Demonizing, Polarizing, and the ‘Policing’ of Social Terms


Two great articles on millennials and crowdfunding.

However, I was drawn to them, especially the one from The London Guardian (the first one), not so much because of the views on crowdfunding, but by what I regarded as the unfortunate tone. A shrill, condescending tone that is becoming all too familiar in the progressive, ‘corrective’ media. To its detriment. And I say that as a progressive.

When I read the article in The London Guardian, I was reminded of a discussion I had with someone close a while ago, about the definition of the term ‘in the public interest.’

She will identify herself if she wishes. I will respect the privacy of the conversation, while dealing publicly with the matters raised.

She said that, pssshaw, everyone knows what ‘the public interest’ means. I agreed. She was taken aback. We do not normally agree.

We then had a long and intense discussion. It ended like this. I said that ‘the public interest’ was what the public at any point was interested in. She took the view it was what should be regarded as being good for the public. What they should be interested in.

I don’t think I’m giving anything away, or misrepresenting her views (although she’ll let me know if that is not the case), when I say that she was quite surprised that there was any definition (and I found one) which took any view other than the fact that a national health service, a vigorous environmental policy based on full recognition of man’s primary role in climate change, and other fairly standard liberal causes, were absolutely and necessarily matters ‘in the public interest.’

I wasn’t saying that they weren’t. That they aren’t. And that they wouldn’t be at some point in the future. What I was saying was that the term ‘in the public interest’ is fairly specific. It is defined usually in those terms advanced by me (what the public is interested in). And peoples’ interests change. And aren’t always liberal. Issues which are not liberal are not automatically excluded from being ‘in the public interest’ simply because they are not liberal.

And this is a conundrum I’m coming up against quite frequently at the moment. We all know that there are thugs on the right-wing of politics. But there are liberals who are equally vehement. And one of the ways in which they are vehement, and I’ll be honest, it disturbs me. Is in their default co-option of social terms which are not theirs to co-opt.

So, in their view, ‘in the public interest’ can only be about liberal issues. A ‘feminist’ can only be a feminist if the women’s issues she espouses are left-wing women’s issues. It is only left-wingers who can be shamed. It is only left-wingers who can have body issues. And if there are matters that are ‘trigger’ issues, for sure as heck, they can only be ‘trigger’ issues that are associated with the right-wing or patriarchy.

We exist in a time when politics almost everywhere is horribly polarized. Where ordinary people are sick and tired of an intellectual elite drawn mainly from the left confusing ‘right’ with ‘wrong’ – if you see what I mean. Ordinary folk who are ‘conservative’ in the true meaning of the term. They are wary of change. They want things to get better. But at a slower pace.

They are flexing their muscles, in my opinion, precisely because an intellectual left-wing elite has demonstrated insufficient self-control over the years. Has forgotten to ask. And has assumed time and again that anyone who does not agree with them must be a heathen, uneducated, or both.

We know how to recognize the thugs of the right. It is time for those of us on the left to recognize our own intransigents. And to seek to calm them down. All the while accpeting that there is never only one solution to a problem. That folks are entitled to different points of view. And that they are entitled to have those points of view heard. With respect. Without being categorized into shame by use of inappropriate and degrading social definitions.

Blimey. And that was just my general point. I haven’t yet got to the specific issue I was going to raise. Ok. Here it is. Public funding of social activity. A private social safety net.

In 2010, David Cameron became the Conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain. One of his primary themes was the creation of what he called a Big Society.

Cutting through a lot of nonsensical spin, on both sides of the political aisle, what the term meant was, cutting public spending on social support, and encouraging its replacement with private funding and volunteer activity.

Cameron took the view. And he is not the only one. On both sides of the Atlantic. He took the view that a lot of ordinary people felt that too much of their hard-earned money was being taken from them in taxes, to support social support activity that not all of those ordinary folk wanted to support. Cameron felt that more choice should enter the equation. As in, you use your own money if you want to. We (the government) will choose to use less of it – through taxes.

Now, we could likely havw a long and interesting argument about whether that position resonates with many of you, or not. Point is. Cameron headed a Coalition Government for five years. And in 2015, his Party was elected to a further five-year term. So, a fairly healthy proportion of the British people must have thought that some of what he said made sense.

The point is not so much whether it was/is right or wrong. The point is, a lot of people supported the idea of shifting at least a proportion of the burden of funding social support to private activity. And I would say that makes private funding of social support (at least in part) a matter that is, by definition, ‘in the public interest.’

The problem I have with this article is not that an individual disagrees. It is the proposition that it is a huge social evil even for people to think this way. That is my primary concern with US and UK politics at the moment. That way too many people, way too invested in the center-left social advocacy which has been pretty much in the ascendant these past forty years, simply will not accept that people are allowed to change their minds, and think something different. Their answer is to demonize that change of mind.

What this article says to me is, great, young millennials are seizing the initiative, living up to Cameron’s notion of a Big Society. Are aware that not everyone now wants public spending to be as high as it has been. And that private funding of some social support activity may have to take up the slack.

Good for them. Instead of whining, why doesn’t the author tell us where we can sign up to donate?

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