Thursday, February 9, 2017

Hello Berkeley, It is Time to Check Your Privilege

I have been making the point recently that the only people justified in using violence in domestic politics are people that are outside the system.

This was the situation of the working class in the 19th century before the workers got the vote, and the situation of blacks before the Civil Rights Acts rolled back the race-based laws of the post-Civil War South. Because these folks at that time were outside the system the only way they could get the ruling class to hear about their grievances was by shows of force, as in marches, demonstrations, and peaceful protest.

But at the University of California at Berkeley they think, in the student newspaper The Daily Californian, that violence, i.e., "radical acts against replaceable property at my school, UC Berkeley" is appropriate against "a Breitbart hatemonger's speech" on campus.

Which means that violence is appropriate against anyone you hate, er, dislike. Because anyone you hate or dislike, because you don't like their politics, is illegitimate and doesn't have a right to come to your campus and spew their hateful bile. Hey, how do you like that "radical acts against replaceable property" meme?

Presently, the UC Berkeley campus is decorated with banners from the Division of Equity and Inclusion that "raise awareness" about marginalized peoples down with the struggle and announce the admission of privilege by white males.

Earth to Berkeley: There is no place under God's blue heaven more privileged than Berkeley, and no people on this planet more privileged than those selected to study or work there.

If ever there was a place and a people that should "check their privilege" that place would be Berkeley. Let us count the ways.
  1. The young people that get to study at Berkeley are either young people privileged by their genes or the education and wealth and connections of their parents. That is why they can get into a highly selective college.
  2. Or the the young people get in because of diversity, a deliberate policy of the university administration to prefer young people of certain races or gender for study at the university before other young people of differing characteristics. Privilege by any other name.
  3. UC Berkeley is privileged by the manner of its funding. Instead of offering itself upon the marketplace of education, UC Berkeley is a creature of the state and enjoys its location, its wealth, and its prestige because the State of California and the United States of America have taxed ordinary people so that UC Berkeley can operate without the immediate spur of market realities. In other words, UC Berkeley relies for its creation and its continuance on government force. Otherwise known as privilege.
  4. At UC Berkeley, for my lifetime, liberal and left-wing speech has been protected and nurtured, while conservative and libertarian and religious speech has been marginalized and threatened. And this has been maintained by force symbolized by the protest against gay conservative Milo Yiannopoulos on February 1, 2017. Yiannopoulos and his supporters were threatened with force and his supporters actually physically attacked while the university police stood by and did nothing.
  5. The people that work at UC Berkeley, in teaching and in administration, enjoy emoluments and tenure that ordinary mortals would die for. These are economic privileges, straight up, that are backed up by force.
It is salutary to read left-wing writers justifying their resort to force. Because it highlights the whole point of universal suffrage, regular elections, legislatures, and the whole paraphernalia of representative government.

The whole point of modern representative government is to remove the excuse for violence. Elections remove the excuse for partisan mobs fighting it out on the streets. Universal suffrage means that nobody is left outside the system. Legislatures mean that the representatives of all the interests, big and small, get a piece of the action when the government's spoils are handed out. A judicial system means that disputes are adjudicated based on honest interpretation of previous law and precedent.

Of course, everyone tends to interpret these things in their favor. Our side is peaceful and just, but the other side is cheating, and so our side may be justified in using force to prevent the other side from it unjust hijacking of the system.

It is natural that a ruling class should shine a light on the public square that illuminates its own ideas and actions in a pleasant way, and that shines a harsh light upon the opposition. Thus "we" are freedom fighters and "they" are fascists.

For many years, according to conservative narrative, conservatives have not pushed back against the power of the liberal lighting technicians to put their side in a good light and our side in a bad light. In part we have not wished to provoke a political crisis, and in part we have been intimidated into silence by the power of the liberal ruling class to name and shame us as racists, sexists, bigots, and fascists.

But the conservative base has been getting steadily more and more restless under this domination. And that is why we have Donald Trump as president.

It is natural that our liberal friends should experience Donald Trump as an affront against all that is good and decent. And it is natural that they should encourage their elected officials to push back against the president. It is also natural that the aristocratic branch of government, the judiciary, should support the liberal ruling class in this.

But the point of our modern representative government is that everyone observe the rules of non-violence, that differences are resolved by elections and legislation, not by "mostly peaceful protests" and intimidation. If one side feels justified in "radical acts against replaceable property" against the speech of "hatemongers" then the other side will sooner or later respond in kind.

That is why it is a good idea to pass major legislation with bipartisan majorities. That is why it is a good idea to confirm administration nominees without partisan name-calling. That is why it is a good idea to have a judiciary that refrains from legislating from the bench. The only reason for all that stuff is to restrain hot-heads from resorting to intimidation and force.

Do you not understand that, liberals?

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