One and a half cheers for well-meaning bleeding-heart liberals

by Emrys Westacott

So many people have it in for well-intentioned, bleeding-heart, left-leaning liberals.[1] Of course, if the critics are bona fide racists, sexists, homophobes, gun and flag fetishists, religious fundamentalists, anti-government Ayn Randians, coal or oil industry CEOs, or just Fat Cats protecting their pile, then it's to be expected that they'll trash Well-Intentioned, Bleeding-Heart, Left-Leaning Liberals (WIBHLLLs–pronounced “wibbles,” and since I don't like acronyms from here on let's just call them wibbles.). It's part of these critics' job description, since wibbles cherish just what such people despise (and vice versa). What is surprising and disappointing, though, is how often one finds wibbles being attacked, ridiculed, or despised by others who hold progressive values.

George Orwell offers a paradigm example of this sort of hostility towards people who, in the great political scheme of things, are on the same team. In The Road to Wigan Pier, Orwell, a professed socialist, complains about 330px-Edward_Carpenter_(1905)

the horrible, really disquieting prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words ‘Socialism' and ‘Communism' draw toward them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, ‘Nature-Cure' quack, and feminist in England.

I can't prove this, but I rather suspect he may have had in mind Edward Carpenter (pictured), an English socialist (1844-1929) who would check most of Orwell's boxes. For an example today of a left-wing theorist whose main concern seems to be to criticize those who presumably share some of his basic values, one need look no further than Slavoj Zizek. Zizek scoffs at vegetarians, recyclers, people who buy organic produce, and people who give to charity.[2]In the 2008 documentary Examined Life, he criticizes environmentalists who seek to reduce our alienation from nature by reminding us we are part of nature. In Zizek's view, the possible success of their teaching represents “the greatest danger,” and ecology threatens to become the new “opium of the masses.” For “to confront properly the threat of ecological catastrophe” we need to “cut off [our] roots in nature….We need more alienation from life….We should become more artificial.” Elsewhere he criticizes “tolerant liberal multiculturalism” as really just “barbarism with a human face.”[3]

I have good friends who also seem to hold wibbles–”nice” people, Guardian readers­­–in special contempt, although “do-gooders” inspire even more hostility. On one occasion the name of Bono came up.”God, I despise Bono!” one friend said. Another heartily agreed. Note, they don't despise rock musicians in general, most of whom (like most of everyone) are politically disengaged. No they despise the one who has campaigned vigorously for many years to alleviate poverty, disease, and debt in the third world. Perhaps they'd respect him more if he spent his free time sleeping off hangovers and playing video games.

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