Saturday, 9 February 2013

The end of "reactionary chic" (I hope)

Recently I saw a comment on a US-based website that led me to do some serious political thinking.

The comment was from an American journalist named Michael Tomasky.  He indicated a major shift in American political thinking that took place very recently, perhaps even in the past few weeks.  The main thrust of Tomasky’s article was that centre-left politicians are now considered the “regular guys” in the minds of the average American, while right-wing politicians are now considered the “weirdos”.  (link to Tomasky article)

This is very significant.  One part of me wants to sing a Te Deum, while another part of me wants to scream “and it’s about time!”

For those outside the US, the American concept of a “regular guy” may need some clarification.  It refers to a basically good – but not flawless - person (of either gender) who, in the Australian vernacular, “doesn’t have tickets on himself”.  If you follow British TV, think of any character in The Bill with a Yorkshire or Lancashire accent.  If you follow Australian TV, think of any character played by Geoff Morrell.

This change of perception is such a relief, particularly to those of us who are Baby Boomers.  In the late ‘70s / early ‘80s, when we Boomers were making our transition from youth to adulthood, what I call “Reactionary Chic” was beginning to exert its iron grip on the minds of many people.  In many western democracies, the main qualification for a career in public life was the inability to get over the fact of having read Ayn Rand in high school.

During that period, those of us with a concern for such things as social justice and social responsibility were called all sorts of names:  “do-gooders”, “bleeding hearts”, advocates of the “nanny state”, members of the “chattering classes”, “politically correct”, and so on.

As a Boomer, I’m glad that the natural equilibrium of the political system is beginning to re-assert itself at a time when we’re still young enough to enjoy it.


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