There’s an old saying that a liberal is just a conservative who hasn’t yet been mugged. There are other sayings like this, too: “If you’re not a liberal in your youth you have no heart; if you’re not a conservative when you’re older, you have no brain.” Whatever slogan you embrace, most of us on the “right” side of the aisle like to think it only goes one way: Liberals, progressives, leftists… they sometimes see the light and become right-wingers, but the reverse is seldom true.
We’re wrong about that.
Conservatives can and do give in to the siren song of progressive politics. They come to it from any number of directions, and for any number of reasons. Whatever the call, whatever the reason it is answered, more than one acquaintance of mine has, over the course of my lifetime, deliberately wrecked his boat on the shoals of left-wing ideology. This, in and of itself, is not the tragedy, for all of us have friends and acquaintances who disagree with our politics. The tragedy is that a friend who migrates from right to left is much more likely to leave you behind — or, more accurately, to be eaten by the virus of social justice and left-wing thought, forever to remain in the wake of your travels.
The appeal of right-wing politics, you see, is that they are rooted in reality. The facts of objective reality favor the conservative, libertarian, and right-wing set of opinions, not the other side. People aren’t safer when they’re disarmed, so reality favors gun rights over gun control. People aren’t more productive when divorced from the product of their labor, so reality favors capitalism over socialism. People aren’t less violent when there are no consequences for crime, so reality favors tough enforcement over “bail reform.” People can’t magically change their sex or gender by wishing to do it, so reality favors two biological sexes/genders over modern gender theory. And so on.
Reality is not always kind, nor does it always make us feel good about ourselves, but it has the advantage of being true. The problem is that human beings are neither entirely logical nor entirely reasonable; they are far too often willing to substitute what they want or what they wish for what is and what is possible. This is the appeal, and the primary vector of transmission, for the virus that is “social justice.”
While we’re discussing old sayings, here is yet another: “If you have to add a term before ‘justice,’ it isn’t.” That’s a clever way of saying that modifying justice with terms like “social” or “economic” creates something that is the opposite of justice. Justice, in and of itself, is the state of fair recompense for one’s actions. It is the doctrine that no matter what you do, you get what you deserve for having done what you did. This can be twisted by advocates of social justice to mean that they should receive what they believe they deserve. The problem with that definition is, again, reality.
Reality is the final judge of what you sow. It then determines what you will reap — sometimes unjustly, but never with partiality. That is to say, if you work hard and you fail to reap the rewards of working hard, that is unjust in the absolutely sense… but reality did not screw you purposefully. The metaphysical state of the natural world is indifferent to you. Only human beings have morality; only human actions are just or unjust. Therein, of course, lies the problem.
Social Justice Whiners (SJWs) incorrectly characterize reality as malicious, when in fact reality is amoral. They draw a distinction between equality (of opportunity, wherein no artificial or societal constructs seek to block, purposefully and maliciously, the actions or progress of individuals) and equity (equality of outcomes). Attempting to create “equity” means empowering a governing external force, like the government. That government takes from some, gives to others, advances some, and obstructs others, all in the name of leveling results.
The result is anything but justice, as individuals are divorced from the products of their actions and labor while simultaneously accused (or presumed to be guilty of) thoughtcrimes. These crimes run the gamut from racism to sexism to a number of manufactured “phobias.” The result is that if you disagree with being divorced from the product of your efforts — or if you challenge the orthodoxy of “equity” — you are not merely wrong; you are a bad person.
Social justice has spread like a virus through society. It spreads through that most pernicious of means: good intentions. After all, it is only natural, among compassionate human beings with regard for their fellow men, to want the other fellow to do well. We don’t like to think that other people are suffering while we are succeeding. We don’t want to believe that we could or should suffer while others prosper. It allays our fears, our anxieties, about failure and calamity if we construct a social safety net that will catch us if we fall. These actions are taken out of love, out of a desire for others well-being.
The problem is that advocates for social justice too frequently adopt a parallel belief: That anyone who disagrees with them is not just wrong, but bad. When you believe that all who disagree with you are not merely incorrect, but evil, then you begin to rationalize and justify anything done to oppose them. This is why, in the collective social justice temper tantrum following Trump’s election, so many progressives have embraced violence to silence opposition.
They do not see it as aggression; they see it as a kind of preemptive self-defense, in which any unkindness, any maliciousness, any action up to and including unprovoked violence, is in fact entirely provoked and justifiable because their enemies’ ideas are “dangerous.” Combine all these elements and it explains what sociological research also confirms: Those on the left are much more likely to cut from their lives those on the right.
This is the virus of social justice presenting as hostility to dissent.
The virus is the cause; an inability to abide opinions with which one disagrees is the symptom. We could speculate that the most vocal and hostile left-wingers are insecure in what they believe. We could theorize that they are so arrogant in their beliefs that they truly do consider any disagreement to be unworthy of them, and any expression of disagreement in their presence to be personal affront. But these are guesses and, probably more often than not, self-serving guesses. We on the right would rather believe our friends get eaten because they are mean or foolish, when in fact they get eaten because they wish to be. A man comes to his own conclusions by any number of means, ranging from earnest to the opposite. We cannot know why he has made his choices.
Understand, then, that the virus of social justice exists. It is virulent. If it claims those you care about, if it takes root in those whom you like or admire, they may be eaten. When they are so consumed, you will continue walking on your journey through life — and they will no longer walk beside you. This is neither good nor bad. It’s simply the way things are… and that’s reality, all over again.