Monday, 19 September 2016

Studies in the Anatomy of the British Left

by Brian Bamford
IT is now almost 50 years since Harold Garfinkel wrote his book 'Studies in Ethnomethodology' in 1967.  Garfinkel's book was a systematic attack on the kind of sociological and ideological thinking that was prevailing in much of the social sciences at that time, and which amounted to 'cookbook analysis'.  With a  functionalist or Marxist cookbook one didn't need to think critically or empirically about social phenomena or real life events; all one needed to do was to produce a suitable recipe to deal with the world.

In his essay in The Independent on the current thinking of the 'radical left' Bailey Lamon seems to have uncovered the latest facet of the phenomena of 'cookbook thinking' among some of the current half-baked student community of scholars at the beginning of the 21st century.   Claiming to have been 'involved in activism since the Occupy Movement of 2011', Bailey Lamon makes a perceptive observation in which he contrasts the world of what he calls the 'oppressed groups,... such as the homeless, abused, addicted' with that of the half-baked students and activists, who in their wisdom claim to be able to diagnose the problems of those that suffer and to prescribe cures and generally to cleanse us all of our imperfections.  Mr. Lamon addresses the challenge to such clever-dick thinking which besets seemingly most of the British left:
'If you’ve ever worked with oppressed groups, such as people who are homeless, abused, addicted or suffering from mental health problems, there's one thing you learn straight away. They usually don't frame their worldviews in terms of academic theories students learn in gender studies classes in university. For the most part, they tend to not analyse their experiences in terms of systemic power and privilege, concepts such as “the patriarchy”, “white privilege”, or “heteronormativity”.

'While many of these folks know that they're directly impacted by class inequality, they don't sit around pondering capitalism, reading Marx, or tackling the effects of “problematic behaviours”. They are not concerned with checking their privilege.  No.  They are busy trying to survive. Getting through the next day. Meeting their basic needs. They don't bother with policing their language and worrying about how their words might unintentionally perpetuate certain stereotypes.  They are more concerned with their voices being heard.'   
Young students today are desirous of passing exams and the easiest way to accomplish this is in finding some ideological formula or recipe knowledge to spout out pretentious doctrines and slogans such as 'patriarchy'; 'white privilege' or 'heteronormativity'.  What these bumptious people lack in experience of poverty; life in the workplace; the prison yard or living on the streets, they try to compensate by pseudo-intellectual blather.
Mr Lamon writes about some of the people he encountered in the Occupy Movement: 
'Yet I witness so many “activists” who ignore the realities of oppression despite saying that they care about those at the bottom of society.  They think that being offended by something is equal to experiencing prison time or living on the streets.  They talk about listening, being humble and not having preconceptions.  Yet they ignore the lived experiences of those who don’t speak or think properly in the view of university-educated social justice warriors, regardless of how much worse off they really are.'
These people are so convinced that they, and only they, have the key to the universe and that what they believe must be self-evident that they do not accept that their views should be subject to any form of forensic examination.  Consequently as we have noticed on many occasions they believe that they have the entitlement to coerce others to swallow whatever fashionable fad that they have embraced.
God help the British Left!

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