The current collective consciousness on the left around oppression is such a miasma of postmodern, subjective, sentimental, victimised, emotive dreck. I feel a certain responsibility for having added my bit to the heap. Here by way of restitution, I offer the following insights painfully gleaned over a lifetime of politcal twaddle.
1. Membership of an oppressed group does not confer authority. It does not guarantee authenticity. It does not make you right. You should be judged by what you say and do not by what you are. I offer in evidence my Cabinet of the Oppressed: Margaret Thatcher (women’s rights), Robert Mugabe (racial equality), David Blunkett (disability), Osama bin Laden (international relations), Golda Meir (special responsibility for minorities), the entire Gandhi dynasty (democracy and anti-corruption). Feel free to nominate others to strengthen our inclusivity.
2. Being a VICTIM does not make you right. You may be worthy of sympathy, redress, sensitive consideration, but it has no bearing on the quality of your argument. Reality is dialectical: the victim becomes the oppressor, and vice versa.
3. History is not a licence to kill. An atrocity is an atrocity, however badly treated the perpetrators, wwhatever legitimate grievance they may have. I give you Nazi Germany, Dier Yassin, 9/11, Beslan…
4. My enemy’s enemy is not my friend. people and nations change sides; alliances shift. If you base your position on tactical considerations, you will end up incoherent. We endlessly repeat the argument that it was the West who armed Saddam Hussein and the Taliban. The argument applies equally to us. We may lack the fire power, but we give hostages to our future enemies if, for example, we lie about the repressive regime in Iran simply because it is threatened by the US: it will come back and bite us.
5. If you feel it, suspect it. If it feels good… wait a minute. Outrage is the crack of left polemic. There’s that flaming high – oh it feels so good! All too soon, you come down. You regret giving in to the seductive flame. You feel a bit bad, a bit ashamed, a bit depressed. Someone flames back. It feels good to join the fray again – a bigger hit. And so it goes on and on and on..Emotion brings an aura of authenicity. If you feel it, it must be real. Aint necessarily so. The evolutionary point of emotion is to move you to action. Sometimes it’s rash, dangerous to move. Except in a literal emergency, it’s better to think first. Left polemic is full of pseudo-emegencies, where the adrenalin pumping makes it feel like life and death, but nothing is lost by taking time to consider.
6. You have to laugh or else you’ll cry. The situation of the left today is a tragic absurdity, if you lose your sense of humour, you may as well shoot yourself.