The Radical Liberal Manifesto (Part 1)

Disclaimer: I am a white person. I tell you this, as it is pertinent to my story, as well as important information when it comes to diving into complex societal issues today. Again, I do want to say that I do not believe in white supremacy; I think that we can all agree that there is no time, place, or thought that should be given to these atrocious perspectives of the world. Just because I am talking about issues when it comes to white people and whiteness does not mean that I believe in white nationalism, supremacy, or Neo-Nazism. 

When the news broke that I had decided to write a book about my experiences, as an emotional captive of radical social justice, the hate mob (of my peers, former friends, and random angry strangers) descended, like a plague of locusts, except these locusts were hellbent on destroying my reputation, spewing lies, hate, and ridicule, as well as sending death threats because you know, that is always a fantastic way to engage someone who disagrees with you. That being said, I find myself mourning the loss of healthy, important, and diplomatic debating. On this note, I ask: what has happened to debate? When did political correctness immobilize and erode debate and why is debating problematic nowadays? I will digress from this point temporarily, but I will return to it. I find myself wondering why I would have ever been someone to support radicalism, and the answer to this question lays in the fact that I was a vulnerable and impressionable young person who did not know much better, but then again, could you blame me? My university (like many, but not all) is the epicentre for liberal ideals, thoughts, and beliefs, and we are taught that if we have a difference of opinion, then we have to quiet ourselves, for fear of retribution. You become a captive audience, and in retrospect, this makes me uncomfortable. Some professors and TAs go and take it a step further when it comes to making sure that [radical] liberalism runs rampant, as they know that grades, participation marks, and contribution to class discussions can be held hostage. You find yourself wielding a double-edged sword, as if you do contribute, and you express any inkling of Conservatism, you will be verbally attacked by your peers. You will have to deal with people breaking down and bawling in the middle of the class because you do not believe what they believe, you will develop a problematic reputation, and you may even be protested on campus. But, in order to pass your classes, you have to do what is expected of you. How do you reconcile this? Do you abandon your beliefs in favour of academic success, or do you stand up, armed with nothing but your Constitutionally protected freedom of speech and your opinions? More often than not, it is about getting through a class without wanting to stab your eyes out with a grapefruit spoon, and I would feel this way, even with radical liberalism. I have seen it happen, and in another life, I would attack the Conservatives for their beliefs at Trent. You often do not recognize this is happening until you can step outside of it, and I have many regrets from this time in my life, as there is a tremendous amount of truth, validity, and importance of and in Conservatism, not only in our society, but in these institutions. If Conservatism, for lack of a better word, perishes on university campuses, where is the balance of interests? Who is looking our for the students (and staff) who disagree with the Left? What happens when Conservative students do not feel safe on their own campus because of the liberal hate mob, radical intolerance, and regressive behaviour towards different opinions and/or perspectives? On what planet can this be labeled (or preached) as “tolerant”? Additionally, radical social justice is oozing with paradoxical irony, especially on university campuses. Liberal institutions can still be labeled racist, or sexist, or homophobic, or transphobic, or Islamophobic, etc., especially when they are the alleged cause of perceived injustice or when they stop cooperating with the demands of the radical Left (which can be seen in policy development or refusing to issue a statement about an incident for example). In my experience, buzzwords are used to shame anyone who does not comply, and this would regularly play out on my campus, especially when it came to our Trent Conservatives, issues of racism, and the ever-growing contention over the state of Israel. 

Academic institutions should acknowledge, respect, and PROTECT the opinions and perspectives of ALL students (as long as these opinions and perspectives are not white supremacist notions, white nationalism, or Neo-Nazism). We are taught to regurgitate what is being told to us, and we do not have the space, the freedom, or even the time to cultivate, grow, and express our own ideas. We are taught to be good little mindless liberal zombies, to not question what is going on around us and this does not create well-rounded humans that are able to be contributing members of society. As far as I know, and correct me if I am wrong, but there are no degrees in Protesting 101, even though these ideals and actions are shared by some academics, if not encouraged by others (which varies from issue to issue and department to department). In order to help me conceptualize everything that I have been though, as well as to venture further on my own healing journey after my escape, I have created the “Radical Liberal Manifesto”, which is all rooted in my experience with the radicalism. I now see that if you do not conform to the “universal truth” of liberalism, then you will be left behind. But, I am okay with it now because I am going to challenge this, as it is no longer my truth. Other attributes of the radical liberal cult is the fact that you must believe all or nothing. If you are unable to agree with absolutely everything that is being fed to you, then you are problematic, and will be branded as so. This is something that I have undervalued about politics in Canada, as you have the freedom to choose what to believe, and you are not limited to one party. Granted, there is nothing wrong with believing in and supporting one party, but for me, I do still have aspects of liberalism in my belief system. I have abandoned radicalism, as I do not believe there is a place for this in our society (on either the Right or the Left), but I do believe in some social and environmental policy of the Left, whereas, I fundamentally believe in Conservatism when it comes to our military, honouring our roots and traditions, and with fiscal responsibility. For me, this equates a balance of interests in my mind, and helps to inform my worldview. There is quite a bit of truth when it comes to recognizing that you do not know what you have until it is taken from you, and under the radical liberal cult, my ability to choose what to believe was taken. I would have a difficult time coming to terms with the fact that I was slowing being turned into a “tool” for “the movement”, where my opinions, perspectives, and insights would be completely disregarded, and it got to a point where my life (and existence) eventually did not matter. Another aspect of this Manifesto includes (based solely on my experience and observation being trapped in this thinking for months) is that all white people are seen as being a monolith, where we do not have individual identities, where we are seen as being generic and worthless. It is perceived in the radical liberal movement that white people are all born with silver spoons in their mouth, which is completely preposterous. 

I will be the first one to say how grateful I am that a platform such as this exists, as I have lived my life the past while quieting my own voice and staying silent because I did not have any other choice. Another aspect of this Manifesto is that you never want to get caught in a position where your whiteness, your privilege, or your emotions are showing, because this can (and will be) used against you through a myriad of emotionally abusive tactics. Therefore, you get used to gag orders, whether they be enforced by the folks that you are trying to help, or you impose them on yourself because you are taught that white people have taken up too much space through history, and that it is your job to empower others to speak. I do see the validity and importance in letting others take on leadership roles, especially when it comes to social organizing, but when your own physical, emotional, and academic well-being is eroding to make sure that happens, it is not sustainable. You should never have to light yourself on fire to keep others warm, as the saying goes. The final aspect that I am going to talk about in this article is the perception that white people are unable to have an opinion(s) about any of these social issues (racism, colonialism, oppression, trauma, etc.), as we are “unable” to experience any of these struggles. For the record, white people are able to experience trauma, injustice, and oppression (such as sexism, or ableism, etc.). This is another paradox in the realm of radical liberalism, as we (white people) are made responsible for these actions in the past, the present, and the future, yet there is nothing that we are able to do in the eyes of the radical Left. I would find myself asking, in one of my darkest hours, why was I fighting this futile battle with myself and with society in general? If there was nothing that I was able to do to remedy the injustices of the past, what was the point of any of it? I will leave you with these questions to ponder. In conclusion, I want to return to my earlier point about debating, and how I genuinely believe that it is a disservice to our citizenship to not exercise our fundamental rights and freedoms, especially when it comes to the contentious freedom of speech. I have since realized, after attending Trent, that there is such a thing as “selective free speech”, where like-minded liberals and radical liberals are given that platform to speak, but if anyone communicates a different opinion, it is the end of the world. Free speech should not be selective with who gets the right to speak and who does not; that is not how democracy is supposed to function. There are legitimate limitations on our free speech when it reaches into the realm of hate speech, the violation of the rights of others, and perpetuating distasteful narratives, etc., but we need to be able to use our voices, our ideology, and our experiences to balance the scales of our society, where liberalism is not running rampant in the streets, silencing those who disagree with them. We need debate, we need communication, and we need diplomacy if we are to figure out how to navigate the rough, uncharted waters ahead.

Victoria Belbin

Trent University

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