Friday, August 3, 2012

A Salute to "Champagne Socialists"

"Champagne Socialists" or "Limousine Liberals" are political epithets that used to mean people who advocated for policies that they had no intention or danger of having to follow themselves. Today though, it is often used in a mindless way to condemn anyone of privilege who supports collectivist justice. In the "heads I win - tails you lose" logic of contemporary right-wingers, leftists who are poor are jealous losers, while leftists who are wealthy are spoiled, disconnected dilettantes. It's the current usage of the term that I'd like to address today. People who advocate ecology whilst driving SUVs really do open themselves up for criticism. But to say that a person with wealth can't have a social conscience, or that he or she simply can't advocate for better working conditions, public housing, public transit or public health care, because they're rich is just stupid.

The nice thing about privileged leftists is that, ... let me rephrase that: The thing that terrifies the right-wing about privileged leftists is that they show people like Rush Limbaugh or Margaret Wente or Sue-Ann Levy what hideous pieces of shit they are. By calling for higher taxes on themselves in order to pay for services that benefit the majority they show that it's possible to be much more human than they are. Leftists of privilege should be commended for thinking of something other than their own class interest. In fact, why should we celebrate rich people who selfishly support the politics of the wealthy? In Ayn Rand's stunted moral universe that might be admirable, but most people don't think so.

On FaceBook, I had an infuriating discussion with a woman who felt compelled to dismiss Bridgette DePape's noble action of protesting the illegitimate regime of stephen harper. To this woman, DePape is just a child of privilege who didn't really sacrifice anything. There's nothing like uselessly trashing an act of inspiring symbolism and inventing dissensions among potential allies. I prefer to celebrate when people join our side, even if they don't have to and especially if it means they're willing to make any sort of sacrifice to improve society.

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