It’s scary to be conservative during the marriage debate in Australia, Internet. At any time, without warning, somebody could jump out of the bushes and cover us with glitter. It’s a horrifying thought and I live in constant fear.
And the ridicule! I dare not express any opinion that contradicts the completely unreasonable belief that people ought not to be subject to discrimination on the basis of race, gender, or sexual orientation. If a doctor expresses the belief that gay patients should be subject to conversion therapy, who knows what the Left might do? Perhaps they might report this act to the authorities for being a breach of professional standards? Who can know?
Clearly, every conservative now lives in fear of ridicule and humiliation. It’s completely unfair. It’s completely unbalanced. Sure, the Left lives in fear that we will literally kill them — either by running them down with cars or by stripping them of healthcare and food — but there can be no justification for political discrimination.
Why has this pathetic and cowardly rhetoric proliferated over the past few months? We barely go a few days without a right wing columnist having a sook that the Left is crowding them out. It is blisteringly stupid that those who are privileged, those who are given an unchallenged and unequaled platform to opine in support of the status quo, are able to present themselves as besieged by outsiders.
First, it is clear that there is some economic reason for this behaviour. There are rewards to presenting yourself as the underdog, speaking to the ‘real’ people out in the world who have it tough and are ignored by the ‘elite’ (however defined). Because if you’re the powerful, if you’re the oppressor, and you’re trying to set fire to the minority, you have to start wondering if you’re playing for the wrong team.
Second, and perhaps more interestingly, the debate has shown the hollowness of conservative thought in Australia. We always prided ourselves on pragmatism over ideology. We would back those who were the best. We would defend liberty against the authoritarians, and defend authority against the radicals. We would defend the greater good with whatever means we needed, and rationalise it later. And here is a really good fucking time for us to show up to the party to restore order and… nothing. Worse than nothing, we seem to be backing the wrong side.
The most powerful tool that conservatives have in their arsenal is inertia. We shape norms of behaviour and then tut-tut challenges to those norms. We are the custodian of ‘appropriate’ and ‘proper’. We regulate the behaviour of others with labels like ‘deviant’ and ‘unnatural’.
But wielding this weapon brings responsibilities. We have a responsibility to make sure that we do not, through our passivity, aid the wrong side of a dispute.
We are aiding the wrong side. Giving people police protection so they are safe to spread hatred, so that they are safe to intimidate, so that they are safe to vilify is aiding the wrong side. Arguing that ‘doxxing’ is always wrong, that there should not be rough music for those who threaten our society, that speech should always be without consequences is aiding the wrong side. Arguing that people should not be allowed to hide their identity in public is aiding the wrong side.
Conservatives are not victims in this debate. No matter how much we are ridiculed and humiliated (probably entirely rightly), what we can suffer is in no way match what minorities in our society experience as normal. And no matter how threatened we might feel by being glitterbombed and having people say mean things to us, we need to make sure that we do not stand in the way of people who are genuinely scared of far, far worse.