“We don’t have nondiscrimination laws against transgender people yet? It’s 2016!”
“How can you be against premarital sex? It’s 2016!”
“Seriously, some people are still into capitalism. It’s, like, 2016, guys!”
Seriously. How bad does this year have to get before we stop using it as a justification for policy?
I’m not going to write a year-in-review here, but suffice it to say: it ain’t been good from a conservative, liberal, or Marxist perspective. The Republican candidate for president is a bumbling mongrel pumpkin being paid by Russia. Bernie didn’t sweep the election in a cloud of hummingbirds. And the proletariat still hasn’t risen up (which, really guys? It’s 2016!).
Why, then, are progressives still using the year as a point of protest?
There are two possible understandings: either progress is magically linked to the passage of time, or nowadays there are enough people who understand that the rest of us should take it on faith.
I understand that progressivism depends upon the idea that progress is necessary in history: as long as we keep working for progress, things will get as we continue. But even the idea of working for it, the idea of oppression itself, necessarily proves progressives wrong on this front. If the oppressor will always work against me and my crew of Social Justice Warriors, either we have to exert not consistent but increasing pressure against him in order to succeed, or the oppressor magically becomes less oppressive over time as he starts to become educated.
That education depends on the oppressor working against the “self-interest” in maintaining his position of privilege that the Left insists he has. Has he been transformed by the power of love? Or have the oppressed been exerting more pressure as time goes on? Neither seems to really depend on the year.
Action takes work. If your policy is right, you can support and prove it by working for it, by convincing people, by putting it into effect. This pulls us into the second argument.
No one ever loses the burden of proof. If you’re trying to convince someone of something, it isn’t on them to prove a thing they don’t agree with to themselves. If you’re depending on that, your desired change is going to be a long time coming.
The fact that other people have been convinced by something can’t possibly be a good progressive argument. If what you mean by “It’s 2016!” is “Look around at how many other people agree!” then you’re constructing an argument that can be used my any majority, no matter how oppressive.
Let’s look at nondiscrimination laws, for instance. If your way of convincing me, the YFP’s Conservaqueer, to support antidiscrimination laws is showing me how many people in a poll support them, I’ll show you polls that say just how popular anti-sodomy laws are. If your method can be taken advantage of by the very people you hope to oppose, you’re probably using a deeply flawed method.
Whichever way you shape it, I don’t get how 2016 of all years can be the year you choose as demonstration of how enlightened we’ve become. Let’s take a look at this year’s record:
2016 is the year of transgender bathroom bills responding to the, ah, absolute epidemic of cisgender people pretending to be transgender to sneak into bathrooms.
2016 is the year of a voting discrimination law that, instead of targeting IDs and voter fraud, literally considered the racial demographics of Election Day and shut down the voting times commonly used by black people.
2016 is the year of police brutality and black deaths, the year when people insisted on the generality of “All Lives Matter” until they abruptly switched to the suddenly-acceptable particularity of “Blue Lives Matter.”
2016 is the year of Venezuelan ruin and, at the time of the writing of this article, agricultural slave labor carried out by the government.
2016 is the year that Russia started to actively manipulate American elections.
2016 is the year the Republican candidate for president was a racist asshole who didn’t promote any sort of free-market or socially conservative policy, whom no one on either side could trust on gay rights, abortion, or taxes.
2016 can be whatever you want, but unless you’re talking about your personal life it probably hasn’t been great. (Mine has been awesome, thanks, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.) Here’s to 2017, but in the meantime— try arguing your positions.