borrow an expression from the Matrix, well that is kind of the point. Even the brilliant academic Noam Chomsky failed to see the relevance of postmodernism, stating; “Seriously, what are the principles of their theories, on what evidence are they based, what do they explain that wasn’t already obvious, etc? These are fair requests for anyone to make. If they can’t be met, then I’d suggest recourse to Hume’s advice in similar circumstances: to the flames”. The underlying problem now is, conclusions drawn by postmodernists were used as the foundations by future sociologists, gender and race studies academics to build an even more misguided, subjective, divisive and flawed theory.

One of the main theories that underpins social justice activism is intersectional feminism. This was introduced to the world in the late 80’s by UCLA law Professor Kimberleé Crenshaw. Crenshaw rejected “classical liberalism”, which looked past categories such as; race, gender and sexuality, while it focused on levelling the playing field and enabling all people to succeed on their own abilities. Incidentally, this is also known as “Enlightened liberalism” and promoted not only universal human rights, but the freedom of individuals to pursue their own path. Despite this, it was opined by critics such as Crenshaw, that this type of liberalism built structures of power which needed to be addressed. In contrast to liberalism, Crenshaw’s theory suggested that areas of race, gender and sexuality, were essential as it added levels of complexity to the problem.

kimberlee crenshaw
Kimberlee Crenshaw

In general it is postulated that as a society we work primarily on 3 levels:

  1. As a member of the human race with common needs and drives.
  2. As a member of one of the numerous categories, such as; race, nationality, culture or religion.
  3. As a individual, with our own particular interests and abilities.

It could be surmised that while universal liberalism concentrates on 1 & 3, intersectionality gravitates almost exclusively towards the second group. Meaning that this ‘theory’ fundamentally views all issues through the lens of race, gender and sexual identity. Hence the rallying cries of, “listen to women, listen to people of colour”.

But this theory possesses some glaring errors. Firstly, women of colour and LGTB people are to be found all across the political and moral spectrum. Intersectionality, however, is firmly embeded in the leftist identarian camp, complete with a distinct ideology. That said, intersectionality claims to support all of the aforementioned groups, but requires all members of these groups to subscribe to the identarian left. Judging by the stats available, this is just not obtainable. In the US 24% identify as liberals and 38% as conservative. In the UK the left and right are split roughly 50/50. Women are more likely to be left leaning than men. In the US 47% of African Americans identify as liberal and 45% conservative. The Conservative party (UK) claim 33% of Black and Middle Eastern voters, while 52% of Black Britons vote Labour. In Britain LGTB voters are as likely to be on the left as the right, but in the US LGTB voters are likely to be left wing. These nuances go on and on and do not fit the intersectional rallying cry.

As far as ideology is concerned, intersectionality alienates even more people. To be intersectional you are expected to focus on many categories at once, believing that they are all marginalised and worthy of your concern. Therefore, a woman describing herself as wholly a white, feminist would not be considered nearly committed enough to the cause. It would be assumed that the believer should also automatically subscribe to queer theory, critical race theory, trans-equality and anti-ableism discourses. However, as highlighted with politics, all of these varying groups do not have a single way of thinking. For a start in the US, only 20% of woman call themselves a feminist, while in the UK it’s as low as 9%. Using this information alone intersectionalists would have alienated over three quarters of their target population, that being women. Overall, the vast opinions expressed by the varying groups makes this theory totally unworkable.

Effectively what transpires, is the emergence of a small faction, with a minority ideological viewpoint, dominated by people from economically privileged backgrounds. This group generally has a university education, they have studied the social sciences, or have had enough leisure time to have grasped the varying ideas encompassed by intersectional theory. Activists of this cult readily pronounce that the only way is intersectionality, as all other groups are dismissed as fake. Crucially, intersectionality undervalues shared human experiences and universal rights. It ignores personal autonomy, individuality and distinctiveness, concentrating intently on group identity and intersectional ideology. This in turn places the individual in an extremely restrictive “collectivist” position, which was often considered the domain of severe conservative cultures, such as the religious right.

Looking at postmodernism and then intersectionalism, we can see the erroneous foundations being laid for the modern social justice movement. When this is combined with other factors that are peculiar to the millennial generation and now i-gen (generation Z), it starts to makes sense why we are witnessing behaviour punctuated by a lack of tolerance for any differing views. Safe spaces, trigger warnings and microaggressions are all common parlance on university campuses. This development like previous politically correct movements aims to stifle free speech. But according to Jonathan Haidt social psychologist, the motivation this time around, turns out to be more concerned with emotional wellbeing.

Haidt suggests that childhood has changed dramatically over the last couple of generations and that unsupervised play is much rarer than in previous decades. Children, therefore, have less chance to develop skills, such as, how to negotiate in a difficult situation or how to critically think. Meanwhile, a change in perception during the 80’s and 90’s regarding crime, suggested that there was a marked increase of kids being abducted or murdered. One of the main reasons for this view, was that we started to hear more about incidents through a increasingly pervasive media. Following this, a common message millenials received from adults was, life is dangerous but we will protect you from harm. This has contributed to millenials and i-gen being less resilient and more hostile towards political or moral opposition.

jon haidt
Jonathan Haidt

To add another layer to this, professor of psychology Jean Twenge wrote the book ‘the narcissism epidemic‘, in 2009. In this, the professor looked at the changes in individuals and in culture, discovering that narcissistic traits were rising twice as fast than in previous studies. More disconcerting, was that the severe form, Narcissistic Personality Disorder was experienced 3 times more in people in there 20’s than individuals over 65. Other markers that Twenge used, showed plastic surgery was up by a factor of 6 in a decade. Furthermore, materialistic attitudes had increased, as people were more likely to go into debt to get what they wanted. Meanwhile the reading of gossip magazines increased and the interest in newspapers decreased.

When we start to stitch all this together, it’s not surprising that we have a group largely of millenials, who actively attempt to curtail free speech. They also vigorously take part in historical revisionism, for example trying to get certain statues removed, which are deemed offensive. While the poem ‘If’ by Rudyard Kipling was unceremoniously removed at Manchester University, following allegations of racism, with no historical context, just a veil of ignorance, as proudly worn by SJW’s. These puritans are offended by the slightest utterance that may come into conflict with their pristine, logic free utopia. While they brazenly display no conscience either, as they repeatedly attempt to remove university professors for ‘wrong think‘.

Many followers of the ‘social justice activism’ have been exposed to a postmodern philosophy, that twists language to square with their pre-conceived conclusions. It is proposed that certain groups are oppressed, such as women and people of colour. This is supposedly a fixed position, bound by the illogical ramblings of postmodernism and now intersectional feminism. These adherents are perpetual victims, regardless of any personal factors that may not tie up with this label, such as; being a middle class, privileged student, as witnessed in many cases. Their assigned victim status enables the SJW to be absolved of any personal responsibility. With this cloak of victimhood, they are able to call out all men or white people, purely because they are oppressed and by virtue of this, are unable to be a misandrist or indeed a racist.

It is by no means a revelation that people who are less developed in terms of diplomacy, resilience and people skills gravitate towards such a movement. It carries little risk, you can gang up on a single speaker, shower them with nasty tweets, retreat to your safe space after a trigger warning and declare an incoming microaggression to your dean. If you are narcissistic this is also perfect, you can metaphorically sniper your political opposition, all in the safety of your morally pristine ivory tower, thus not receiving a narcissistic injury in return. Outstanding! All this would be relatively bearable if it was limited to academia, but alas, we are not so lucky.

There are many examples of the cult of identity politics seeping into everyday life. We can start with the former Director of Public Prosecutions of the Crown Prosecution Service, Alison Sanders. It could be argued that Sanders utilised the CPS as a crusading tool, redirecting limited resources to focus on violence against women and hate speech. The former DPP was responsible for many victim-focused reforms, including the definition of a hate crime, which states; “any crime experienced by the complainant as motivated by hate”. Interestingly, during the last couple of years of her tenure, a series of rape cases collapsed. It had transpired that police and prosecutors had failed to pass key information to lawyers defending the men. This lack of ‘due process’ is what can occur when an ideological quest overrides the search for justice.

In Nottinghamshire, UK, unwanted sexual advances and unwanted verbal contact with a woman can now be recorded as a hate crime. The problem with the term “hate crime” is, it is purely subjective and, therefore, open to abuse. Across the Atlantic in Canada in 2017, bill C-16 was passed, meaning someone could be prosecuted for not using the correct gender pronoun for a person’s subjectively determined “gender identity”. In Brighton, UK, kids are now being taught that both boys and girls can have periods. The whole area around gender and sex is highly contentious and effectively pits science, based on rigour, peer review, evidence and objectivity against emotion, feelings, subjectivity and the idea ‘I feel, therefore, I am’.

Gender and sex are key areas where the Enlightenment collides with postmodernism and judging by the government orthodoxy in many domains Foucault et al. are winning. The primary concern with regards to basing society on subjectivity, is that it is potentially ever changeable, this makes it exceptionally difficult to create and enforce laws, such as hate crime. For example; An ugly guy walks up to a girl and starts talking to her, she might find him detestable and feels threatened. Under these rules, this conceivably could be called a hate crime and for the bloke no matter how well intentioned, he could find himself in trouble. However, a good looking guy could approach the same woman and say exactly the same words but this time, it could be well received. Neither guy has been offensive or violent, but one of them (lets call him Elephant Man) could end up being questioned by the police. Does that feel like a fair use of the law and resources to you?

It is this uneven handed use of the law, as demonstrated by many college Title IX  proceedings in the US during the Obama presidency, that is a major cause for concern. Another campaign doing the rounds currently is “believe women” following sexual harassment or rape allegations. Their is an obvious danger behind this. It instantly biases any following investigation in favour of the accuser. Surely police departments all over the world can provide an environment that allows the person to share their perception of events without siding with them. For “believe women” to be effective, it must demand that women never lie and furthermore, never commit crimes, otherwise it’s a flawed premise. By promoting this we are asserting that women are morally superior to men at all times. Judging by the likes of Myra Hindley, Rose West or Joanna Dennehy this is patently untrue. Moreover, high profile false rape allegations such as the Duke Lacrosse team or Biurny Peguero also severely question this moral superiority theory. Just like men, women lie too, for a variety of reasons.

joanna dennehy
Joanna Dennehy

It makes absolutely no sense to enforce laws and rules that govern society based on a certain perception of a group as a whole. This is especially true, if the group in question is not 100% consistent. We hear from people on a daily basis, talking about white privilege or male privilege. Just an idea, but how about we look at what is occurring at an individual level, rather than writing off masses of the population via gross stereotyping. Identarians can get quite irate if they feel an individual for instance is stereotyping someone regarding gender identification. Yet, they are quite happy to put people in sociological boxes merely for traits that cannot be altered. Crucially, group stereotyping is what this whole identarian ‘belief’ system is built upon, it is the very core of their ideology, but makes no positive practical sense.

To point out how ludicrous this is; a black, middle class, well educated, relatively rich, woman, who has had no direct oppression, from a happy home, can be viewed as oppressed. In contrast; a white, ex-military, homeless man, with PTSD, with no formal qualifications and no support system, can seen as privileged. If this does not strike you as some sort of a scam, you are either benefitting from this in some way, or you are so blind with identarian doctrine that you have lost the ability to critically think. Which of course is the whole point of postmodernism, to appeal to emotion and subjectivity. It’s this loyalty to ones team, providing the power over government, media and society that allows, individuals like Professor Suzanna Danuta Walters to have an article published in the Washington Post enquiring, “why can’t we hate men”? A couple of weeks ago the American Psychological Association, published guidelines outlining the dangers of masculinity. This was nothing short of an overtly ideological exercise, using one social justice buzzword after another (see the link for original document).

Last week Gillette felt the need to jump on the bandwagon, releasing an advert imploring men and boys to sort their masculinity out. This has generally been lauded by the mainstream media, desperate not to stray from the feminist narrative. It’s worth noting, this is not in isolation, anti-male rhetoric is the social norm and is excepted in so called polite society. For instance, the Melbourne café who charged men 18% more, because of the supposed ‘gender wage gap’. Men are repeatedly told how to behave, when to speak (mansplaining), how to sit (manspreading), when it’s OK to talk to a woman, what to say and so on. The overwhelming percentage of men are not violent, do not rape, do treat people with respect, do act against bullying and the list continues. But if you’re trying to neutralise the very masculine traits that helped to build the physical world, that make up the majority of individuals who keep us safe, who love competition and do many of the dangerous jobs that keeps life ticking along, guess again.

For those who still buy into identity politics and in particular feminism, you need to have a serious chat with yourself. At this moment, the Social Justice movement currently feels emboldened, it has governments, media and much of society eating out it’s hand. Now feeling buoyant after #metoo, there is a huge offensive against masculinity, of course, not the bad men in society who it will never have any affect on, but ordinary men like many reading this. Right now, this is not a gender war, as only one side has turned up. It’s more like a massacre!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

bitch
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.

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.

 

Election time: Will Britain vote for more zombie capitalism?

Despite Jeremy Corbyn’s courageous fightback in the lead up to this election and a slim chance of victory, I suspect by the morning of June 9th the population of the UK will have walked bewilderingly into 5 more years of Tory rule. A further half-decade of class warfare in which the 1% will continue to beat the peasants into submission with their bonus cheques. We can expect more cuts to public services, further privatisaton of the NHS and ever widening inequality. Never fear, we will be saved by Theresa May as she has declared they will form a ‘strong and stable’ government. The question must be asked, for whom? Surely not the growing amount people who are now forced to use foodbanks just to get by. Certainly not the sick and disabled who have seen their benefits slashed, along with the unemployed. Theresa May I suspect won’t be fighting for larger families either, as families with more than 2 children saw their child tax credit payments reduced. It’s suddenly occurred to me, there is a theme, the most vulnerable in society are getting hit the hardest. This is not ‘strong and stable’, these are actions of a bully, who tend to recruit bigger more powerful accomplices to support them, such as big business and banking. This is exactly what the Tories have done, by consistently reducing corporation tax from 28% in 2010 to the current rate of 19%. The new government also vowed not to regulate the banking system, as the rest of the country recovered from the aftermath of the financial crash in 2008. This was repaid in kind and by 2010 the banking/finance sector funded over half of the Tory Party contributions. All the while the real people have been neglected, sections of society have been cast adrift through Tory reforms, commonly known as “cuts to services”. Although the term ‘austerity’ rarely gets mentioned in 2017, make no mistake it is still alive and well in the UK.

With all this mind, the question must be asked; why do people vote against their own interests? As a personal example I look at my Dad, an intelligent working class man from Manchester who votes Conservative and avidly reads the Daily Mail. What is going on with him and others like him? Of course there are probably a whole range of theories; aspirations, snobbery, family background, newspapers read, self interest and so on. Indeed when I apply these possible reasons to my Dad’s case, some of that fits. He was from a comfortable middle class family in Cheshire, he went to a grammar school, first job was at a stock brokers, he had shares he obtained from the BT sell-off while he worked there, he reads the Daily Fail, has a high intellect and yet worked as a mechanics assistant for decades. At this point it would be relatively easy to make rash judgements, however, I think there is more to this conundrum.

Many people have tried to look at why we make certain political decisions, from varying angles. Jonathan Haidt a Professor of Psychology at New York University suggests that we have six moral channels.

  1. care/harm
  2. fairness/cheating
  3. liberty/oppression
  4. loyalty/betrayal
  5. authority/subversion
  6. sanctity/degradation

Haidt’s study was tested all over the world and led him to a startling observation. Left-wingers or liberals in US parlance have a propensity to use mainly two channels; care/harm and fairness/cheating. While right-wingers (conservatives) tend to use all 6 channels fairly equally, as noted below. Although the chart is a US study and from the older ‘5 channel model’, the results have been almost identical throughout the western world.

6 channels

Haidt describes this disparity as eating the same item but using different taste buds. The result would be as if we’d experienced the same food exceptionally differently. Haidt continues, stating that right-wingers have a broader palate than lefties and suggests this may be why we of the left struggle to forge connections with voters. It’s possible this may explain why right wingers appeal to a larger audience. This is not in any way to suggest for example the Tories are morally correct, just that it may appeal to more people.

I have certain reservations with Jonathan Haidt’s work and this is most probably due to my bias as a socialist. Primarily he seems to assume that all six channels hold the same moral currency. When you look at another model called ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs’ some of Haidt’s channels are not on the same levels of the triangle. Maslow suggests you must fill one level before you move up and that life experiences can  impede progress.

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If you look above many issues regarding the leftist channels of care/harm and fairness/cheating can be associated with needs on the bottom two levels. While it could be argued although quite fluid, the other 4 channels could be linked to the middle to upper levels of the chart. With my warped anarcho-syndicalist viewpoint, I would offer that with this in mind the left puts more emphasis morally on getting everybody to the basic levels of Maslow’s hierarchy and beyond. As Jeremy would say “nobody gets left behind”.

All this is well and good, but it doesn’t detract from the fact many people will be voting for Theresa May and against their own interests. Maybe we need to dig a little deeper to uncover a wee bit more. There have been a reasonably large amount of studies looking at brain differences using MRI’s, with interesting discoveries. It has been observed that the amygdala an almond shaped structure deep in the brain is generally enlarged in people who identify as conservatives. This is curious as the amygdala is a structure that is more active during states of fear and anxiety. On the flip side ‘lefties’ have more gray matter, in particular at the anterior cingulate cortex, this area helps people cope with complexity.

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The nature versus nurture aspect of this has not been determined, but this finding possibly sheds some light on two politically very different specimens. Most societies are divided into a party that wants change such as Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party and one that is afraid of change Theresa May’s Conservatives. The leftist party is generally more intellectual and the right-wing party is more anti-intellectual. Right-wing parties put more emphasis on national defence, which magnifies our perception of threat, whether of foreign aggressors, immigrants, terrorists, or invading ideologies like Communism. So with all this in mind it is probably a good time to descend back to earth and decide where all this fits in to the current election cycle.

In recent weeks it has been noticeable that the Theresa May has presented herself as the protector of the UK following the attacks in London and Manchester. Remember this claim doesn’t have to be backed up by truth after all she is appealing to peoples emotions via fear. On the contrary you could present a strong (and stable) argument that Theresa May’s actions as both Home Secretary and the Prime Minister have made the UK more vulnerable. Saudi arms deals and 20,000 police being cut certainly wouldn’t strengthen the security of the nation. Simultaneously the right wing media have been on the attack accusing Corbyn of being a member of anything from the IRA to Take That. The goal of this media blitz is to manufacture a sense of danger, while presenting Corbyn as the incompetent and deceitful traitor. For this magic trick to work as you may have noticed, no truth is required, as long as it hits home at the voters receptive amygdala, mission accomplished. See exhibit A.

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I’m sure you are aware when you are conversing with one of these zombies, rarely do they tell you why you should vote Conservative. In fact they tend to parrot the same bite size intellect free headlines as displayed above, whilst slagging off Jeremy Corbyn. This is why the Conservative Party can serve up a half baked manifesto with no costings and no real detail, because it doesn’t matter, this is not aimed at the critical thinker. It’s directed at someone who is scared of everything, who hates change and who picks “strong and stable” over “calm and logical”. Hopefully I will be proved wrong tonight by the nation and Jeremy gets elected. If so the party is at my place, although you’ll have to provide your own airfares to New Zealand. Sadly, however, I feel we may have to start culling the zombies. Lock and load, stay safe out there.