When we don’t understand or engage critically with the views of our political interlocutors, we end up creating empty rhetoric. This is particularly true when it comes from people whose identity is formed and performed around a core political belief: ‘Look at how [progressive/conservative/libertarian] I am. Here is me saying all the right things.’
As a conservative, I get very frustrated by mainstream conservative ‘Woe is me and the sky is falling’ boohooery. But calling it out is a challenge when you disagree with the conservative framework entirely. Here’s Brad Chilcott’s article on conservatives complaining of being silenced, and below is the same article with the political positions shifted. What it shows is that there is no intellectually satisfying content to Chilcott’s rant.
There’s no more perfect example of cognitive dissonance than straight, white progressive males using the platform of their privilege to protest the oppression of straight, white progressives in Australia.
It was prevalent a few weeks ago with the “Scientists perspectives” edition of Q&A, where – presumably – a well-educated, wealthy, white man will make the oft-repeated declaration that, “It is getting harder to be a scientist in Australia,” accompanied by hyperbolic and baseless descriptions of scientific ignorance, prophecies of societal devastation and warnings to the universities to “be on guard”.
Pacific island gulags! $100k degrees! Separate water fountains for the trans community! Coming to an Australia near you
Progressives, the argument goes, face increasing opposition when voicing their opinions and so, it must follow, the mainstream media is intentionally fomenting anti-progressive hatred while intentionally robbing them of a fair hearing.
One can only imagine how truly vulnerable communities would yearn for the elevated platform given to the progressive worldview through the likes of Gillian Triggs, the ABC, numerous senators and MPs, Jane Caro, denominational leaders, religious institutions and well-funded lobby groups.
Add the historical influence of the universities and the media’s penchant for conflict the reality is clear – far from being persecuted, in today’s Australia the progressive voice is amplified and disproportionately powerful.
While it’s true that voicing your opinion in public can be difficult at times, there’s a vast difference between being a victim of discrimination and the reality of fewer people agreeing with you than you’re used to.
Whenever you add your voice to the public arena – on social media, as a columnist or televised talking head, or at the pub with friends – you’ll encounter the discomfort of disagreement. At times it’ll be mean, nasty and hateful.
This can’t be equated with the prosecution of a minority group, it’s the reality of entering the debate. Conservatives abuse slightly-less-conservatives, greedy capitalists scorn bleeding heart socialists, Ricky Gervais insults people of faith and the patriarchy condescends to feminists. It’s not easy being someone who takes a public stand – but the disagreement of others cannot be equated in any way to the experience of people who by virtue of their sexuality, ethnicity, religion or politics are culturally, systematically or structurally excluded from full participation in society.
Likewise, the right to hold to a particular world view is not damaged by the reduced popularity of that world view. One can continue to be a climate change alarmist for as long as there’s a climate – just as you can disagree with asylum seeker policy or the national chaplaincy programme – without the privilege you possess as a straight, white, wealthy Australian being in any way diminished.
The way to win a debate of any kind is not to publicly mourn your declining influence, as though the public should apologise for not believing the same things you do; it’s not to blame the insidious agenda of people of differing ideology, theology or faith, as if you are not also promoting an agenda by all the means at your disposal; and it’s certainly not to harangue those who disagree with you for being complicit in the destruction of life as we know it.
It’s to have a better argument.
Perhaps, instead of attempting to co-opt Christ into protecting their privilege, certain progressives could consider Jesus’ model of presenting his agenda to the public: sacrificing his rights, reputation, social status and even his life to stand up for tradition, values, and religious piety.
That’s the kind of argument that will always retain its relevance and power.