The left needs to be a celebration, not a buzzkill


I don't care much for "left" versus "right" distinctions. I care about compassion and joy. My record label is Eudaimonic Records, which is rooted in the Greek word for "human happiness and prosperity". But I realize that most people today would classify the political messages that I sometimes express in my music as broadly being in line with leftist thinking.

I'm not going to break down what it means to be left vs. right in today's common meaning in America, versus what those terms mean in other countries today, or have meant over the past 300 years since those terms were first coined. Instead, I'll just suggest that you spend a few minutes skimming these two excellent, short descriptions of left-wing politics vs right-wing politics.

The TL;DR for this blog post, though, is that people with left-leaning beliefs today basically strive for social, economic, and legal equality and individual freedom for all people. By contrast, people with right-leaning beliefs basically strive to maintain (or even expand and stratify even further), the existing social, economic, and legal hierarchies. And therefore to also limit individual freedom for all people.

In other words, all flavors of right-leaning thought tend to come mostly from the people with the most privilege and advantage in society, who want to maintain the status quo. And also from people who once had some measure of privilege and security but feel for whatever reason that their own privilege is somehow being taken away.

By contrast all flavors of left-leaning thought tend to come mostly from marginalized groups who are in disadvantaged social, economic, and legal positions in society. And also from the more centrist members of society who might enjoy some degree of privilege but who also have empathy and compassion for the shit that marginalized groups are forced to put up with by the most privileged members who run the society. (Because privilege is power, and vice-versa.)

Whether they are conscious of it or not, people with right-leaning beliefs essentially fear that extending more equality and privilege to marginalized groups means you have to give something up. That you stand to lose your own privilege and your own security if you give more privilege to others. So the attitudes on the right can range from a hostile "fuck you; I got mine and you're not taking it" to a more neutral "shrug, live and let live but just shut up and work hard and make it happen for yourselves because I've got my own problems and don't want to hear your whining and complaining. Work for it and earn it like I did."

FWIW, that second, more neutral attitude often forgets (or never realizes at all) how their own privileged circumstances--and sheer luck--is a big part of what contributes to becoming a "success" in life. Look at the recent stupidity by Kanye: he spouts off about how 400 years of the western slave trade was a choice made by black people. I don't give a shit about Kanye and never read much about him, but even if he did actually come from a disadvantaged background, his success is still only partially due to genius and hard work. In the music industry, more than others, sheer luck plays a huge part in whether your career takes off or not. And Kayne is a prime example of someone who, after enjoying success and privilege for a while, conveniently starts rationalizing their success as being somehow 100% their own doing and their own merit, and therefore anyone who is stuck in an unsuccessful (marginalized) life must somehow be responsible for their own "failure".

So now that you know what I mean by the term "the left", lets get to the heart of this article...

...Which is that the left, as a whole, is currently a big fucking buzzkill. Nobody likes to be around someone else who is constantly bitter and angry about how unfair everything is, right? You want to be around people who are happy and laughing and playful and having fun. You want to be around people with positive attitudes. It's just basic human nature to want this. As a musician and artist playing in the EDM space, I'm acutely aware of this. Dance music, festival music, club music is meant to be FUN.

So like a fair number of other EDM and Rock artists (such as Bassnectar, ill.Gates, Rage Against The Machine, and many, many others extending back to the early 60s), I sometimes sneak political and social messages into some of my music. Because art is an expression of emotion and human experience, and social politics are an integral part of human experience. Art can make commentary about social and political issues in a way that doesn't directly point a finger at anyone and therefore isn't as directly confronting as debating political viewpoints face-to-face (or facelessly over the internet).

But here's the deal: I try to make my occasional social/political message as positive and celebratory as possible. Because, quite honestly, compassion and empathy are attributes to be really fucking proud of!

LGBTQ+ people get it. Yes, sometimes they'll go toe to toe with politicians to argue for less marginalization and more equality. But LGBTQ+ people also have PRIDE. They throw big fucking parties and parades in cities and towns all across various western countries. They tell their story to non LGBTQ+ people with pride and honesty, not with shame and apology. Many of them got out of the closet and became highly visible after the Stonewall Riots. The very slogan "We're here, we're queer, and we're not going anywhere!" is a celebration about themselves, not an accusatory finger pointed at anyone else. Their overall strategy was (and still is) "hey, there'a actually a lot of us, so we're normal and just as deserving of happiness and legal protection as anyone else, but we're not going to preach at you about it. Instead we're going to show you we're here and that we're quite happy being who we are, and even tell you about our experience if you care to listen. Or not. It's all good."

The problem with many of the other causes on the left is that we tend to fight amongst ourselves, and point the finger at each other, just as much as we fight against right-leaning viewpoints that want to keep marginalized groups firmly squashed under social, economic, and legal boot heels. (Because you can't actually be privileged if there is no social/economic/legal hierachy, right?)

As a whole, to everyone in the center and on the right, we look like a bunch of angry, overzealous college kids lecturing everyone else--including each other--on what's right vs. wrong. And we're expecting that type of shit show to convince the more privileged people that the issues we talk about are worth thinking about?

That image I used for this blog post? About Scarlett Johansson playing Kusanagi Motogo in Ghost in the Shell? And all the uproar from the left (and dissapointed Manga fans, many of which ironically are probably right-leaning in their viewpoints, lol) about "cultural appropriation" in that casting choice? That's a prime example of negative name-calling bullshit infighting among the left itself. You know who wasn't upset at all about that casting choice? The Japanese company that owns the IP for Ghost in the Shell. Here's what the president of Kodansha had to say:

“Looking at her career so far, I think Scarlett Johansson is well-cast. She has the cyberpunk feel. And we never imagined it would be a Japanese actress in the first place.”

Or look at the uproar just 4 days ago when some Utah teen girl wore a pretty Cheongsam dress to her high-school prom. More "cultural appropriation" finger-pointing bullshit. Largely from the "left".

See, where it gets difficult is because marginalized groups cannot wrest equality for themselves from the hands of the privileged. Despite what all the 2nd Amendment "muh freedoms and muh guns" types might fantasize about, a marginalized group cannot really force at gunpoint (literally or metaphorically) a government that's effectively run by the most privileged segments of society to change the laws and social policy and political rhetoric that keeps a group marginalized in the first place.

Instead, marginalized groups have to convince enough people outside the group that their cause is just and that their grievances and hardships are "real". To do this, a marginalized group needs to become visible and tell their story to the rest of society. With luck and a lot of effort and sometimes extreme risk (lynchings, beatings, bullying, harrassment, doxing, imprisonment, loss of employment, etc.) of becoming visible and speaking their truth, a marginalized group has to get enough people "on the fence" to understand them and be aware of them and essentially go to bat for them at the voting booth. Or to participate in other forms of activism and pressure on politicians to change the system.

But there's a fine line between visibility and telling your story versus coming off like the angriest dog in the world and pointing the finger at everyone. Including pointing the finger at each other and squabbling over the stupidest shit internally with your other left-leaning friends.

And it doesn't help matters when an entire subset of the more extreme right simply delights in trolling the left and continually spinning their story into something false and ugly to people on the fence. And then the left falls for this tactic and engages the extreme right head on instead of simply ignoring them and letting their ugliness and laughable logic sputter out from lack of oxygen and attention.

So, to my friends and fans who consider themselves left-leaning: lighten up. Ignore the pepe brigade when they bait you. Ignore the ugly politicians who try to feed red meat to their voting base by trying to publicly denounce and demonize you by stirring up the ugly, fearful, selfish side of humanity that all of us wrestle with from time to time. Just.. tell your story. With pride. With celebration. Let people on the fence see your good side, not your angry side. Be gentle with people who haven't walked a mile in your shoes and can't easily understand--or even believe--that it can really be all that bad for you. You don't have to punch someone in the face to get their attention and their empathy and compassion

Yes, be activist and encourage others to side with your cause at the polls. Encourage others who have no skin in the game to deal with the hassle of voting on your behalf and going to bat for you and making phone calls to politicians for you. And telling their friends and family who rant about you or tell ugly jokes about you to STFU and show a little compassion.

But you're going to have better luck with all that if you're less angry and more inviting. And FFS, stop bickering with others on the left over shit that doesn't matter. Other people on the left are already on your side, in the bigger scheme of things. Focus on common cause and practice what you preach about "diversity". Make art that's FUN and inviting. Take a cue from what most women have to deal with their entire lives and simply practice being likeable. Not because you have to, but simply because it's effective. Literally and metaphorically, throw parties and invite people outside your group to celebrate with you and learn about you.

That's why I love EDM and the PLUR (Peace, Love, Respect, Unity) ethic. Festivals are all one big party and everyone is there to just have a good time and enjoy some amazing art together. In the wise words of Bill and Ted: "Be excellent to each other".

Heather Greywalker