The trouble with Communism is the Communists, just as the trouble with Christianity is the Christians. – H.L. Mencken
I once compared American political parties to a group of boys arbitrarily divided into two teams for some sport, and because the differences between them are practically nonexistent it’s impossible to tell them apart without some cosmetic designator, such as the color of their uniforms; otherwise a boy might accidentally throw the ball to a member of the wrong team. About a decade ago somebody decided to assign the colors red and blue to the Republicans and Democrats respectively; the irony of the fact that red is traditionally the color of the left (in which direction the Democrats supposedly lean) and blue is more often associated with political conservatism (in which direction the Republicans supposedly lean) seems completely lost on the American public, and provides a useful symbol of the total lack of coherent philosophy in either party.
But American political parties are not the only groups whose enumerated principles conflict with one another, and whose actions and policies often directly contradict every one of their stated principles and even work against each other. Republicans claim to be in favor of smaller government …except for the machinery of war and police oppression. Democrats claim to be in favor of civil rights and free speech…unless that speech offends someone or those rights prove inconvenient. “Feminists” claim to be in favor of a woman’s right to control her own life…unless she makes choices of which the feminist establishment does not approve. Marxists proclaim that every citizen is equal…except for the leaders, who are more equal than everyone else. Christian fundamentalists believe that Biblical laws should be literally observed…except for the Old Testament ones about food, slavery and menstruation and the New Testament ones advocating separation of church and state and condemning rigid interpretation of Scripture.
These groups are not based on shared philosophies, no matter what they claim; they are cults, mass movements which require absolute, unthinking conformity from their followers. These cults exist for one purpose, and one only: to win political power for their leaders. Every policy, every strategic decision, every position is intended to advance that one end, either by implementing control mechanisms or by winning converts to serve the leaders as slaves and foot-soldiers. Irrational, unscientific, contradictory policies (such as the neofeminist ones described in my column of one year ago today) are useful for sorting the sheep from the goats: anyone who accepts them without question is a reliable lackey, and anyone who questions them is a dangerous malcontent who must be excommunicated.
Cultic groups are often effective at accomplishing their true goals, though of course that never works out too well for the sheep because the promised Utopia never materializes; how could it when so many of the cult’s stated principles contradict each other? This is why schisms invariably form in mass movements (whether they be political, religious or what-have-you) as soon as they win power: since only some of the stated goals (as opposed to the real ones) can actually be implemented, those who support one subset of those goals must turn against those who support contradictory ones. Conversely, it’s also why groups which respect individuality (such as libertarianism) have such difficulty winning their goals; the only way to please everyone in such a group is to have a small number of clearly-stated principles, and unfortunately that doesn’t attract the kind of mob support that a collection of grandiose “free lunch” promises can.
In countries whose political systems give even small, single-interest groups a voice, sex worker rights organizations have had far more success in reforming oppressive laws than in countries like the United States, where it’s necessary to inflate a great big tent with hot air in order to win any degree of political clout. That’s why mainstream sex worker rights organizations have attempted to utilize the cult approach, promoting a hodgepodge of ideas (many of which are borrowed from neofeminism, Neomarxism and “queer theory” and have absolutely nothing to do with sex worker rights) and demanding lockstep conformity, complete with attacks on those who dare to question the dogma of the “leaders”. This is like trying to herd cats; many sex workers choose the profession precisely because they’re nonconformists who want to be their own bosses.
As I’ve pointed out before, gay rights activists succeeded with the one-issue strategy by expanding their “tent” to include lesbians, bisexuals and a number of smaller sexual minorities grouped together as “transgender”; sex workers need to do the same thing by fighting attempts to divide us into “legal” and “illegal” sex workers, “high” and “low” class, etc; we also need to win the support of true feminists who recognize that a woman’s right to own and control her body doesn’t just mean abortion. Decriminalization can only be won by fighting to get government out of individuals’ private lives altogether, not by demanding it let us alone in some ways, but interfere in others and “protect” us in still others while simultaneously abrogating the rights of other people we oppose. We cannot defeat the control freaks by becoming exactly like them and forming a “Wild Party” whose only distinguishing feature is our red clothes.
One Year Ago Tomorrow
“Grace” is a short biographical sketch of my best friend, whom I’m sure you’ll agree is quite an interesting character.