I spend my life on the political left and usually find myself on the libertarian side of it. One of the first articles I posted on this website was The Death of the Libertarian Left. There is a huge divide on the left between the libertarians and the not. Those who want Woodstock and The Rocky Horror Picture Show and those who find such things offensive. Both are posited as liberal positions, the latter because sanitization supposedly protects people from being triggered or offended. We have to respect cultural sensibilities, of course, and the semi-Rawlsian approach they decide to take is that if we make everything sanitized then people don’t get offended and everything is okay. So, for instance, you can be gay but don’t act like you’re from the gay subculture because that would be unsafe for children and too much for the conservative Muslims. In some very limited circumstances, there is legitimacy to that argument if something may cause acute trauma. Certainly, scenes of BDSM might trigger flashbacks in domestic abuse victims. For the most part, though, the culturally libertarian lifestyles don’t include things that would induce clinical harm in people.
The question has not been answered to what degree we should be culturally libertarian as a society and the left has, mostly, abandoned that question. However, regardless of the Rawlsian arguments made by my fellow political science majors, their sensibilities have grown more conservative in the past decade that I’ve been civically aware enough to notice. I’m most certainly not a Rawlsian but I very much believe in a more culturally libertarian society. Where weirdness and eccentricity is celebrated and practiced. I may have gilded and vintage tastes, myself, but while that may make me ostensibly not aesthetically hippie or alternative. It was the alternative hipsters who invented Renaissance Fairs. Walking casually in the outfit of a regency gentleman and writing sonnets for girls in Shakespearean English is what I would like to do and is very eccentric. Even that would offend the sensibilities of the most easily offended among the left because of some instinctive reaction that every eccentricity is prone to offend people and therefore is unkind.
Yet, the purpose of cultural libertarianism is to allow people to manifest themselves in such a way that they are happier so everyone is happier. So long as it is done in good faith, taste, and will that it is to be lauded. I am not to say that everyone can do what they want so long as it doesn’t harm others. I believe people should be educated, cultured, generally polite, gentle, honest, and gracious. I believe civic apathy is a cardinal sin and moderation should be indulged in every great pleasure. I’m an Aristotelian. Yet, the arbitrary social regulations that determine the cultural mainstream are amoral unless you’re a cultural relativist. A system of virtue, deontological, and utilitarian ethics such as the one that I employ does not preclude eccentricities or weirdness and, in fact, the latter satisfies some of the aims of those systems of ethics. The cultural libertarianism that we should pursue is not a rage against morals as has been argued in earlier eras but is an element of a more moral society. It is, in fact, a more morally absolutist stance. Those who argue that social mores are morals are arguing in favor of cultural relativism and that is weaker. My argument that a counterculture may be of higher morality than the mainstream says that morals are independent and inherent which is, in some ways, a more conservative idea.
The greatest affect of a culturally libertarian stance is that it is more welcoming and accepting of more people. In the hypersensitive safe-places that subscribe to a cuddly anti-libertarian atmosphere where everything is sanitized. The setting becomes unsafe for many of the weakest members of society. The vulgar, the emotionally broken, the aesthetically unpleasing, are all too unsettling for the bourgeois liberals in their cuddly book clubs. They want a Teletubby Lady Gaga inside a gated community where the Springsteen crowd who really need socialism are never allowed in for their vulgarity and ugliness. Tipper Gore may seem like the more moral side of the left but the commandments of my religion to open our arms to the most defeated people are more closely followed at Burning Man. Where the ugly and the odd are considered children of God. I hope and pray that the left will swing back to its countercultural heritage. Where, once again, it becomes the hope of the dirty and the ugly and the liberation of the inner-self of people who need to get it out.