Cultural insidiousness and the need to fight it

Insidious is a word I’ve always liked. In one simple word, it represents phenomena I see in life all the time: the creep of entropy or the shifting of the Overton window. Trends come and go, but genuine, radical changes to a society are usually insidious.

Overton window

The Overton window is an interesting concept, and if you don’t know what it is, it’s known as the ‘window of discourse’ – the range of ideas (political, social, moral) tolerated in public discourse.

Of course, I had my own brush with the Overton window early this year when activists complained about my views, however moderate, on some social issues. It cost me the editor role at Midnight Echo magazine, and has since cost the association I was editing for twelve months of lost time. In that span of time, I would have had two issues of the magazine published, probably lined up several of the authors for awards shortlists and won some impressive reviews … but no, we’re all still waiting for one issue, any issue, to appear. I can’t say I’m surprised. Any association that takes the side of a handful of extremists over a lifelong and loyal volunteer deserves all the misfortune their shoddy decision-making brings them.

I was reminded of the Overton window and how insidious changes to society can creep up on everyone when I was going through my emails today. 

Just two years ago (2016), I was receiving supportive emails from writing and publishing colleagues. They were genuinely warm messages, checking up on me (as it’d been out of the publishing scene for a while), discussing my work, etc. My replies were just as warm and courteous.

Fast forward 18 months, when all that crap about Midnight Echo happened early this year. Those same people I’d been warmly corresponding with in 2016 were some of the loudest voices labelling me a ‘fascist’ or whatever for mild opinions I’d always held, in their presence and elsewhere.

What I didn’t truly understand at that time, but I do now on reflection, is that the dark veil of so-called ‘social justice’ (a nice-sounding front for identity politics) had descended on these people’s minds. I was always more of a libertarian. A left-leaning centrist who believed in meritocracy and the free market. Any strong opinions I had several years ago were not political – they were more about quality and nepotism among my writing and publishing peers.  If anything, I’ve mellowed. 

My opinions have always remained largely the same.

But insidiousness overcame my colleagues’ (and in some cases, friends’) minds. Where once opinions on social issues could be mild and respectful, if you don’t agree with the authoritarian values of regressive intersectionality, you are now a pariah in those circles (like me), or worse, a Nazi, fascist, racist, or any other kind of ‘ist’.

Through this insidious process, the Overton window has shifted, and people of once-seemingly-rational minds have joined this cult-like ideology. As with any cult, dissent is not tolerated, and so once acceptable ideas are now considered radical or outright forbidden.

People like me, who haven’t changed much, are left behind while a huge chunk of the population that once had liberal values have now become extremists. We’re seeing this play out by big, evil tech corporations like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and PayPal deplatforming people whose opinions they disagree with (even when terms of service are not violated). If this censorious behaviour doesn’t concern you, nothing will.

In comparison to identity politics extremists, I now look conservative, and in some ways that’s somewhat true. I see the forces of ‘progressives’ (i.e. regressives) wanting to tear down the foundations of Western civilisation. Free speech is now being banned and anyone outside that shifted Overton window (according to the extreme left) that places value on traditional morals such as family, personal responsibility, or individual freedom is seen as wrong, somehow. Suddenly, it’s not OK to be white, or male, or to express an opinion based on expertise rather than gender or skin colour?

I want to lament how this could have happened, but in hindsight, looking at the postmodern influence on the arts, education, and academia, where our next generations are indoctrinated by activist-professors in many fields, it’s inevitable that millennials are tightly under the sway of identity politics.

What I don’t really understand is how colleagues now in their 40s and 50s have fallen prey to this identity politics cult. The people who only 18 months ago were wishing me well have become radicalised … and without any negative interaction from me at all! 

I guess where I’m going with this is that insidious, postmodern forces are fuelling identity politics, and with Christmas and holidays coming up, I worry that hate will trump the bonds of friendship and family.  My advice is to unplug and stop judging. Let your family and friends be who they are, and maybe if you can’t help wanting to pick a fight, remove yourself from the situation. Don’t be divisive. Be kind to each other.

My former colleagues and friends didn’t make this choice, and I’m saddened by that, and its impact on me. They chose hate. None of it was necessary, but now bridges have been burned. If this insidious trend continues, everything that made Western civilisation the pinnacle of human achievement will be lost, and a new dark age of authoritarianism will replace it. The signs are already there. 

Just … be kind to each other and forget the politics for a few days. Have a Merry Christmas.