How far does one publicly dare to question contemporary shibboleths of liberalism/radicalism (my own preference is to distinguish the two; I view liberalism as antiradicalism, a moderate version of corporate capitalism, and hence, not one of my favorites)? More particularly, how open are publications and views with bono vide radical credentials to criticism of, for example, homosexuality and transgenderism? Yes, we all believe in toleration, profess a commitment to open advocacy, provided they fall within the parameters of human rights, which homosexuality and transgenderism certainly do. I am not calling for censure, public hangings, or even gentle criticism—only for a little perspective. Privacy, I believe, is a sacred right. No argument there. Yet, as an old radical (84 next month), with extensive background in practically all areas of radicalism (exception: sexual politics) over a lifetime, and with a diagnosis of terminal cancer staring over me, I feel I am free to speak my mind.
Whether others will want to listen, or grant me that privilege (especially when it goes against conventional radical wisdom), is another matter. This is not engagement in hate-politics, nor, hopefully, an expression of senility, but reflections on how I see as taking one’s eyes off the ball (i.e., a failure to prioritize structural-psychological issues in the face of world realities). To show concern for the liberation of sexual impulses, lifestyles, etc., when the power structure of the United States is moving ever-closer to fascism, is to me (a) a luxury of self-indulgence or of gratification, (b) a societal blindness to issues that affect, as I believe, more fundamental forms of human dignity (notably, the distribution of wealth and power in society, income inequality, enforcement of juridical concepts and provisions of equality before the law and as addressed by local, state, and federal police powers, and (c) a diversion from fighting against the real enemies of human freedom, capitalism, corporatism, fascism, lack of transparent government, perhaps most important right now, militarism, foreign intervention, regime change.
America just dropped on Afghanistan the largest non-nuclear bomb in global history. After the first day, a few references in the press and public discussion, and after that nada, as business as usual is resumed in full splendor—more threats, confrontations, possible interventions. Today, as self-indulgence, societal blindness, diversion, make the news, one feels that the radical vision of societal betterment is vanishing, lost from sight, as though sexuality trumps homelessness, malnutrition, gut-wrenching impoverishment, wars and their preparation, a military budget that sucks the lifeblood from the social-welfare sector, in a word, America as it presently exists, and as it has under bipartisan leadership since the close of World War II.
“Prioritize,” a cold, emotionless word, and yet, it follows disturbingly when it is set against a sexual politics that can only have validity when far more basic problems are first resolved. I know this contradicts prevailing radical opinion, which either looks askance at traditional factors of concern, or else puts sexuality on the same plane as the others as testimony to human rights. What good will the toleration, and for those immediately concerned, the practice of, homosexuality, be if the human race faces annihilation, or if in everyday living people are unemployed, undereducated, some dying prematurely because pollution standards are unenforced or not sufficiently rigorous, or dying prematurely because the pharmaceutical makers and medical profession get away with highway robbery? Much needs to be done, indeed, the whole reconstruction of society (whether or not socialism is the sole legitimate answer?) has to be created, away from war, hegemony, privation, environmental degradation, before rolling up our sleeves and confronting head-on issues of personal liberty.
I’d want very much to see dignity and complete rights freed from ideological stigma accorded to every human being, which obviously must include sexual identity. All of our brothers and sisters have a right to enjoy the sunshine, neither fearing discrimination and ridicule nor the diminution of self-worth because of societal prejudice. So what does this come down to? Build a better society, the democratization of power, but don’t ignore what is before us, which, doing, becomes complicity in a horrid status quo, filled by billionaires taking over government and capitalism becoming identical with the State. As precious as personal liberty is, it does not have to be flagrantly displayed when, e.g., race as a social determinant of condition still obtains or economic standing shapes one’s possibilities for happiness. Enjoy one’s own humanity and that of those one loves, without forcing to the front, and therefore giving conspicuous attention to, what for the moment demands equal or greater notice, than the solution to, yes, specifically economic-political problems crowded out of our field of vision. Don’t trivialize radicalism, which itself, historically and morally, seeks the health, well-being, and pride of every human being, but at the same time, affirm the significance of social structure and ideology in ensuring the fruition of human dignity as an unconditional birthright for all.