This house believes that liberals lamenting the moral bankruptcy of the extreme right are giving a free pass for oppression. — FOR
Unqualified Opinions as Parliamentary Debate Speeches — a series (Part 1)
As I begin, let me define the phrase “lamenting the moral bankruptcy”, which means to disregard the opinions and actions of extremists on the right as unfit to be addressed, by virtue of it being impossible to “get them to see our perspective”. In India, this is a complex process summed up in a rather stoic nonchalant statement, “unse baat karne ka koi faayda hee nahi hai”.
I am going to talk about 3 key aspects of this phenomenon:-
- The basics of this approach, setting its historical context.
₋ The key problems with this approach, by means of inherent contradictions.
₋ The vastly damaging implications of this approach in the long run.
This approach is rooted in the idea that there is some inherent merit in the belief systems of liberal ideology, which grants it moral superiority over the beliefs of others. It also implicitly conveys that you need to be born a certain way in order to believe simple tenets such as “humans should care for other humans”, “your right to live should not be dependent on identity”, “all humans should strive to treat each other equally” and other such fundamentals that form the basis of the ideology.
Individuals who claim to be moral allies of equal-rights movements believe there is no merit in engaging with the direct oppressor, because their highly altruistic beliefs are beyond the understanding of the opposition. They are also rather content with only further nuancing their stance in closed circuits to those who have an open ear, and are willing to change their ways further. Whereas the preferred mode of responding to someone from the other end of the spectrum is a dose of silent condemnation.
Assuming that these beliefs are a “way of life” that sets a few people apart from the rest of the hysteric bewildered masses, is rather an exact mirror of Brahmanic superiority, which believes that knowledge and personal development is for a few who are chosen by accident of birth.
In case my rather coloured description of the basics of the philosophy did not make it clear, let me enumerate my key problems with this belief system — a) it is status quo-ist b) it is solely self-serving c) it reeks of priviledge.
The problem with this approach being status quo-ist is that, in the current scheme of things, left liberal ideology is the anti-thesis. What I mean is that it is not the ideology followed by the institutions that hold power in the current structure. So the propagation of this ideology is an act of going against the status quo, and anyone who is tacitly upholding status quo inherently works against this ideology (that they seem to embrace). This approach is blind to the idea that the institutions/individuals we may like to refer to as extremists are the current power-centres, and by not engaging with their beliefs, we are giving them a tacit approval to use our share of the ideological bandwidth as per their needs. This is highly problematic, and simply makes it far more difficult for any contesting ideology to survive.
It is self-serving because the aim of this approach is to allow oneself a free pass from any form of real struggle that s/he might have to engage in, in the course of upholding these beliefs they like to espouse as their own. But as it is important to discuss and build the beliefs, to maintain their sense of moral superiority, they usually find engagement with peers a lot more useful, wherein they delve into some form of nuanced detail of the belief system, and lament that enough peers do not value it. They rally others to their cause, demanding a shift of attention from engaging with the opposition, to ensuring that some academic purist form of the beliefs is theorized and attained, which puts them at a pedestal in their peers. In the process, to put it simply, the world around them continues to burn.
It reeks of priviledge because there is almost never a situation for most such allies to be suffering directly at the hands of the oppressive institutions. They have the liberty of engaging as per convenience and the freedom to be distantly objective, both of which are absent from the purview of those who are in the direct crosshairs of right regime, and thus have to act fast and possibly crudely, because simple pleasures such as creating an echo chamber are not enough to put them at ease, because it is not a mere theoretical struggle which can be embalmed with mere thoughts and prayer.
Now coming to address my last point about the vastly damaging consequences, as I have established, the status quo is unfavourable, and this approach of moral relativity does absolutely no harm the oppressive ideology, while isolating and ignoring those who are suffering the most. While this in itself sets us on a slippery slope as people trying to build a world on the tenets mentioned earlier, it is made far steeper by virtue of indoctrinating people with the false image that this approach is helping them bring about change, and harbours intentional as well as unintentional apathy.
And ladies & gentlemen, apathy is the biggest free pass for oppression.