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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In Defence of Valentine’s Day

by Tara* Kaushal

In-Defence-of-Valentines-Day-Sahil-Mane-PhotographyDespite the criticisms in the Indian context, I explain why I'm a huge fan of the day of love. Conceptual image by Sahil Mane Photography.

Call me a romantic fool, but I love Valentine's Day. In college in New Delhi, I'd laugh and say, “Why not? It's just another excuse to celebrate and get presents!” Now, 10 years, awareness and much consumer fatigue since, it isn't about the gift economy at all. For days before, love is literally in the air (and on the airwaves, TV and everywhere). Consciously ignoring advertising suggestions of what we should be giving-receiving, where we should be going, what we should be doing, Sahil and I celebrate without spending. Last year, we just cooked for each other over music and laughter; this year, we're planning a party. I also wish my mother, family and friends.

When I speak of my love for Valentine's, it tends to spark debate with a whole range of people. I've had the religious and cultural traditionalists play the ‘Against Hinduism/Islam' (India's two major religions) and/or ‘Against Indian Culture' Card, say it is a cultural contamination from the West. Friends who are nonconformists and anti consumerism are, well, anti its consumerism, the nauseating marketing blitz and the pigeonholing.

And the many arguments of those coming from a postcolonial perspective are best summed up on Wiki: “The holiday is regarded as a front for ‘Western imperialism', ‘neocolonialism' and ‘the exploitation of working classes through commercialism by multinational corporations' (Satya Sharma in ‘The Cultural Costs of a Globalized Economy for India', Dialectical Anthropology). Studies have shown that Valentine's Day promotes and exacerbates income inequality in India, and aids in the creation of a pseudo-Westernized middle class. As a result, the working classes and rural poor become more disconnected socially, politically and geographically from the hegemonic capitalist power structure. They also criticize mainstream media attacks on Indians opposed to Valentine's Day as a form of demonization that is designed and derived to further the Valentine's Day agenda.”

And, surprisingly, I agree with most of these criticisms.

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America’s Shifting Tides

by Akim Reinhardt

At its founding, the United States was an overwhelmingly rural nation. The inaugural census of 1790 showed that 95% of all Americans either lived in isolated rural areas, on farms, or in tiny towns with fewer than 2,500 people. However, a steady national trend towards urbanization began immediately thereafter.

Small town train

The rise of American cities during the 19th century was spurred on by the Industrial Revolution, which created a high demand for labor. Cities became population magnets, drawing workers from around the country and eventually around the world. One generation after another, people left the American countryside behind and headed for the nation’s new and growing cities. The scales slowly but inexorably tipped in the opposite direction, and today's census numbers are practically reversed from those of 1790.

Industrial-revolution For most of American history though, rural populations did not falter. Rather, they continued to grow side by side with cities. While they were not able to keep pace with rapacious urban expansion, the sheer volume of rural America nonetheless rose at a substantial rate. Two factors largely explained the ongoing growth of rural populations despite the urban syphon: natural increase and immigration.

Agricultural families typically had a higher birth rate than urban families because children provided valuable labor on the farm from an early age. At the same time, rural America received its fair share of foreign immigrants. While stereotypes of 19th and early 20th century immigration often focus on Irish, Italians, and Jews making new homes in American cities, waves of Germans, Scandinavians, Slavs, British, and many others passed right through those cities and continued on to the heartland.

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