Cologne, Lunatic Fringes & The Discussions Not Had

I’m not going to talk so much about Cologne itself or the implications, there’s plenty of discussion about that already going on and I can’t contribute a huge amount to that (Refugees, immigrants and migrants aren’t the same thing. Even a thousand young men behaving abominably doesn’t mean everyone’s a problem. This is a bad combination of deprivation, culture clash, grievance, opportunism, religion and ideology. In short, it’s complicated).

What I do feel I can contribute to and bring up is the surrounding problem of discussion and some of the opportunism and hypocrisy we’ve seen around this. I also want to point out that this problem is not confined to Cologne but has been reported in other cities, Germany has a long-standing problem with Islamic-culture immigration especially in the relatively impoverished former East Germany, and that similar attacks and issues have become shockingly common across Northern Europe.

This situation is now a conversation we are forced to have, because up until now we have not been able to have it. The taboos around racism and islamophobia have meant that some hideous wrongs have occurred that could have been prevented. The biggest and worst of these examples is, of course, Rotherham but it’s far from the only one. There’s some evidence and suggestion that assaults and rapes in Germany and elsewhere have been kept hush-hush (I wouldn’t go as far as to say covered up, yet) in order to avoid feeding into a climate of fear, racism and islamophobia.

The problem is that this has happened anyway, and by keeping the Overton Window so small, the entire conversation on the problems of large numbers of dispossessed people from a different culture, antithetical in many ways to western liberal values, has been entirely ceded to far right racists, the ‘white genocide’ lunatic fringe. Most dangerous of all, it almost makes their pathetic ideas seem credible if things are being ‘kept quiet’.

If reasonable, rational people can’t have conversations about race, immigration, culture and other issues, then the lunatics will and when people’s experiences on the ground aren’t listened to, or see them condemned as racists and islamophobes, then they’ll turn to the people who will listen to them.

It has also been absolutely breathtaking to see the… well, hypocrisy doesn’t even seem to be the right word here, it’s not strong enough. The… squirming discomfort, doublethink and apologetics about all this coming from the regressive left. Especially media feminism. When the air conditioning is too cold or some poor schlub makes himself comfortable by sitting with his knees apart there’s hell to pay, but when hundreds of women are molested and raped… then there seems to be relative silence.

Over the past couple of days a few things have emerged, but it has largely been this apologia I describe. Attempts to broaden the blame to men, as a gender as opposed to men of a particular culture, religion or ethnicity (this strikes me as being even more bigoted as it’s broadbrushing 50% of the population), attempts to shame people from talking about it via accusations of racism or islamophobia and worse. It seems that when it comes to feminism at least, patriarchal oppression is fine provided you have brown skin and originate from an impoverished or war torn country.

No.

We need to have conversations about these issues and the rational left, the compassionate and measured voices need to be a part of that debate. Not cowering in fear of being branded with a scarlet letter from their insane, radical fringes. The same goes for the right, who need to be able to enter the conversation on a level-headed basis without being branded by their insane, racist fringes and the ‘white genocide’ conspiracy loons.

Be brave, have the conversation, give the lunatics on both sides the finger and let’s work towards a calm, compassionate, rational solution.

 

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Apologia from The Guardian

Meditations on Cultural Libertarianism

Allum Bokhari, a liberal fellow writing for – of all places – Breitbart, has posited that we are experiencing a new cultural phenomenon, which he dubs ‘Cultural Libertarianism‘, and which has been somewhat discussed – critically – by the Centre for a Stateless Society, pointing it out as one side, or an emerging counter-revolution, in the increasingly vicious culture war.

Mr Bokhari defines this Cultural Libertarianism largely by defining what it is in opposition to, rather than what its values and positive characteristics are. He does cover, briefly, what he identifies as Cultural Libertarian values which I’ll use as the basis for this discussion.

  • Championing free expression.
  • Resisting Identity Politics and public shaming.
  • Defending and understanding humour.
  • Opposing nannying and ‘safe spaces’.
  • Defending personal freedom.
  • Facts over feelings.
  • Valuing consumers and producers over third parties.
  • Celebrating culture in all its forms.

Some of these seem redundant to me and the aspects which are oppositional to what is being called ‘progressivism’ often stem from existing values. In promoting that positive value you inevitably come into opposition with others.

If I were to identify what I thought of as the core values of this emerging phenomenon, I would identify them as such:

  • A belief in the inherent value of free expression.
  • A belief in the equality, potential and strength of human beings.
  • A belief in the power and value of personal liberty.
  • A belief in the power, utility and relevance of reason.

It is, probably, necessary to define ‘libertarianism’ (small ‘l’) before going any further. If you say ‘libertarianism’ to most people, they picture some some of Ayn Rand worshipping anarcho-capitalist with an absolute belief in the free market and no sense of fairness or life-goals beyond unbridled profit.

This isn’t necessarily an unfair assessment of many economic Libertarians (big ‘l’) but libertarianism is not so specific an idea. The toxic and specific definition is so pernicious it has even begun to infiltrate dictionaries. Scruton’s Dictionary of Political Thought includes the extreme laissez-faire economic perspective, but also describes more classical libertarianism as a form of liberalism which…

…believes in freeing people not merely from the constraints of traditional political institutions, but also from the inner constraints imposed by their mistaken attribution of power to ineffectual things. The active libertarian is engaged in a process of liberation and wages war on all institutions through which a man’s vision of the world is narrowed… …among them the institutions of religion, the family and the customs of social – especially sexual – conformity.

This doesn’t quite describe what we’re talking about here either, though you can see the spirit of it within it. You can see echoes of what we’re talking about in both economic and social libertarianism though. An economic libertarian advocates minimal – or no – societal (governmental) interference in the conduct of business, a social libertarian advocates minimal – or no – societal (governmental) interference in social conduct and, then, a cultural libertarian would advocate minimal – or no – societal (or governmental) interference in cultural conduct.

  • An economic libertarian might argue against business regulation.
  • A social libertarian might advocate for the legalisation of sex work and recreational drugs.
  • A cultural libertarian might advocate against any and all constrictions of free expression.

To me, much of this seems to be what I have often longed for in the past five years, a reassertion of Enlightenment values and of classical liberalism.

All of western society which, love it or loathe it, has been powerfully successful, derives in its modern form from Enlightenment values of reason, empiricism, skepticism, independence, individualism and, you might say, an attempt to bring about the maturity of society by separating it from political and religious tyranny.

Classical liberalism, to finish contextualising cultural libertarianism, has the asserted values of:

  • Belief in the supreme value of the individual, their freedom and rights.
  • Belief in natural rights, inherent and independent to society and government.
  • Recognition of the supreme importance and value of freedom, with the view that interference should be limited and minimal and only justifiable to the extent that it maximises freedom.
  • A humanistic view of human affairs, rather than a theological view.
  • Universalism, that rights and duties transcend place and time and that the human condition is our common experience.
  • Advocacy of tolerance in morality and religion.

I believe we can see a common thread, then, running from the explorations of the Enlightenment, through classical liberalism (and democratic socialism, much as that may shock and horrify some cultural libertarians) through to today’s new cultural libertarians.

That’s a noble tradition.

Of course, there are points of confusion where the values from this heritage also seem to be held by cultural libertarianism’s opposition, or where it seems to run at odds to some of the other values of people who might be dubbed cultural libertarians. I don’t want to dwell too much on the negative – as I stated at the start – but some aspects are worth pointing out.

It confuses many how people of such opposing values on other scores can find themselves in common cultural cause. I, for example, have little I agree with – say – Adam Baldwin or Katie Hopkins on, but however obnoxious I find them or they find me, I think we all would agree on one thing. That we each have the right to our opinions and the right to express them. Supporting a person’s right to free expression does not entail agreeing with their economic or social positions. People are so quick to slap an identity on someone – friend or foe alike – that nuanced discussion becomes impossible because you’ve been written off as a ‘conservative’ or a ‘misogynist’ or whatever else.

People are more than their identity tags.

Another point of contention might be the nature of freedom and of rights. There’s always a tension between ‘freedom from’ and ‘freedom to’ and between a person’s right to do something and another person’s right to be free of something. ‘The right to swing your fist ends at the tip of my nose’, so to speak, but how much nasal protection is in order?

Cultural libertarians will tend to favour ‘freedom to’ and JS Mill’s formulation of the Harm Principle would seem to offer a good guide to where intervention is morally and ethically justified.

“The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.”

‘Harm’, of course, is the centre of much of the modern debate, what constitutes actual harm, whether it includes emotional harm, whether it includes taking offence and whether it’s acceptable to take offence on behalf of someone else. I would argue that cultural libertarians mean genuine and actual harm – such as direct advocacy of violence – and not insult or offence.

Tolerance is the last arena I shall briefly touch on, where confusion might arise. Tolerance, in common parlance, has come to mean ‘strenuously not offending or upsetting anyone’, whereas tolerance in this sense – and more properly if I’m any judge – means putting up with and coping with running into contradictory views and being able to cope with their existence. Ironically the opposite of what ‘tolerance’ has come to mean.

These are some initial thoughts on a phenomenon and proposed ‘new’ social movement that I find fascinating and I shall probably continue to discuss and attempt to identify what it means as time goes on.