Missing from This ‘Revolution’: A Unifying Alternative Vision

like the 60’s all over again

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

I was born in 1952, so I turned 16 in that most momentous of years, 1968. That year was the beginning of the counter-revolution as a reaction to the ‘cultural revolution’ that had begun with the culmination of the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. in the early ‘60’s. That was the year in which established authority and its (we were told) lunatic ‘allies’ started to deal violently and even lethally with the ‘revolutionaries’, the year in which the police rioted at the Democratic Party Convention in Chicago, in which Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. were assassinated, etc.

I was just a tad too young to be more than an observer, but I was old enough to know which side I was on. I was all for progress. Yet, though I was never what anyone would call intellectually precocious, I was able to detect even then holes in the revolutionaries’ game.

As I saw it, the biggest flaw in the revolutionaries’ efforts was the absence of any coherent, unifying vision of ‘what should be’ in the place of ‘what is’. As at the time Marxism was viewed as the only real alternative, most were at least vaguely Marxist, but given the conditions of life in nations that called themselves Marxist, few could commit to that as a real alternative. There was no way it could ever be a unifying vision for the U.S. — or any Liberal nation, i.e. one with democracy and the rule of law with the maximization of liberty as its primary concern.

Still, the cultural revolution has continued, with continued resistance from [by definition] conservatives. It has continued what was started back then: to remove from Liberal society its illiberal ways: arbitrary discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, and sexual orientation, all of which is exacerbated by the effects of disparities in income/wealth, all of which constitutes a self-reinforcing vortex of injustice.

The revolution has recently been reinvigorated, but here at the start of the 2020’s I see a repeat of the 1960’s. People want ‘real change’, but have no coherent, unifying vision of what a ‘changed’ society would be.

People misunderstand the place of “unifying” in such a vision. They tend to think either that it represents undue compromise in an effort to gain allies or that it must result from a process of knitting together some vast coalition based on interests and goals that are at least compatible.

There is another way: convergence. A vision of a better society is formulated. People see the goodness in it. As people move, of their own accord, towards that vision, divisions disappear.

For a Liberal society that vision must start with a better version of Liberalism. It must take Liberal society and make it undeniably better.

For that, “Equality Is All We Need” (here in Medium).

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid, academically trained philosopher and political economist