Thursday, 8 November 2012

The Crude, the Mad & the Ugly

Progressives everywhere can breathe a sigh of relief now that President Obama has secured a second term. But the vicious onslaught from anti-progressive forces will soon enough commence again. Rather than deluding ourselves with wishful thinking that our antagonists are now in complete disarray, it is time to take stock and prepare for what may happen next.

Ever since the progressive drive for democracy and equality began in 18th century England, America, and France, the anti-progressive camp has not ceased to attack every attempt at reform as a terminal threat against all that is good and sacred. Furiously denouncing ‘Levellers’, ‘democrats’, ‘Jacobins’, ‘atheists’, ‘commies’, ‘socialists’, they want to conserve the golden status quo that gives them a privileged position overlooking the downtrodden. But their motivation is not always the same. There are three virulent strains with quite distinct characteristics, and we need to understand them if we are to contain them.

First, there is the Crude strain, which is manifested by a basic desire not to lose one’s considerable disadvantages to those less fortunate. For example, someone with extremely wealthy parents or rampant money-making skills don’t want any government to tell them what to do, least of all to share more of what they lay claim to with others.

Secondly, the Mad strain is filled with a rabid hatred of anyone who dares to challenge the established order of the world. Harking back to the pre-18th century Church-backed hierarchical system that privileged the white, heterosexual male ranked in order of wealth, it is contemptuous of feminism, race equality, secularism, inclusive sexuality, and any form of multicultural outlook.

Thirdly, the Ugly strain is to be found amongst those who feed off a sense of dominance, of amassing vastly more power over others. Through money, military superiority, and market manipulation, they aim to maintain a total hegemony over others who must do their bidding.

What most observers have said following Romney’s defeat is that, in essence, the Republican Party has allowed itself to be taken over by the Mad strain. If the Republicans get rid of its anti-progressive stance on social issues, they would no longer alienate Hispanics, African-Americans, gay people, women etc so much, and could take on the Democrats again. Interestingly, Cameron’s mission in the UK has been to shift public perception of the Conservatives as the Nasty Party by distancing them from the Mad strain. And criticisms of Cameron from within his own party are notably directed at him being for too soft on their traditional objections of derision – e.g., diversity, aid for people in foreign countries, gay marriage.

What progressives must beware is that while any curtailing of the Mad strain is to be welcome, anti-progressive offensive can still be highly damaging if the Ugly strain remains active. To polarize society between a respected clique of white heterosexual males and an excluded zone of ‘others’ is obnoxious, but it is also repugnant to split a country into a wealthy elite who can shape organizations, laws, and media coverage to suit themselves, and a majority whose lives can be ruined at a stroke by corporate irresponsibility and savage cuts to public protection.

Mad haters of scapegoats are easy to spot, but Ugly plutocrats manipulate the legal and political system to maximize their gains while staying out of the limelight. For example, billions of pounds will be leached out of the NHS into the hands of private profiteers as a result of Cameron’s anti-progressive legislation. But there has been little effective mobilization against this and other similar moves because the nauseating transfers of resources from the many to the wealthy few are masked by a calm corporate exterior.

Progressives can always negotiate with the Crude hoarders of privileges. With them, it is a matter of time and degree of moving towards a fairer society. One Nation Tories and moderate Republicans are prepared to share what they and their friends have got hold of, just not too quickly, not too – from their perspective – drastically. But we can work with them in a spirit of bipartisanship, so to speak. With the Mad, it is difficult to have a dialogue. With the Ugly, they would smile and talk with you even as they do everything in their power to turn society into even more of a pyramid. They would have no problem welcoming blacks, Latinos, women, gays into their elite boardroom, so long as the vast majority of citizens and workers have to bow down to their commands.

Anti-progressives are rarely complacent. They are constantly reviewing their strategies. And should they ease off on their Mad strain, that is when you must look out more than ever for the Ugly tricks they have up their sleeve.

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