Leav­ing the left-left to its own di­vi­sive­ness

Ide­o­log­i­cal clean­li­ness is of­ten messed up by mis­guided, muddle-headed vot­ers

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - OPINION - Heather Mal­lick Heather Mal­lick is a na­tional af­fairs writer for Torstar Syn­di­ca­tion Ser­vices. hmallick@thes­tar.ca

I used to be hard left, and now I am left-wing on most things and cen­tre-left on oth­ers, with good wishes to all.

One rea­son I aban­doned the left-left, so to speak, is that it aban­doned me. When the NDP al­lowed gun rights to over­shadow women’s rights, I was gone.

An­other was the re­lent­less extreme jargon. Here’s an ex­am­ple. As Star colum­nist Shree Parad­kar has re­ported, Toronto coun­cil­lor Kristyn Wong-Tam this week with­drew her mo­tion for “In­ter­sec­tional Aware­ness Week.” Rather than sin­gle out only one prob­lem, this wor­thy event would teach peo­ple about the over­lap­ping un­fair­ness re­sult­ing from in­ter­sect­ing iden­ti­ties of “race, eth­nic­ity, gen­der, gen­der ex­pres­sion, sex­u­al­ity, abil­ity and age,” as Wong-Tam put it.

But Black ac­tivists in­clud­ing Black Lives Mat­ter Toronto com­plained in an open let­ter that the tim­ing was in­sen­si­tive given cur­rent prob­lems fac­ing Blacks in Toronto — “mul­ti­ple op­pres­sions as we move from mo­ment to mo­ment and space to space” — and that the week would be “cel­e­bra­tory” rather than in­for­ma­tional.

“The term, in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity,” said the let­ter, “which is one of the more rad­i­cal Black fem­i­nist frame­works through which ques­tions of dif­fer­en­tial op­pres­sion can be the­o­rized and re­sisted, is be­ing de­ployed by the City of Toronto in fur­ther­ing the un­crit­i­cal claims to be­ing a city of diver­sity, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism and in­clu­sion.”

“Our think­ing is quite straight­for­ward,” the let­ter said.

I dis­agree. I found it in­co­her­ent.

In­ter­sec­tion­al­ity is the­o­ret­i­cal. But at a re­cent gath­er­ing at In­ter­val House, Toronto’s first bat­tered women’s shel­ter, I learned about the mul­ti­ple em­ploy­a­bil­ity bar­ri­ers that sur­vivors face, in­clud­ing ed­u­ca­tion level, work ex­pe­ri­ence, age, skin colour, phys­i­cal pain, hous­ing sta­tus, young chil­dren and con­fi­dence. They face all th­ese bar­ri­ers si­mul­ta­ne­ously.

Wong-Tam is a fine coun­cil­lor who gra­ciously backed down on her mo­tion, though she shouldn’t have. As Parad­kar wrote, she is an “im­mi­grant woman of colour in the LGBTQ com­mu­nity.”

But maybe it should be “LGBTQ+,” the + re­fer­ring to “Les­bian Gay Bi­sex­ual Trans­gen­der Trans­sex­ual Twospir­ited Queer Ques­tion­ing In­ter­sex Asex­ual Ally” or “LGBTTTQQIAA.”

Take note of the fi­nal A. It stands for Ally, which means some­one who is a friend to the LGBTQ+ peo­ple. I am an ally, al­ways have been.

The ab­bre­vi­a­tion (it’s not an acro­nym be­cause each let­ter is sounded out) ba­si­cally means “all good peo­ple.”

The great Nige­rian fem­i­nist writer Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie re­cently said she was fed up with aca­demic code words from the left, in­clud­ing “in­ter­sec­tion­al­ity.”

The other rea­son I gave up on hard­lin­ers is that they can be so ex­haust­ing. They have purges. They mur­der their dar­lings, they shun their own.

For ex­am­ple, Bri­tish Labour Party leader Jeremy Cor­byn keeps fir­ing col­leagues from his shadow cabi­net for not lik­ing him, for be­ing what is known in Marx­ism as “split­tist.” He’s run­ning out of qual­i­fied MPs to pro­mote.

The prob­lem is that Cor­byn is an ac­quired taste, and some have failed to ac­quire it. As well, some Labour MPs wish to re­flect Re­main vot­ers who gave them a seat. Labour wants them, Cor­byn’s Labour doesn’t.

Such MPs are pe­ri­od­i­cally win­nowed by Cor­byn and his sin­is­ter deputy John McDon­nell, as they are en­ti­tled to do but shouldn’t. This is Lenin’s “demo­cratic cen­tral­ism,” and I don’t like it.

When Cor­byn went bol­shie (Bol­she­vik) and said pri­vately owned empty South Kens­ing­ton flats should be seized to ac­com­mo­date those dis­placed by the Gren­fell fire in North Kens­ing­ton — “Oc­cupy it, com­pul­sory pur­chase it, req­ui­si­tion it” — that was it for me.

But for hard­lin­ers, even a par­tial ob­jec­tion is Or­wellian crime­think and it is dou­ble­plusun­good.

Th­ese men of the hard left — they have never wel­comed women — have a wor­ry­ing taste for pu­rity, very sim­i­lar to that of the extreme right, I no­tice. Ide­o­log­i­cal clean­li­ness is of­ten messed up by mis­guided, muddle-headed vot­ers who ob­vi­ously don’t know what’s good for them.

Are you one of us, the ex­trem­ists ask. I’m not. Dis­agree­ment is in my blood­stream.

Many of us are not sure we can learn the lan­guage of this ex­clu­sive club and fol­low its rigid heart­less ban on oc­ca­sional dis­agree­ment.

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