I am a member of the left and I write about the left on this blog very much but the left is hardly a monolith. The part of the left to which I belong is The New Left; the tradition of the SDS, the Yippies, and the political hippies. The New Left was not all hippies that were political but, specifically, the political nerds, policy wonks, and news junkies who formed a colonial province of the hippie subculture. The SDS and the Yippies were not hippies proper; hippies tended to be more cultural and while they had politics, they were content with mild environmentalism and beat poetry while The New Left was a moral crusade to, as Rudi Dutschke said “take a long march through the institutions”. People who, for example, saw the hundreds of millions in poverty and and thousands of endangered species and looked at those abstract statistics as if they were looking at photographs of every sordid slum and clear cut forrest and could not bring themselves to do anything but devote their lives to ending the disparate, global, holocaust of sweatshops, illiteracy, sectarian hatreds, and extinctions that the world was and is.
The difference between The New Left and the hippies was the difference between spirituality and religion. Spirituality is about finding yourself, inner peace, connecting with things, and so forth while religion is much more intense, strong, and hard. It is not about what is best for you but is about obedience to and obsessive devotion to Almighty God and God may be literal and/or metaphorical and can mean whatever one’s moral convictions are and whatever one sees as the greater good and ultimate, moral, teleology. The New Left didn’t join the counterculture to be who they wanted to be because what they wanted was immaterial compared to what their moral and civic duty was, it was out of a fanatical fidelity to a moral teleology. It is also this which differentiates themselves from the far and mainstream left, as well. Although, more from the mainstream left.
The mainstream left is not synonamous with the center-left, many progressives who would describe themselves as significantly left of center are still mainstream. The Daily Kos crowd, the MSNBC watchers, and even The Young Turks I consider among the mainstream left. My last article on this blog, “The Dylann Roof Burger & Utilitarian Ethics” is something a New Leftist would pen that a mainstream leftist likely would not. The ballsy defense of the humanity of a mass murderer and the courage to defend the minimizing of human suffering and maximizing of human happiness for such an unsympathetic person. The Daily Kos crowd laughed at stereotypical trolls and members of the far-right as “living in their mothers basement” which I have written against doing on this blog as it is extremely cruel to people who have lost in life who are living in their mother’s basement. The New Left is like the far left but with the youthful idealism and utopian cultural vision of the hippies. Emma Goldman, Noam Chomsky, and Tom Morello didn’t and don’t seek to create a human family of radical love. They didn’t and don’t spent their energy on things like defending the humanity of terrorists and the humanity of losers in their mother’s basment.
The New Left arises less from gushing pity and more from noblis oblige. To put it another way, it is less feeling sorry for people and more a sense of chivalry and duty. The sentiments which inspire one to take on unsympathetic causes, the powerful moral feelings in that direction, are not sympathy for them. Defending the humanity of Dylann Roof was not borne of a pity for him on an emotional level, nor was it purely unemotional and cognitive, but it was a passionate feeling of honor and duty on my part. I certainly had cognitive and purely abstract moral reasons and had sympathy for him insofar as that was true, on an intellectual level, but emotionally I felt this slightly hubristic sense of classism where I felt it was beneath humanity to treat someone without humanity and without dignity. My full name is William Jackson Hamilton IV and while I am middle-class, my heritage claims to it multiple lines of Southern aristocracy and for all of the objectively horrible things they did, there is a sense of pride and honor that I inherrited. It is not, for example, that forgiving someone is just right or that I feel pity for them but that I feel that it is beneath me to hold onto something as petty and unevolved as a grudge. The affluent New England kids who volunteered in the backwoods of Mississippi to register voters in the early 1960s was inspired by that same sense of chivalry that George Orwell describes the etiology of in “The Road to Wigan Pier” part 2, section 8.
The psychological etiology of The New Left is important to understand how it differs from the other currents on the left. It is not spiritual but religious. It is not borne of pity but of honor. It isn’t soft and Eastern, it is hard and Western. People often join identity politics because their identity was affected. That is the most common reason to join and it affects everything about what they do and believe. They will have detailed beliefs on their own topic and feeble beliefs about others. Like I wrote in earlier articles, reflecting on my time in my high school Gay-Straight Alliance, the LGBT activists wanted to stop bullying and had little thought for civil libertarian concerns of anti-bullying policies. The differences on the left are best understood based on why people joined and the mental etiology of their beliefs. This mostly covered The New Left but had I lived in a culture with a greater average attention span, I would have gone on about the psychological etiologies of the other main currents. The principal point is, though, that each current must be understood for its psychological etiology.