People who have read much of this blog have probably figured out that my political views have a liberal flavor. So why don’t I identify as a liberal?
Ironically, I think part of it has to do with growing up in San Francisco. Most of my school teachers were very liberal, and most of my classmates were very liberal. And I was disturbed by the way they regarded Republicans and conservatives. I was not disturbed by them critiquing Republican or conservative ideas, I was disturbed by the way they regarded the Republicans and conservatives themselves. Republicans and conservatives were often regarded as boogey-monsters instead of people.
While I’ve had less contact with Republicans and conservatives, I know they also regard Democrats and liberals the same way. They are no better.
And in San Francisco itself, there is a split between the ‘moderates’ and the ‘progressives’, and they sometimes fight each other bitterly over minor differences. It’s as if it’s more important for them to fight each other than to get the issue handled in the best way.
Then there is Paul Rosenberg’s essay ‘What We Always Knew About Politics, But Couldn’t Prove’ by Paul Rosenberg (you need to scroll down to find the essay). I disagree with the conclusion that we should walk away from politics … unfortunately, politics affects the world too much for us to walk away from it. But we should find a way to engage in politics which does not destroy our empathy for people who disagree with us.
I think this is why I do not want to identify as a ‘liberal’, or anything else political. I want to be able to have empathy for any thirsty person in a hot desert, regardless of their political identity, and I think I am just as capable of killing my empathy as the average person.
And finally … politicians and elites use this ‘us vs. them’ psychology to cover up true evil. For example, many Democrats still support Obama and vehemently argue with anyone who criticises him, even though Obama has, among other things, failed to launch a serious investigation into Wall Street fraud. For an example of what I’m talking about see:
Glenn Greenwald: “Obama: I can’t comment on Wall Street prosecutions”
(Warning: ableist language) The People’s View: Fraudster Glenn Greenwald’s Trouble with the Truth
For my own (incomplete) response to the People’s View piece: you do not know whether there was illegal behavior or not if you do not investigate, and because there is plenty of probable cause, many people on Wall Street should be prosecuted. A prosecution is not the same as a conviction. And if the people who wrecked the economy are not held accountable, then they will continue to wreck the economy.
I know there is a lot of power in organizing around an idea or identity, and that unorganized people have very little political power. However, I want to organize around ideas like ‘Investigate Wall Street’, not ‘We are liberals’.