Do I ind some of the claims and demands of many young progressives to be shocking? Yes. But does that mean that they are wrong? No.
The one constant and reliable conclusion about people who argue that racism no longer exists is that they are white. And naive of course. It’s a crass statement, to be thrown in with claims such as unions have outlived their usefulness and poverty is a result of laziness. The lions of the suburbs preaching, as it were; gratingly comfortable and darkly unworldly in their invincible smugness.
The bunch of banality can usually be dismissed but lately a number of in luential and respected journalists have joined in. Sometimes they couch their arguments with a vague intelligence, often in tabloid hysteria, but the theme is repetitive: traditional values are under attack, political correctness is oppressing us, free speech is moribund, and radicals are violent and unreasonable.
Most of the writers are middle-aged, as am I. In my case not only middle-aged but a white, middle-class man to boot. As such do I ind some of the claims and demands of many young progressives to be shocking? Yes. But does that mean they are wrong? No. If I can break out of my comfort zone there’s no excuse for anybody else.
Thing is, aging needn’t be synonymous with conservatism. In fact, the maxim that we become more right wing as we grow older is often the opposite of the case. Life experience, an increasingly safe distance from the daily economic struggle faced by younger people, the sobering reality of mortality, should all lead one to become more empathetic and reasonable.
It should also make us braver and not more fearful, but it’s fear — even hysterical fear — that seems to characterize so many of the comments from this new right collective.
Judging from what they say and write they are threatened and intimidated by the anti-fascist movement, by Black Lives Matter, by students asking for language to be more inclusive than it used to be. Yet while these may be new movements in their speci ics, there is nothing new in a fresh generation wanting a better world. Complacency is the last refuge of the privileged. It’s nasty in the bar or the social club but unacceptable in the pages of national newspapers. This increasingly militant wallowing in nostalgia, this reverence for a time that never was, doesn’t expand but simply destroys the debate.
In the case of racism for example, it might be one thing to question some of the actions of radical groups in the Black community but quite another to refuse to understand why they were radicalized in the irst place. The majority, those who enjoy power, is always frightened by anger but that does not mean that anger is not justi ied. Terms such as racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, transphobia and the rest did not develop from a vacuum and without cause. They are, alas, undeniably real.
Getting old is inevitable, being young at heart, mind and soul is a choice. Do not go gently into that dark night of irrelevance.