The first in an occasional series about Pohutu’s confusing journey into the political wilderness.
I don’t live in the United States, but last year’s election campaign was a shocker for me. I was always (mostly) on board with my fellow liberals, till last year. Now I’m politically homeless. A recovering ex-liberal, wondering how it was that I went along with it all for so long. Did I change? Did everyone else?
I’d say I’m a Communist — class analysis and all that — but the ‘old’ categories/groupings don’t quite seem to work anymore. Is that because capitalism isn’t ‘just’ exploiting workers but destroying the planet and all life thereon? How can the old class analysis and Communist programme deal with that? At least one thing’s clear: liberalism can’t deal with it, so there’s that. These days, I know what I am not (a liberal), but I’m not quite sure what I am (politically speaking).
I think this political awakening/confusion had been building for a long time. Decades probably. So what happened? I’m still thinking about that. I’m not sure. Maybe it’s that social media (Twitter etc.) exposed “liberals” for the intolerant bullies with no coherent political programme that we/they always were. The current form of capitalism isn’t called “neoliberalism” for nothing. It’s all about the individual, and that’s where regular old leftist liberalism has gone. As I said, no class analysis, and especially when it comes to feminism, no analysis of women as an oppressed class. You just can’t say that anymore.
I also noticed how big we/they are on shaming people who don’t toe the line properly. Or maybe I mean bullying. There had always been a lot of ‘intolerance’ for straying from the programme inside liberal feminism, so I was a bit used to it. And we’re hypocrites in hating on right-wingers for shaming women about sex, abortion, their bodies. Shame seems to be the liberal weapon of choice. It’s everywhere. Picking on the individual not the policy (evil Trump, good HRC; evil John Key/Bill English, good ????), as if somehow getting rid of ‘evil Trump’ or ‘evil John Key/Bill English’ is worth anything. It’s not. And at the same time, the focus on the individual means ignoring all that sucks about the ‘liberal’ candidate, like HRC’s war-mongering and the under-handed undermining of Bernie Sanders (and the whole ‘Bernie Bros’ bullshit); like the fact that Labour, following the centrist agenda, has been National-light forever.
In ‘liberal feminism’, we’re into no-platforming and personally attacking anyone who doesn’t fall into line on all kinds of issues, if they tweet the wrong tweet or even retweet it. That’s happened most viciously in recent years, around trans-issues. And being a cowardly former liberal, I’m not wading into that one. But you can do the Google and see what people like Julie Bindel, the totally non-radical BBC Women’s Hour presenter Jenni Murray, and writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie have been through.
The news media have become mad-keen liberal enablers. It’s much easier for them to report on personality politics than policy, and we love it so much. So, yeah, meanwhile climate change is hurling us toward catastrophe. Politics is more confusing than ever because of that, too. How can you spend your time fighting for, oh, I dunno, abortion rights or welfare reform when…there’s planetary wide catastrophe on the horizon. It all looks so trivial, even though I know it’s not.
Good things to have come from this upheaval: I don’t read much ‘news’ anymore because, somehow, none of it makes any sense to me. I’ve been reading party political platforms in their original, and even going to a few meetings. Best hear it from them, not filtered through the personality political lens. And it’s a bit like the aporia of Greek philosophy, where you’re in a state of not-knowing, of doubt. It opens you up a bit to new ideas, new thinking. I’ve mostly given up reading the old predictable liberal rags I used to read and am hunting around for new stuff. That’s fun. Anyway, let’s see where this political aporia takes me. Stay tuned, if you want.