Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Myths of the "Liberal Do Gooders"

Oft times in my life I have encountered others I'd label as:

"Liberal Do Gooders" though perhaps the term covers some that I'd not label this way.

Characteristics I'd note for them might include that they:

1. Clearly support one or more "liberal causes", and

2. Speak out in favor of their causes and against those opposed to such causes, and

3. Make clear by their actions and words that they are definitely not "radicals" and

4. Generally they have and oft times speak to a "balance" in their lives, except occasionally related to their "cause" if they have one single cause.

An example might (stereotypically) include:

The Democratic Obama supporter who:

1. Supports most Democratic Party and Obama positions at least relating to healthcare reform, the economy, ending "Don't Ask Don't Tell" in the U.S. military, and similar,
2. Speaks out in favor of Obama and his causes and against Tea Party and other Republican opposition,
3. Clearly indicates that they oppose various "radical causes" such as demilitarizing the U.S. or radically changing U.S. tax policy to "soak the rich",
4. Lives a "normal" life in an urban or suburban area with a balance between work, family, leisure time activities, etc.

I would distinguish the "liberal do gooder" from several other possible labels such as:

1. Liberal Activist
2. Radical Do Gooder
3. Radical Activist
4. Moderate Normal
5. Conservative Normal
6. Conservative Activist
7. Apathetic Whatever

In looking at how these (stereotyped) people are, I'd lump the liberal do gooder with the radical do gooder and separate them from the rest of groupings. These "do gooders" differ from activists of various persuasions because of their relative lack of "putting themselves on the line" for their cause or causes. Something seemingly holds them back from applying their insights (or purported insights) to sustained action. They talk their cause(s), but somehow find it impossible to really push their causes.

I have an admiration for some prominent Black, Male, Liberal Intellectuals such as Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Cornell West that I don't have for comparable (if there are any) White Male intellectuals in general. I see them taking racism as the critical issue in their lives, which is understandable. I also see them both seriously confronting their issue with their work as well as supporting other causes such as Gay/Lesbian/Transgender issues. They could defer judgment on such issues either by noting how visible homophobia is in some visible places within many visible public Black figures or by implying that their issue is "much more important" and should take precedence over the "lesser issue". They, however, recognize the inter-relatedness of such issues and the importance of coalition building between issues.

Far more commonly I see others who are defensive about their status and/or how others react to it. Many White people often feel threatened or simply not interested or focused upon the issues of People of Color, except when "the time is right". We White Men can feel threatened or attacked or just forced to face innumerable others poking at us be they: women, radical women, gays, differently abled people, people of other religions (no matter what our religious background), or others with their issues.

Oft times we may retreat into our shells for various reasons such as:

1.) I'm too busy,
2.) I'm already working on good causes and don't have the time for another cause,
3.) The other person is too _____ (young, old, threatening, radical, right-wing, etc.)
4.) I'm familiar with what you are saying and don't agree with you or
5.) Other such things.

It is very easy for many of us to resist pressures to open up and to take in things which may push our tranquility or apathy or sense that we are doing our best already. We seem to have both a sort of superiority complex about us (which keeps us from seeing and hearing others we may disagree with at times) and an inferiority complex (which similarly blinds us from being at peace and comfortable within ourselves).

It is painful for me to recognize so commonly that "the labor movement" is largely the efforts of generally poor People of Color doing serious organizing work and not the visible "labor leaders" we hear about publicly. It is sad that so many of the great people in so many causes are people that I, and many I know, may never hear about because their worlds do not focus upon reaching out to those who likely will do little to help their cause or even be polite and nice to.

Michael Moore is not my hero and is no working class hero (in my estimation).

I see relatively few people today comparable to some of the heroes of the 1940's-1960's and earlier eras. I would like to hope that we will build towards a better future and that we are on a path towards that. I fear that while we have wonderful people trying to save our world from militarism, ecological destruction, income/wealth inequality and simply hate that we are not doing enough. Thanks!

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