There’s something curious going on in our culture. It seems like sections of it back themselves into the very corners from which they were trying to escape. This happens over and over again, making me think that it’s probably because we don’t understand how human nature is limited, and so therefore if we’re going to change how society grafts onto it, we are also limited in how we do so.
Here’s an example. Fifty years ago, the moralists and the polite people were the conservatives. They were the ones who never swore, who always used their pleases and thank yous, and who wouldn’t dare talk about, for example, homosexual relations in public for fear of offending the ladies, as happened during the Wolfenden report. The ones who were rebellious and pushed back against gentility were the left leaning progressives! They were brash and loud and obnoxious. The free speech movement in Berkeley would invite Nazis and holocaust deniers to come speak on campus, and then laugh at them! Imagine that happening today!
But now, it’s completely flipped. It’s the right wingers who are brash and vulgar (who speak the lingua vulgaris today). Take Trump. He speaks very very plainly, no flowery language, and directly addresses the concerns of the people. And it’s the left wingers who are concerned with propriety and not being offensive, in the form of political correctness and the continuous self-flagellation which is a stand in for humility and modesty.
So what’s the reason for why they flipped? I don’t think it’s because fifty years ago, the left were the good people and the right were the bad people, or vice versa for today. In other words, no political viewpoint has a monopoly over morality. Rather, I would argue that it’s because certain categories of human behaviour are innate, but society imprints on them. It’s like a whiteboard. The surface of a whiteboard allows for many many different colours to be used, but you cannot use a pencil or watercolours to write on it. You must use a dry-erase marker.
What’s the solution? Well, I think that people who are pushing for radical social change ought to pause and just reflect on what the alternative is to the program or status quo that they are uprooting. You cannot just leave a vacuum for one of these fundamental categories, or else it will be filled by something else. And at the practical level, this means that when you criticize anything – pasta dishes your son made, the functionings of the judiciary, or Harvey Weinstein, that you also provide a solution to the bad behaviour so that human nature does not go awry!