There's a brilliant piece by Matt Taibi on the Adbusters site about why the American left is so ineffectual. He likens the progressive 'movement' in the US as "a skittish, hysterical old lady, one who defiantly insists on living in the past, is easily mesmerized by half-baked pseudo-intellectual nonsense, and quick to run from anything like real conflict or responsibility". As someone with (I think) progressive values totally fed-up with the political left, this article has a lot of insight. Some important lessons for Canadian progressives too, methinks. Here's a tidbit:
What makes the American left silly? Things that in a vacuum should be logical impossibilities are frighteningly common in lefty political scenes. The word “oppression” escaping, for any reason, the mouths of kids whose parents are paying 20 grand for them to go to private colleges. Academics in Priuses using the word “Amerika.” Ebonics, Fanetiks, and other such insane institutional manifestations of white guilt. Combat berets. Combat berets in conjunction with designer coffees. Combat berets in conjunction with designer coffees consumed at leisure in between conversational comparisons of America to Nazi Germany.
We all know where this stuff comes from. Anyone who’s ever been to a lefty political meeting knows the deal – the problem is the “spirit of inclusiveness” stretched to the limits of absurdity. The post-sixties dogma that everyone’s viewpoint is legitimate, everyone‘s choice about anything (lifestyle, gender, ethnicity, even class) is valid, that’s now so totally ingrained that at every single meeting, every time some yutz gets up and starts rambling about anything, no matter how ridiculous, no one ever tells him to shut the fuck up. Next thing you know, you’ve got guys on stilts wearing mime makeup and Cat-in-the-Hat striped top-hats leading a half-million people at an anti-war rally. Why is that guy there? Because no one told him that war is a matter of life and death and that he should leave his fucking stilts at home.
I think the most interesting insight is that people on the 'left' are usually college-educated, wealthy urban dwellers (read: the establishment) and therefore have substantial economic, social and political power. The problem is theses are more interested in playing victim and holding rallies than putting in the hard work needed to make a difference. Says Taibbi:
When they start embracing their position of privilege and taking responsibility for the power they already have – striving to be the leaders of society they actually are, instead of playing at being aggrieved subjects – they’ll come across as wise and patriotic citizens, not like the terminally adolescent buffoons trapped in a corny sixties daydream they often seem to be now. They’ll stop bringing puppets to marches and, more importantly, they’ll start doing more than march.
As Billy Bragg once opined, "there's drudgery in social change, and glory for the few". A lesson the Canadian left would do well to remember.