Monday, 24 September 2018

penumbra of mainstream legitimacy

It’s during those times when there’s not an obvious best choice that having the courage and the insight to take a stand really become the measure of a person, as one thinker, journalist and activist is committing to by coming to terms with the fact that discourse cannot always trump theatrics in the politics of the present. The forces of regression, masterful in their ability to manipulate and enlist, exploit the norms that are the hallmarks of a free and liberal society by forcing one to either concede a loss on principles—to refute the value of what’s in our quiver—empathy for the other and open-mindedness—or to dignify fascism and xenophobia with a response and elevate that outlook as something valid and equal.
Bending the true tools of identification and compassion to the form of a public debate is of course the stuff of sophistry, since true change happens at the margins and far from the madding crowd when one’s afforded a moment of reflection—again, the sort of meditation of tough choices. Watching the establishment agonise over such decisions (being drawn into the position to do so publicly) has become some sort of pastime for the right-wing, a jeering bit of muscle-memory common to all bad-faith, low-stakes arguments. Those stakes are deflated—at least for the interlocutor who lacks standing and is a dishonest advocate—because the rhetorical tactic invoked, invariably it seems and still with enough appeal to marshal a following, is a deflection along the lines of the justification-suppression model of prejudice, whereby bigots try to resolve their own dissonance with repressed chauvinism and desire to maintain a self-image that’s above it and violently avoid having to face that internal conflict by defending not their own catchment of stereotypes but the rights of others to hold and express those same views or worse—abstracting the conversation away from the context and subtext and yoking it to arguments governing free speech and censorship, often not in question but ever in the quiver of despots.