Interesting Language Part One: Radical Left-Wing
I’ve been watching a fair bit of FoxNews over the past few months. “Too much time on your hands” you say? Perhaps, but given we are approaching a very interesting US Presidential Election season I’m trying to keep a wide range of media in focus. That said, I do still find Fox a tough meal […]
I’ve been watching a fair bit of FoxNews over the past few months. “Too much time on your hands” you say? Perhaps, but given we are approaching a very interesting US Presidential Election season I’m trying to keep a wide range of media in focus. That said, I do still find Fox a tough meal to chew on and doubt I can sustain the viewing for too much longer.
That said, it has been fascinating to see the way some pre-packaged and ideologically laden word-bombs get thrown into the discussions. One in particular that is getting a lot of attention is “radical left-wing,” usually described by reference to some variation of lunacy and typically in connection to protests (often protests on university campuses). In this one can see again the way that the unresolved political debates of the late 1960s are providing a template for framing US political coverage today.
Today, while tidying some books, my eye caught the following quote,
“I believe the conditions of present-day society are such that this forum for acting on adolescent strengths is denied adolescents, except in the area of radical politics. If the present generation of the young seems, indeed, to be more activist, more left, than the generations before, it is perhaps a sign hat they are trying to satisfy the need to act on the strengths that have emerged during their recent lives; the feeling of being threatened with permanent adolescence has radicalised these students…”
Those words seem to speak directly to our present context and to the politically volatile campuses that so worry the Fox pundits. However, the author of those words, Richard Sennett, was not writing to our present context,
“… as much as the special social issues of the Vietnam war, poverty and the draft.”
Those words, applicable as they are today, were written in 1970 and are part of Sennett’s excellent treatment of urban Civil society, The Uses of Disorder. He goes on,
“Even today only a few young people can make a social forum out of politics for their own growth; radical politics is of necessity a limited sphere, and its guiding impulse is increasingly becoming claustrophobic and repressive. The social question for young people is still where to find an enlarged forum for experience and exploration. This, I believe, is the true task of planning modern cities. The ills of the city are not mechanical ones of better transport, better financing, and the like; they are the human ones of providing a place where men can grow into adults, and where adults can continue to engage in truly social existence.”
At the risk of sounding like a Victorian throwback, part of what I find unpalatable about FoxNews is that it simply isn’t grown-up. Find someone’s views objectionable? Then hate them, yell at them, ridicule them, demean them, mock them, demonise them. But, for goodness sake, don’t talk to them, don’t let them explain themselves, don’t work towards a civil common purpose. It’s hardly a model for an adult society. There is no real exploration of why such views appeal to young minds (or educated minds), what social forces are motivating people to protest in these ways, or even whether there might be some substance to the protests.
I do worry about cheap (and flawed) ideology on campuses (in the same way that I worry about flawed youth programmes in churches). But, the real issue is not as simple about preference, liking or disliking the ideas or modes of protest. Rather, it’s about preparation for some sort of full adult, responsible, social and civil life. Protest (and to a much lesser extent, revolution) has its place and has played an important role in shaping our social institutions. However, it is not a goal in and of itself – at some point practical solutions need to be proposed and you have to participate in the longer, slower and more frustrating process of doing something about it. That’s where the real politics begins.
This brings us back to asking what the protests of the 60s really did achieve and whether that revolutionary era did what it set out to accomplish. I’ve always found the year of my birth, 1968, to be a fascinating year to consider. The politics were so radical, but also the promise remained so unfulfilled. I think that’s the challenge for the current generation – to fulfil the promise. It’s a far more challenging question than is possible with the name-calling approach of Fox and Co.
Tommorrow – Islamo-Facism
[tags] Fox News, Radical, Protest [/tags]