The Ungood Problem: Why Your Dad Is A Capitalist Nazi
Traditional political definitions have created a tribalist myth
We all know who I’m talking about, even if it isn’t ‘okay’ to say it, right? The bad people, with their evil ways, their uneducated ideologies, persecutory mindsets, and their ridiculous world views. You know, the Republicans. Or the Democrats. Or the Foreigners. Or the White People. Depending on who you are, we all have a group we define as deeply, unforgivably ‘Ungood’.
Since graduating college, I’ve come to the realization that most people are not extremely angry about queer theory or imperial colonial theory. People who aren’t incredibly clued up on white privilege are rarely the nazi monsters we created in our heads, and Uncle Max who works in credit management isn’t a greedy capitalist intent on enslaving Libya for oil profits. My mother called this newfound understanding Growing Up. Unfortunately, like that childhood fear of the dressing gown in the dark, tropes still die hard, even for me. But why?
I was reading a Facebook thread today on transgender rights (a recipe for cortisol, I know) and someone, hilariously, called me a Demoncrat. When I’d recovered from laughter, it did inspire something of a question in me. Why was I so evil in this man’s eyes? What did he think I believed that made me comparable to a literal entity of darkness and despair? So, dear reader, I asked a Republican why I was bad.
He believed, and I should stress this was prefaced as a caricature, that what really got their goat was the idea that I was sanctimonious, leftie academic socialist who wanted the government to infiltrate every single aspect of modern life. Think 1984 on acid. A weird communist authoritarian regime where taxes are 80% of our salary and there’s CCTV in our kitchens, and you have to believe everything you are told and be conformably bisexual.
This is, of course, ridiculous. Okay, the bit about me being a sanctimonious bisexual is accurate, but beyond that, I’d very much like the government to steer well clear of private surveillance, keep it’s mitts off private enterprise and freedom of speech. Taxes should be capped at 50%. Does everyone on the left agree with me? No, of course not. But here’s the thing: everyone disagrees on something. The ‘Left’ is a myth. And so is the ‘Right’.
Some of my worst fights have actually been with Lefties. So much so, that I’ve been called a Nazi and a capitalist scumbag for such fascist views as supporting scholarships and freedom of speech. Because there’s loads of different kinds of ‘lefties’: the authoritarian left, who believe in total control on speech and economics (offensive words are illegal, no one can own a business) and the liberal left, who believe in no controls on social freedoms but total control over economics (consensual incest is legal, but no one can own a business) and then the majority with softer politics closer to the boring political middle ground (me: freedom of speech on all concerns, government respects private enterprise with controls on public safety).
The right, too, is not a monolith of evil 1880s villains smugly beating their factory workers and then slipping off to a KKK rally before calling the cops on a black family having a barbecue. Some people are ‘right wing’ for being very fiscally conservative (no taxation) or for being very fiscally liberal but ethno-nationalist about it (no welfare for immigrants), while others wade into the territory of not giving a damn about economics but caring bitterly about religious authoritarianism (make the Bible the law) or traditionalism (gay families shouldn’t be able to adopt). Again, I’m talking about the fringe: most of the Republicans I know are not bloodthirsty racist capitalists, but middle class families grumpy about a hefty tax bill and what they perceive as generous funding for drug addicts. Some even have a very advanced understanding of gender and race theory and support BLM. In short, it’s a mess.
Left and Right are total constructs. They don’t work. In some areas, I’m very much a traditionally left wing voter. In other respects, I’m hilariously ‘right wing’ for believing in lowering national debt. All these two labels do are play into the idea that I’m either a sociologist professor living off Daddy and wearing dreadlocks, or a mad yuppie in red braces with a Thatcher fetish. These tropes belong in a long gone era, an era when widespread support for feminism, anti-racism and gay rights didn’t exist.
So let’s lay off calling Dad a capitalistic Nazi for now, and try to find what we actually agree on: because I promise you, if you look hard enough, you’ll realize your tribe isn’t as perfect as you think, and the Ungood People are probably just like you.