Saturday, June 30, 2012

Being on the Left doesn't make a person better or more virtuous

It's just a political position like many. Taken me a long time to realize this. You can draw a parallel between this and the sex positive community: Wilhelm Reich, the famous psychiatrist and advocate of sexual freedom, believed that in a sexually liberated community everyone would be more virtuous, everyone would be more enlightened in how they treated each other, and all living would be harmonious. In point of fact, there are plenty of people who are very sexually liberated who, comparatively speaking, have very little to offer the world except their horniness and willingness to explore things.

When I got into the Left I did so from square one. Although I came from a liberal background, and my family was also pro-environment, there was nothing really left wing there in the normal sense of the term. I grew up on the fringes of the country in Michigan, and lived there until mid way through high school. For me, finding the Left was something that was done in stages through extended effort. First finding some magazines that were more progressive, then finding more and different magazines, looking up a liberal author, than a more liberal one, tracking down ideas. I date my real start in interest in the Left as early '97, and it took me until late spring of '98 to actually buy a book by Marx, the reason being that before then I would have just assumed that Marx was a crazy ideologue.

There were no people around me who were into this stuff. There wasn't anyone else who was interested in these ideas,  that I knew about at least. The notion that a person could just go down to their local Barnes and Noble and buy a book that gave a popular introduction to all these things because a punk rock band recommended it, because it was trendy, and not really know what was going on never crossed my mind.

Since then, I've often been disappointed by folks on the Left. Not all the time, but significantly enough for it to stand out. The reason has nothing to do with the ideas themselves, but the fact that to get to these ideas these folks didn't have to do much, and so they treat them as something superficial to their lives. I don't.

Some people say that I'm over serious about these things, but, to me, that's what it's all about: people living and dying, being killed, being oppressed, having the scope of their lives cut short. It's not about fun, and it's not about trends.

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