Issue 3, Volume 17
I’d like to thank my learned colleague for their enlivening submission to the most recent issue of De Minimis. My personal response to the article was so visceral and unsubtle that I believe it would be unseemly of me to record all of these feelings publicly. Rather, my written response takes the form of a short missive on trends which are typical to those writings penned by young people who self-identify as right of centre politically.
The foremost feature of modern right-wing cultural criticism is its conceited tone. It is standard for those on the right to assume the mantle of rationalism, even suggesting their rationality makes them in some way iconoclastic. Typically, a young rationalist might characterise the ripostes of any person to their left as automated, as if generated by a nervous twitch engendered through social conditioning or a desire to be seen as cool. The implication is clear, leftist NPC’s only know the party line; they are incapable of original thought and would insist to the point of tears that, to give a random example, a day like International Women’s Day should be upheld, even in the face of increasing access to education for women internationally. Further, rather than welcoming the celebration of an increasing trend away from domestic servitude for women, a rationalist sees that such a trend as proof that there is no need for any such celebration, even going so far as to take such a celebration as a personal attack on one’s liberty.
This bleeds into the second feature I’ve identified in modern conservative discourse; a particular style when it comes to reasoned contextual analysis and overall synthetic thinking. Being right-wing in the modern day means cutting the crap, seeing things for what they are. In practice, this could look like taking a cursory glance at the MLS’s celebration of International Women’s day and deciding prima facie that it’s an attack on their intellectual liberty, when the student body has shown an unwillingness to acknowledge the similarly named International Men’s day. In making this assertion, we must ignore that one day celebrates historical trend away from oppression while the other is a day to air the resentment of aggrieved divorcees and men that message death threats to Clementine Ford. Regardless, the two days have very similar names and boys really are just as good as girls, so the standard matrix for modern “rational” thought holds that the MLS should be obligated to treat both days equally.
Another example is the Acknowledgement of Country, said before every ceremony and at the commencement of every semester. While the irrational left may view such a concession as a poignant reminder of Birrarunga’s true and unseeded ownership, or even just a gesture of goodwill that ultimately costs nothing, a rationalist understands that these “performances” are nothing more than a wanton abrogation of political freedom by an institution that holds us intellectually captive. A rationalist can see that racial justice means that all things need to be equal, not equitable. Elevating the history of a racial minority promotes division. Instead, increasing cultural sameness and Fukoyama’s prophesised Death of History should be the express aim of every institution! We need total societal uniformity above all else! Wait… Sorry… I was trying to write about how rationalists want there to be a diversity of opinion in places like the MLS… Sorry I think right-wing rationalism might be intellectually above me somewhat.
Finally, I’d like to concede that I do actually agree with one point well laboured by my learned colleague. Displays of a certain cultural perspective without a concurrent structure materialising the same value, such as the recital of an acknowledgement of country by an educational institution with a low indigenous matriculation rate, help to illustrate left wing politics’ susceptibility to appropriation by bourgeois institutions with little vested interest in actual progressive change. Similarly, the idea that a person marked with a point of difference from the hegemonic, Vitruvian ideal, is automatically above reproach by virtue of this difference, speaks to the atomising nature of modern, left-wing identity politics, particularly when these politics are instrumentalised by a bourgeois polity such as the one inhabiting Melbourne’s inner north.
My point being—the MLS isn’t really that left wing. There are window dressings and feel-good events, but it’s hard to put together a centre for collectivist political agitation when more than half the people keen to apply are well-heeled, private school educated graduates from prestigious universities, many of whom never having previously supported themselves financially. Look around at your comrades in class, these aren’t people who tear themselves away from study to protest Adani, they’re not the ones who fight with police because they have family locked up or agitate for a higher Newstart because the increase would mean being able to afford a Myki fair to their job interview at Woolworth’s. I am not trying to say that no one here is left-wing, or that no one here knows what it’s like to have to pinch pennies and work hard, but I am saying that the overwhelming political heft of unified working class isn’t effectively harnessed by places like the MLS because that’s not what places like this are designed for. Places like the MLS are designed to promote exceptionalism and competition, the essential fundaments of modern capitalism. If, in the midst of all of this, you find yourself affronted by an Acknowledgement of Country or a public mention of International Women’s Day, don’t worry—there are still plenty of young Liberals, and plenty of young Laborites who share a confidence in the efficacy of existing social systems and lack a desire for their upheaval. I’d say that many of them will stay by your side, a few years from now when you’re hammering out M&A’s for a top-tier law firm, and will be with you and the rest of Australia’s legal cohort long into the future.
Anonymous is an SJW in third year with fierce eyebrows.