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Problem on the Left: Kneejerk 'Liberals' and Fanatic 'Progressives'

By       Message Burton H. Wolfe     Permalink
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In the early 1960's,when Lyle Stuart, Paul Krassner, and I were publishing the sole truly "alternative" periodicals, we had the same kind of problem with self-professed "liberals" and "progressives", and others on the so-called "left," that is in evidence today. We could publish 1,666,666 sentences with which one of our subscribers agreed, but if we published one sentence with which he or she disagreed, we would receive a poison pen letter: "I thought you were the one publisher and writer in the world I could trust to tell the truth. I thought you were the one on whom I could depend [meaning depend on always agreeing with ME]. But now you have said [whatever it was]. How dare you say such a thing? You have betrayed me. Cancel my subscription."

Paul used to refer to such individuals as "kneejerk liberals." They have a set mind on 101 positions, and they insist that everyone to be construed as a "liberal" or "progressive" (whatever they might mean by those undefined and undefineable terms) must adhere rigidly to each and every one of those positions. If any one of them is not met, the person who deviates from it is the enemy with whom there will be no compromise.

I found the same problem when I tried to participate with individuals on the "left" in meetings, seminars, efforts to organize a platform, and the like. The participants were so occupied with tearing each other to pieces that they could not agree on a united front for social reform. Today that remains one major reason, though not the only reason, why people on the so-called "left" (however that term may be defined) have limited influence on national and international affairs.

The Common Goals

To be a "liberal" means that you believe in freedom of expression and the right to disagree on issues. To be a "progressive" means that you believe in the need to do whatever may be possible to advance the well being of humanity. No matter how you may define "liberal" or "progressive," you cannot be one if you are an unyielding fanatic who develops dogmatic positions from which there can be no disagreement. This is not to say that there are no moral imperatives to be adopted. Of course there are. They relate to civil and constitutional rights, compassion, peaceful cooperation, and above all the recognition that being brothers and sisters caught in the same trap - born to live for what is no more than a snap of the fingers in geological time - we humans ought be doing all that we can to make this short life as comfortable as possible for all and, in the process, to protect the life on earth for which we have become responsible.

Common goals ought to be apparent: Redistribution of wealth, elimination of poverty everywhere, unlimited expenditures of money and resources to prevent disease and to provide affordable or free medical care for everyone, curbs on destructive overpopulation, protection of the environment of the earth and the atmosphere above it, universal freedom of expression, spread of democratic institutions, elimination of all totalitarian regimes of any kind, and the conversion of the U.S.A. today from the present oligarchy run by an aristocracy bent on self-protected wealth and power to a genuine democracy.
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Instead of concentrating and cooperating on ways to achieve those common goals, self-professed "liberals" and "progressives" continue to engage in uninformed, bigoted invective that they use to attack anyone who dares to disagree with them on any issue or any segment of any issue. The reincarnation of King George, the aristocracy which runs the nation, loves it.

The Disagreements to be Expected

If you consider yourself a "liberal" or a "progressive" who wants to bring about national and international social reform, you had better understand that there are millions in the world who construe themselves as seeking the same basic results that you want, but who are not going to agree with you on certain issues. There are millions of men and women who, coming from either secular or religious frameworks, believe in the common goals mentioned above, but who do not accept kneejerk positions to be taken on every issue before humanity. There are those who are not going to sympathize with genocidal maniacs because they are Arabs or Muslims and their announced enemies are Jews. There are those who are not going to accept the attitude that Israelis and the "Bush gang" are responsible for the violence in the Near East (not the Middle East or Near East), but who instead are going to blame it on the lunatic clerics who use Islam to preach hatred and genocide and on the rulers of the countries who harbor these evil quacks and supply them with money and weapons to be used to attack Israel and the U.S. There are those who, while supporting all other rights for homosexuals, do not and will not support the right of homosexuals to lawful "marriage" and especially are opposed to the right of homosexuals to raise children in a homosexual-oriented household. There are those who, while supporting abortion under some circumstances, are opposed to it under other circumstances (such as the unregulated right of teenagers to the procedure, because their view is that teenagers are thus encouraged to engage in mindlessly promiscuous sex when they feel that there need be no responsibility for a pregnancy, since it can be immediately terminated). There are those who demand strict curbs on immigration and deportation of immigrants in the U.S. illegally because they believe the financial or socio-economic status of persons born in this country is drastically undermined by the culture and lifestyles of the majority of those immigrants.

You can disagree all you want with fellow "liberals" and "progressives" on those issues. But if you allow that disagreement to propel you into bilious invective based on your myopic views and pigheaded refusal to unite on common goals, then you can forget about exerting any influence on national and international affairs. While you indulge your fanaticism through dogmatic positions that you assert as though you alone are the bearer of truth, the world at large ignores you. Instead of engaging with others in a united effort to create a decent existence on this earth for all of humanity, you will wind up, like your fellow fanatics, going to your death a dismal failure drowning in your own mental putrescence.
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