Another day, another divisive lefty fight. We are better than this.
We’re so very good at tearing holes in one another, have you noticed? Whenever someone is a little bit wrong, we’re so quick to tell them and everyone else what they’ve done wrong and why they are a terrible person. I have done this too. You probably have.
Does it ever actually help?
I mean, things progress, obviously, but would they progress faster if we were better at dealing with conflict and disagreement?
I have a theory as to why we do this thing. Most formal education is to a certain extent right-wing or at least small-c conservative. For any of us to have got the knowledge of left wing politics and have learnt the history of the struggle against oppression, has required us to personally fight against internalised and external oppression. This makes us feel that all the knowledge we have gained is precious.
Because we have worked so hard for it. Because we came to know that we needed it through personal pain, through the experience of being oppressed. It hurts to be told that we’re wrong. It hurts to suspect that we may be wrong.
And because so much of what we have learned has pointed in the direction of identity politics, and because we are so aware that personal bias can influence someone’s opinion, we then find it hard to criticise someone’s views constructively without criticising them personally.
This skill, to correct the view, criticise the behaviour, but still hold the person with respect as a fellow human being trying to do their best, is something we must learn. Without it, yes, we will progress. But more slowly than we would otherwise.
It does not matter what views you hold or what you do, I respect you as a human being. I genuinely believe that, however blinkered by privilege, however misguided, however bought, Cameron and Osborne genuinely believe that they are doing the best for the country. Their views are damaging and they are very wrong, but they honestly think they’re doing the right thing. God help them if / when they finally realise the damage they’re doing.
Similarly, all the people currently fighting with each other on twitter about Caitlin Moran and Helen Lewis are good people doing their best. As are Caitlin and Helen.
As for the specific point about who can speak for whom, at the end of the day, we can only ever really speak for ourselves and those who have asked us to speak on their behalf. But if we stuck to that specifically, we would spend all our time checking what we’re saying, and never end up saying any of it. We need to work together. Those of us speaking for others need to remember that those criticising us are human. We need to be gracious when we receive constructive criticism, are told that we got something wrong and avoid silencing those who already find it hard to find their voice. And those of us who feel that someone has mis-spoken on our behalf need to remember that the person who spoke is human, and inform them of the behaviour or comments that weren’t right without resorting to web-mobs.
The first instinct of someone who is attacked is to defend. The first instinct of someone offended will be to attack the person who caused them pain. We all need to get better at resisting our first impulse to lash out in our pain. Correct the views, don’t attack the human holding them.
*sticks neck out, prepares for the fire storm, presses send*