For many, the definition of a Liberal has rapidly become something of a farce. What was once an engaging political movement with a clear, widely-understood agenda, has now become a skewed array of political buzzwords that many do not understand, nor even try to.
Of course, this opinion of Liberals is somewhat, if not completely, down to the anti-political correctness of Donald Trump’s campaign, as well as the more general use of the phrase as a negative rather than a positive. To be ‘politically correct’ today is to be censored, to be adverse to free speech, to be solely confined to your ‘safe space’. Of course, this is an incorrect and unfair representation of all Liberals, but we cannot deny that this bubble of political correctness has created a certain ‘Liberal elite’.
This elite have taken it upon themselves to bear the Liberal baton, distributing buzzwords such as: ‘racist, ‘anti-semite’ and ‘homophobic’ on social media without actually engaging in their meanings. Sharing a Guardian article with such terminology makes them feel like they are ‘doing their bit’, content with this outward display of supposed morality. But it is this precise lack of engagement with such words and their meanings, words that shape their own self-acclaimed ‘Liberal’ views on politics, which has become so very damning for them.
Spotting a phoney Liberal has become something of a fun game for those who see through headlines such as: ‘Jeremy Corbyn: A Man of the People’, attached to a picture of the Labour leader sitting on the floor of a train. Many of us have begun to despair at the utter lack of effort these politicians need to go to in order to seduce the masses (not to mention that this entire episode was simply a PR stunt). Since when has sitting on the floor of a train told you more about Corbyn’s character than his passionate and incensed speeches about disarmament and inequality? Do some of these so-called ‘Liberals’ even know what his policies are?
I do not claim autonomy over the label ‘Liberal’, but I do wish to re-define it, and free it from the ignorance that has, unfortunately, come to shroud it. Ami Horowitz does a good job of marking out this ignorance quite literally. The American YouTuber goes around Berkeley, California, a Liberal elite uni campus, asking students what they thought about state I.D laws in the US. Everyone in the video, without hesitation, called them out for being ‘racist’. They made the assumption that black people were less likely to have I.D on them.
Of course, when Horowitz approached the black community in Harlem, every black person he spoke to was confused at the white Liberal’s responses. “Everyone I know has I.D, like, that’s one of the things you need to walk around with in New York” said one Harlem resident. Another laughed jokingly: “Who are these people talking to?” We might ask the same question.
It seems that a lot of it boils down to the Western “single-story” policy, a phrase coined by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in one of her TED talks. The Western media will propel a thread of stories about a certain ethnic group, a country, or even an entire continent, which unjustifiably marks them out to the entire Western world as impoverished and far-removed. In actual fact, many of these peoples and places are not leading lives solely consumed by tragedy at all. Believe it or not, the entire continent of Africa is not constantly under violent threat by warring rebels and governments. It is not an entire continent of starving children. And it certainly is not just a landscape of complete poverty, with no electricity or running water.
Adichie talks about her own struggles as a child growing up in Nigeria, but tells us: “to insist on only these stories, these negative stories, is to flatten my experience and to overlook the many other stories that formed me”. The grave misconceptions her roommate had about Africa when Adichie attended college in America perfectly demonstrates this ignorance that the Western ‘single-story’ policy has created:
“She asked where I had learnt to speak English so well, and was confused when I said that Nigeria happened to have English as its official language. She asked if she could listen to what she called my ‘tribal music’, and was consequently very disappointing when I produced my tape of Mariah Carey.”
This “single-story of catastrophe” has meant that many of us, here, in the Western world have made no efforts to engage with an alternative one. We need to stop categorising entire social groups and nationalities with our sheer and inexcusable ignorance, before we actually try and engage with, or understand them, ourselves. Preaching ‘think of the starving children in Africa’ when someone doesn’t eat all the food on their plate doesn’t make you a moral human being, it makes you an ignorant one, because that’s all your Western brain can associate with Africa.
So, what do we learn from this? It seems that we all need to go away and seriously re-evaluate our preconceptions of the world. Jeremy Corbyn sitting on a train floor doesn’t make him a saint. ‘Save the Children’ adverts do not represent an entire continent. Black people in Harlem are not all delinquents and law-breakers.
Western media has no pre-requisite to show us the full picture, and it never will, so it is our job to get a hold on it. Certain Liberalists need to understand this in order for their movement to be taken seriously again. Many Liberalists, not all, but many, are claiming to understand entire populations according to their “single-story” tragedy, ignoring the many similarities between themselves and the populations they place so far away from their own experiences. A white Liberalist elite is emerging, and we need to dispel the ignorance that it carries with it.