May 3, 2018

A Farewell to Progressivism

farewell.cardSay what you will about how Twitter is useless, a waste of time, or nothing more than outraged virtual signalling. This post was inspired by two tweets from someone I follow that struck a nerve, prompting me to take a stab at expressing something I've been thinking about for awhile.

I think it takes a special kind of person to stick with a group once the group has made it clear that one's presence is not wanted. Try as I might, I just can't be that sort of person. When many members of a group I've previously valued tell me over and over again that I'm not wanted and that I'm "part of the problem" due to my sex, my race, my age, or where I live, it seems inevitable that I will reach the point where I stop thinking of myself as being a part of that group. I'd like to say this happens with no hard feelings, but that would be dishonest. This is rarely an easy thing, and a can relate to a certain experience of bitterness when it happens.
Me too. Well, sort of. I did more than accept the progressive label; I embraced it. I identified myself not just as a liberal but as a progressive. Hell, I even had a short-lived blog with "progressive" in the title. Also unlike Greg, I was fortunate enough to grow up a little bit closer to a part of the U.S. progressive actually value: the West coast. But like Greg, I had the misfortune of living in a small town. So while I was close enough to easily visit the progressive epicenters and bask in their enlightenment, I could never truly belong.

As an adult, I did many progressive things. I graduated from college and earned my Ph.D. in a field that would pretty much guarantee that I'd never make any money. I was politically active, supporting a wide range of progressive causes. I even ended up doing the one thing that seems virtually guaranteed to alienate conservatives by taking a job in academia. I was a good progressive; at least, I tried to be.

But something has changed over the last several years. It seems that what it means to be "progressive" has changed to the point where I can no longer recognize it.
Sure, this trend has been gradually unfolding for much longer than the last several years. But it seems to have crystallized more recently into something toxic. Facebook and Twitter are now filled with progressives disparaging others for the "sins" of their sex, race, age, and so on. We're told that this isn't what it looks like. It isn't sexism because women cannot be sexist against men. It isn't racist because persons of color cannot be sexist against Whites. We've even been introduced to a bizarre set of justifications through which people can behave this way without experiencing guilt (e.g., "punching up").

I'm still very liberal. I'm liberal on economic and social issues. I don't see that changing. But what has changed is that I can no longer call myself a progressive. I'm not nearly authoritarian enough, and I reject too many of their sacred cows (e.g., mob justice on social media, extreme tribalism and political hypocrisy, MSNBC, #votebluenomatterwho). But even if none of this was the case, I still wouldn't be able to call myself a progressive because it is clear that they want nothing to do with me. I'm too White, too male, too old, too straight, and too cisgendered. I'm probably the sort of monster who might attempt to sit comfortably while using public transportation (i.e., manspreading).

And so, it is time for me to say goodbye to progressivism. I cannot in good conscience go along with what it has become. I will stick with the independence of freethought. I will continue to make up my mind on the issues after examining the strength of the evidence and the arguments instead of swearing allegiance to any party or faction. I will strive to treat others fairly and with civility regardless of whether I agree with their political views. And I will continue to oppose both MSNBC and Fox News, not because I think they are equally flawed but because I recognize that the sort of tribalism in which each traffics is destructive.