My colleague Daniel has great post up about why he considers himself a liberal, why that political definition represents him and his values. And I was going to do the same… except I don’t always consider myself a liberal. I think I would more accurately call myself a radical.
I had a relevant discussion with someone on Monday night, while talking about our relationship with existing social structures—and specifically the institution of marriage. He said he wants to see the institution expanded to include same-sex couples. I said I want to tear the fucking thing down. To me, this is representative of what radicalism is, whether a right-wing or a left-wing radicalism. It’s about rebuilding society from the bottom up, and constantly asking questions about its most fundamental aspects. It’s about not being satisfied.
Perhaps this is just a handy excuse, but I don’t think that the fact that I’m not out in the streets every day, that I’m not a member of a communist organization or any other “revolutionary” group, renders me less a radical. I think it’s more about the questions I’m asking, and my personal utopia. About a general resistance to compromise (to which I suppose you can ascribe either a good or a bad connotation).
Well, anyway. I certainly don’t think liberal is a dirty word, but I do think I’m a little “too extreme” to use it.
4 thoughts on “Why Are You [not a] Liberal?”
When you say you want to tear down the institution of marriage do you mean
A) In a Robert Heinlein kinda sense, in which it is so thoroughly redefined, legally & socially, as to have little if any resemblance to the current institution (for him around the possibility of various polyamorous combinations).
B) In the way a lot of libertarians do, in which the legal status is stripped away or reduced to the status of a simple contract enforced (like all legal contracts) by the government.
C) In the way that means exactly what it says, eliminating marriage as a legal, secular, and religious institution.
I’m just curious as there’s quite a bit of difference between the three and form reading your stuff I’m not entirely sure where you fall.
You know, I’m not entirely sure where I fall either. I guess this goes back to that “radical’ thing—it’s a pretty common stereotype, I guess, that radicals have questions and not answers. Maybe it would help if I explained why I object to marriage? I don’t believe society should be rewarding monogamous couplings as a life choice inherently more valuable than remaining single, being in a polyamorous relationship, etc. I don’t think the state should favor two-parent families over singe-parent families. To my mind, the fight for gay marriage very often seems like buying into this social construction (that our legal system has institutionalized) that to my mind is inherently no more valuable than any other way of life.
That said, though, I still think the state should help to support families, because a single person is obviously going to have less difficulty supporting him- or herself than a person with dependents. So maybe I would fall into sense A? Though honestly, I don’t know. I just know that I don’t like what we’ve got now.
Sometimes I wonder if, as a first step, the state could just call all marriages “civil unions” (and, of course, extend them to same-sex couples.) That would still mean singling out couples for benefits, which would satisfy people who are concerned about the importance of stable two-parent households for children. But it would get government out of the business of defining the highly charged word “marriage,” which is essentially defining what sorts of relationships are valid and respectable and even sacred. Using the word “marriage” serves no purpose other than to officially promote a certain (thick) conception of society. And I’m with you on this, we shouldn’t be doing that at all.
The idea that the state of New Jersey says what marriage is, when I step back and think about it, is so deeply bizarre. What does marriage have to do with New Jersey?
Yeah, absolutely. I would be totally satisfied with that as a first step.