Sunday, December 29, 2019

Of Woke Liberalism, and other such maladies

Remember the time when being liberal meant you were more tolerant, accepting, rational, and empathetic? Me neither.

While that is what exactly it means in theory, those who call themselves 'liberal', actually practise an intolerant, discriminating, irrational, and a self-serving culture.

And that's only because the theoretical definition of 'liberalism', much like its other much-maligned cousin 'feminism', is completely impractical. Noble, yes, but also impractical. The reasons for this are not difficult to understand.

Each and every human being is capable, of not only kind and sympathetic acts, but also of the most selfish and barbaric cruelty. This is, sadly, true. For each of us. What we choose to be, in which circumstance, depends on a mix of unknown variables. While it is not easy to predict human behavior, given that the variables are unknown, vested interests can always try to sway emotions, and temporarily suspend rational decision-making. 

But the most important factor that decides how humans behave is: context.

One's birth, upbringing, education, friends, location, sex, sexuality, past experiences, ethnic history, community, tastes, occupation, all add to the context. Two people with different contexts cannot completely understand each other's world-view or decision-making process. Yes, one may get swayed through external influence, but not everyone gets swayed in the same way. A true liberal will appreciate this 'context'. Appreciating context does not mean condoning an unlawful act or ignoring wrong practices. It also does not mean that we cannot criticise wrong customs or beliefs. It only means that expecting sudden changes in customs or beliefs is impractical. It also means that one's own context may make one believe something to be 'correct' or 'appropriate', and that need not be true for everyone else. A true liberal accepts that she may also be wrong, and is more tolerant of opposing world-views. Debate and discussion make everyone wiser, and enable seeing each others' perspective. The end-point of every debate need not be an agreement.

The opinion-makers today have completely discarded the relevance of context. What they believe to be 'correct' must be applied everywhere irrespective of context. For the sake of discussion, let's take the topic which has currently led to 'liberals' losing sleep in India (and in the process unfriending lesser humans): CAA and (supposedly imminent) NRC. I will not comment on the Act itself here. But, how can one truly form a view on the Act without considering the history, the background, and nature of persecution of the refugees who stand to benefit from the Act? By comparing these refugees with others without understanding the context is woefully wrong. On NRC, they use Assam as a reference point, which is laughably stupid. Context. 

It is definitely wonderful to imagine a world without borders, where people can migrate from one place to another based on better weather, better career, better marriage prospects, or whatever reason you can imagine. As much as it hurts me to break it to everyone: a world without borders will never happen. It is plain dumb to expect countries to allow unchecked immigration given limited resources. Also, not all cultures can co-exist peacefully, and there needs to be a balance. Governments are best placed to decide what would be a good immigration policy. Individuals cannot assess matters such as national security, peaceful co-existence, availability of resources, and employment opportunities. 

But, other than ignorance of context, the hypocrisy of liberals is quite amusing. How can the same person oppose CAA on the ground that it does not extend benefits to Muslim refugees (thereby, arguing that there should be no discrimination in extending benefits - something which is more of an opinion / misinterpretation, and not based on facts), and support anti-CAA protests in Assam? How can the same person, again, have a problem with abrogation of Article 370 in J&K? If a person supports open-borders for countries, how can he support closed borders for a state within that very same country? 

On the protests. I am completely shocked at how 'Oh, those were outsiders that got violent, not us!' is an acceptable defence! If there are 'strangers' amongst your supposedly peaceful protesters, who are pelting stones at the police, or damaging public property, and you stand a mute spectator, and thereby provide them cover, and then allow them to escape, you are equally culpable. There are no two ways about that. Police cannot identity a dozen miscreants if hundreds provide them cover. So they will question and detain from those hundreds as well. Yes, allegations of police excess should be investigated, but if you have allowed your protest to turn violent, you cannot escape blame. It would be far easier for those hundreds of you to catch the dozen few who were standing amongst you and hand them over to the police. But you didn't do that. Maybe, you didn't want to at all. It is fashionable to rise up in protest against the State. Fashionable to sing songs praising terrorists. Fashionable to support hypocritical arguments of 'intellectuals' who use fancy words such as Fascism and Freedom of Speech. 

On FoS itself, the most brazen suppression of freedom is actually exercised by the darlings of the woke liberals: the Left. The Left has systematically taken over media, education, entertainment, and policy making the world over, and suppressed every opposing point of view. The suppression of speech, and destruction of careers of those not part of the echo-chamber, has been merciless. And, yet, the woke liberals consider them to be the epitome of virtue, and follow in their footsteps. 

It is this influence, which has led to the latest popular fad amongst woke liberals: if you parents don't agree with your views, publicly shame them. Unfriend childhood buddies because your political views differ. Surround yourself with other woke liberals. Echo-chambers can be comforting. 

But echo-chambers are also lonely in spite of the crowd. And frustrating.

I wouldn't be so disillusioned with Liberalism, if it really represented what it means in theory, if it wasn't simply a tool in the hands of the political Left, and if only it understood the difference between a spectrum and a point.
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