Saturday, 24 December 2016

Turkey Dinner with the Turkeys

Many newsblogs run cute little articles on how to deal with those annoying relatives who start spouting nonsense political views at family gatherings.  Peace and goodwill towards man are hard enough at the best of times.  The stress of the Christmas season - the shopping, the crowds, the consumerism - doesn't make it any easier.  Finally, throw in that conservative or regressive left relative we all have who preaches and beaks off every chance they get.  Especially if they know you are an unbeliever, and peace on Earth seems as likely at your table as it does between Russia and Turkey these days.

Speaking of turkey.

This is doubly tricky for the alt-leftist.  We get it from both sides. Sometimes at the same dinner table over the same turkey.  And from the same turkeys, stuffed as they are with regressive opinions, and that's a generous assessment much of the time.  Better to think of it as a chance to expose the flawed thinking on both sides of the regressive isle.  What you're likely to hear about depends on whether your annoying relative is reg-left or right wing.  Fortunately, both of these are marked by paranoid obsessions with a handful of recurring issues, so that makes dealing with them a bit easier.

Issue: Abortion
Most conservatives don't care as much about abortion as you've likely been led to believe.  But for a minority on the right, the issue is an absolute obsession.  I hope you're not dealing with one of these.  They're usually deeply religious and thus quite unreasonable.  Regressive leftists are more concerned about abortion overall, and they're adamant in their views that attempts to curtail abortion access amount to an assault on women's rights.  These people are usually also unreasonable.

What to tell them: This depends much on your own views of abortion.  This doesn't tend to be a major issue on the alt-left and personally, I just avoid it.  I regard the paranoia on both sides of this issue to be quite ridiculous, and perhaps the best response is to somewhat snidely point this out.  "I'm sure holocaust survivors would really appreciate your comparison of the fate of the unborn" (or of women denied abortion access, as the case may be) to what actually happened in the camps" or the like.  Are most pro-choicers such amoral nut-cases as they've been made out to be on the right?  Are most pro-lifers the literally Hitler misogynists the left claims they are?  Such claims betray how insular and dogmatic both sides of the spectrum really are.

Issue: Guns
Most progressives don't care as much about guns as they doubtlessly let on.  The truth of the matter is that in the progressive mind, guns tend to symbolize white redneck culture and/or masculine virility, and gun confiscation is seen as a means of figuratively "castrating" these demographics they don't like.  The actual guns themselves aren't such a big thing here - if it were dildos instead of guns that macho white rednecks were into, progressives would be as opposed to them as they are guns.  They'd find a way to rationalize it, I'm sure.  The key point, however, is that given its symbolic nature to a lot of progressives, they adopt anti-gun stances more as a means of signalling disdain for the hillbilly rubes than as a hill they're serious about dying on.

Conservatives are obsessed with the prospect that the current leading politician in the Democratic party is personally going to oversee a nationwide gun confiscation, as a prelude to imposition of communist, Nazi or Islamic tyranny.  Of the last six presidential administrations, four have been Democratic, and though the right wing has harped on and on about Obama, Hillary or Nancy Pelosi personally coming to take away their guns, it's not going to happen, though the right winger will never accept this.

What to tell them: If you're in a really edgy mood, you could tell them that you're all for guns, and suggest that the proletariat will need them if they want to overthrow the bourgeoisie.  Karl Marx himself pretty much said so.  You could also point out the prevalence of gun ownership in urban minority, especially black populations.  Liberals would now be advocating the disarming of black people, and you may wish to ask them if that's what they really want, especially in light of recent police shootings.  If black lives truly mattered, should they not have the capacity to defend themselves?  This same line of reasoning could well have your die-hard right wing uncle thinking gun control might not be such a bad idea.

Issue: Immigration
Conservatives have a much stronger tendency to oppose immigration and lefties a much stronger tendency to support it.  This is rightly an alt-left issue, and both conservative and regressive left opinions on it are not logical.

Believe it or not, the progressive's world would not stop turning if immigration were curtailed.  To them, stressing immigration is pure signalling, no more, no less.  Honestly, what would it really matter to them if their neighbors were foreigners or not?  This is about being smug, being correct and demonstrating white guilt.

What to tell them: Immigration is about cheap labor, and you damn well know it.  Suggest that fewer immigrants would likely result in lower unemployment, and therefore higher wages overall.  Also suggest that solidarity comes more easily to a culturally homogeneous labor force.  Ask your conservative uncle if this is really what he wants?  Also suggest to him that this is why the right wing, once in office, always revs up immigration.

Your progressive sister in law might need more convincing.  While a better situation for the working class should, in theory, be something the progressive left would favor, they really don't.  Given a choice between low wage multiculturalism and a culturally homogeneous social democracy, progressives these days will chose the former, every time.  Perhaps they'll change their tune when you point out that lower wage earners are also disproportionately members of charmed-circle demographics such as women, people of color and immigrants.

Issue: Islam
This one is a lot like immigration in that the constellations of western political forces that support and oppose it are intuitively illogical to any thinking, reasoning person.  Sadly, that rules out most right wingers and regressive leftists.  So the religion of peace is likely to be the berserk button for right wingers while the college lefties rush to its defense.

What to tell them: Ask your conservative uncle if he figures that homosexuality is immoral, that it would be great to shoot commies, that a woman's place is in the kitchen, if we need God back in the classroom, or if the federal government of the United States is much too vast and powerful?  If he answers yes to most or all of the above, suggest that he might actually get along well with the Mujaheddin.  Lord knows, the messiah of the Republican party, Ronald Reagan, felt that way.

You would think that your progressive sister in law would be swayed by the above to think Islam a thing to be feared.  Less than you'd think.  You'll have to press the attack a bit.  The challenge here is to disentangle the religion from the race - suggest to her that maybe if more Muslims were white, she'd dislike them more?

If you fear such stances will have you dodging a bowl of gravy being thrown your way, take a slightly safer tack.  Suggest that Mideast politics comes down to oil and the sale of OPEC oil in US dollars.  As an alt-leftist, you can't go wrong falling back on macroeconomics.  Saudi Arabia excels in the export of two things: oil and Islamism.  US dollars play a key role in both.

Issue: The 2016 Election
A biggie, or perhaps I should say bigly, for sure.  The key to understanding it is thinking as much in terms of who people voted against as who they voted for.   Suffice it to say, the regressive left supported Clinton, the conservatives went for Trump.  Most on the alt-left would have preferred Sanders to either one (lord knows, I would have), but this was a yuge variable for alt-leftists, many of whom (for reasons I'll never quite grasp) supported Trump.

What to tell them: What you accentuate should depend much on whether you supported Trump, Clinton or neither.  You'll need to scrutinize your own reasons carefully if you decided to cast your lot with either one.  I wouldn't have been able to, personally.  If either one wasn't a hill you were ready to die on, than perhaps this argument shouldn't engage you.  A key thing to remember here is that while Trump's electoral college win was considerable, Clinton's win of the popular vote is likely to erode the strength of his mandate.  Keep in mind that if their positions were reversed, your conservative uncle and your reg-left sister in law would completely switch positions accordingly.

The underlying issue in this election, I think, is how both party partisanship and the underlying cultural divide has broken the country.  It's easy to tell your reg-left sister in law to stop rioting in the inner cities - would team Trump be handling things graciously if their positions were reversed?  We know the Tea-Party hard right demonstrated and claimed Obama wasn't their legitimate president either.  It's easy to brand Trump supporters as a "basket of deplorables", but doesn't painting them all with one brush undermine the very spirit of unity and equality and disdain for prejudice that is so much the concern of the Clinton camp in the first place?  Sure, we don't like misogyny, but what's with tarring Sanders supporters as "Bernie Bros?"   It's tempting to blame the democrat loss on identity politics alienating white working class voters, and not without cause, but since when were the republicans the horse to bet on for working class people?  Frankly, their distrust of Clinton was warranted, their support for Trump was not.

Family gatherings with opinionated regressive leftists and right wingers is challenging.  Hopefully their more redeeming personal qualities compensate for their politics.  Try, perhaps to keep the conversation away from politics all together.  But if things stray in that direction, the above advice and, as always, the other red pill are good bodies of knowledge and thought to have in your corner!

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