February 16, 2017

The Loyal Opposition: Better a Snowflake than a Monster

The Loyal Opposition

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Issue 4. Published Thursday February 16, 2017.

If you spend any time online, you’ll have seen the terms “snowflake”, “virtue signalling”, and “safe spaces” used to indiscriminately criticise any kind of progressive thought, action, or protest. It can be dispiriting to encounter so many people who argue in bad faith and assume that the only reason you might do something is to impress others.

You know what? Screw them. Better to be accused of “virtue signalling” than to do nothing at all. Better to want a “safe space” than for no-one to feel safe at all. And better to be a “snowflake” than a monster.

We must defend the weak, rebuild civic institutions, and fight right-wing extremism.

Damn right we’re snowflakes – and winter is coming.
 

Write

Your MP is here to represent you. The only way they can do that is if you tell them what you care about. Just a couple of paragraphs is fine.

  • Introduce a scrappage scheme for older, polluting vehicles: If you live nearby congested roads (like many parts of London), you’ll know just how harmful air pollution can be. Sadiq Khan has proposed a scheme to scrap polluting cars, not just for London but ultimately nationwide.

  • EU nationals should be able to stay: 3 million people from the EU live and work in the UK. Right now, it’s still uncertain whether they’ll retain their rights post-Brexit. This is causing untold stress and damage. They should have guaranteed rights, not vague assurances.

  • Keep EU citizenship: It’s possible that individual British citizens could keep EU citizenship after Brexit, allowing us to live and work across the EU. If you’d like this, tell your MP and MEP (via @Pewari).

Use Write to Them – it’s easy, fast, and reliable.
 

Donate

  • £5 to Hope Not Hate, who seek to “challenge and defeat the politics of hate and extremism within local communities, building resilience against the politics of hate and fear, at a national and grassroots level”.

  • £5 to I Can, who help children with speech, language, and communication difficulties, including through two special schools directly supporting those with severe needs (via Ian Horsewell).

  • £5 to Full Fact. Full Fact pushes back against the deluge of misleading and downright false reporting with their independent fact-checking staff who hold politicians and journalists to account.
     

Attend

Donate Abroad

  • The National Immigration Law Center is helping prepare immigrants in the US for the broad increase in ICE raids across the country. They note, “Already we’ve heard of ‘collateral’ arrests: people arrested who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when ICE came looking for someone else.”

  • Support the ACLU, Doctors Without Borders, and the International Rescue Committee by buying the Humble Freedom Bundle for $30. 100% of all proceeds go to those three charities, and you get an absurd number of fantastic games including The Witness, Stardew Valley, Mini Metro, Day of the Tentacle and The Stanley Parable.

  • UNICEF “works relentlessly to advance new ways to combat killer diseases and other threats to children – and to make these proven, low-cost methods available to every child, everywhere”.
     

Read

I’ve never wanted to throw a book across the room as much as Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild. It’s not because it’s a bad book – on the contrary, Hochschild has written a very fair and well-researched ethnography of Tea Party voters in the US.

If you’ve ever asked, “Why do they vote against their interests so much?”, this book provides the answers. And it’s those answers that (figuratively, because I read on an iPad) made this book sail across the room.   

Most reviews mention Hochschild's "conservative deep story", in which she describes the beliefs of Tea Parties, and which Tea Partiers happily endorse. It goes something like this: “Everyone in the country is in a long queue stretching as far as the eye can see. At the end of the queue is the American/British dream. You’ve been waiting there patiently, working hard, but it’s taking hours and it’s hardly moving forward. In fact, you start seeing other people pushing in front of you in the queue – women, the unemployed, minorities, even endangered pelicans. How dare they!”

It’s self-evidently racist, sexist, and self-defeating, yet it’s a story that many conservatives genuinely believe. To them, equality feels like punishment. But I’m sick of hearing their fairytale story. I prefer Hochschild’s “progressive deep story”:

… Progressives have their own deep story ... In it, people stand around a large public square inside of which are creative science museums for kids, public art and theater programs, libraries, schools—a state-of-the-art public infrastructure available for use by all. They are fiercely proud of it. Some of them built it. Outsiders can join those standing around the square, since a lot of people who are insiders now were outsiders in the past; incorporation and acceptance of difference feel like American values represented in the Statue of Liberty.

But in the liberal deep story, an alarming event occurs; marauders invade the public square, recklessly dismantle it, and selfishly steal away bricks and concrete chunks from the public buildings at its center. Seeing insult added to injury, those guarding the public square watch helplessly as those who’ve dismantled it construct private McMansions with the same bricks and pieces of concrete, privatizing the public realm.

That’s the gist of the liberal deep story, and the right can’t understand the deep pride liberals take in their creatively designed, hard-won public sphere as a powerful integrative force in American life.
 

Post Note

The Loyal Opposition now has over 400 subscribers! Growth has slowed down since the  apocalyptic early days of Trump’s Presidency, but I’m glad people are still finding this newsletter useful.

Three idle thoughts:

  1. I was a bit depressed to read the Labour Party was focus testing leadership candidates. Aren’t we looking for “authenticity” in our politicians now? Yes, they need to be leavened with expertise and professionalism, but there’s a reason why unconventional candidates are doing so well these days (and bear in mind, Theresa May has not won a national popular vote).

  2. Should British MPs hold community ‘town hall’ meetings, like US politicians? Would that be a good idea? I don’t feel like I should take up my local MP’s precious surgery time to talk to him about my issues, but it feels like it’s the only way to see him.

  3. One of the good parts of British politics is the practice of the opposition having a “shadow government” (not long ago, elections could be held at a moment’s notice, so they had to be ready to step in quickly). But one of the bad parts is that the shadow cabinet is reshuffled on a seemingly monthly, weekly, or even daily basis. I wonder if an online, distributed, non-Labour shadow government could do a better and more consistent job.

 


 

If you have ideas or suggestions, please just reply to this email. They’ll almost certainly appear in future issues!

This issue was written by Adrian Hon (@adrianhon) and edited by Dena Grabinar.

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