As a gay man with rightist leanings, I have often been asked to justify my politics against the sometimes blatant homophobia of the Right. This is a fair question, and I hope I can address it here.
My chief grouse with the Left is its economics. I believe that capitalism is the most viable (albeit not perfect) channel to bring the greatest prosperity, and therefore guarantee of rights, to the most. Countries that legally enshrine rights to minorities, including gays, are capitalist democracies like the United States and Britain in Western Europe. In spite of the Left’s avowed protection of minority rights, former and current communist societies like Russia and China have a surprisingly dismal record on gay rights.
I believe that economic growth is the best solution to anti-minority sentiment, whatever the minority may be. This is the same argument proferred by some Dalit intellectuals, who believe that Dalit emancipation lies in learning English and joining the modern workforce.
The Left has historically fought against real injustices but its remit has now become so loose that I am no longer sure I can stand with it. In recent times, this was brought out most glaringly for me in the Left’s support for the alleged anti-India sloganeering at the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
I am no fan of the sedition law and I believe it deserves to be scrapped. But I also believe in the absolute sovereignty and sanctity of the Indian Union, and I do not think that calling for India’s demise counts as freedom of speech. To any objective observer, it would be clear as daylight that our geopolitical troubles emerge from Pakistan’s tacit war against India but the Left’s analysis somehow does not agree with this. There are other examples of the selective bias.
Losing the bigger picture
My disenchantment with the Left emerges from its narrow focus on its preferred fights without looking at the larger picture. The rights of workers, say, is a legitimate fight, and capitalism has had a history of excesses, yes, but it has not caused misery to millions on the scale communism historically has. The Left’s dominant narrative entirely omits this distinction. I find the Left’s propensity to touch extremes highly damaging to the idea of open argument because it sacrifices badly-needed context on the altar of immediate passions.
This is true for nearly every issue the Left takes up: look at the brouhaha over micro-aggressions that has taken over American university campuses. It demands that only one, sanitised version of the truth, both contemporary and historical, be openly discussed. This in a place that is meant to foster debate. The fight to use proper pronouns in accordance with a person’s gender identity, for example, is a fight that is of little import in the outside world – and the Left does students a disservice by encouraging them to participate in sham culture wars that have no resonance beyond the campus.
This stand is especially hypocritical given that the Left has failed to adequately confront homophobia in Islam, a much larger and immediate problem than the gender wars raging in the US. In its enthusiasm to ride the outrage bus, the Left has wilfully been blind to the many complexities of real-world situations. At a time when Europe is facing an immigrant crisis and when Islamic radicalism is a real threat, the Left has branded anti-immigrant Trump a villain, without debating why he so successfully speaks to anxieties about terror and unchecked immigration.
After Orlando, the Left was at pains to dissociate the attack from radical Islam, reiterating how all religions have had problems with homosexuality. That may be true, but there is no religion today but Islam whose adherents throw gays off buildings in Islamic State-controlled territories. Muslim countries in West Asia have some of the most regressive laws against homosexuals, including calling for death. To say this is not to be a bigot or Islamophobe, as the Left is quick to brand those that differ with it. (A phobia, a friend memorably says, is an irrational fear, and there is nothing irrational about wondering what your neighbours think about your lifestyle.) If the Right is guilty of justifying homophobia through religion, the Left is guilty of practising it via carefully chosen silence.
I also think that the US has been far more successful than Europe in combating terror because unlike Europe, which has historically followed multiculturalism, the US is a melting pot where everybody becomes “American”. Immigration is not a right but a privilege and I think the onus is on immigrants to adopt the social and cultural mores of their adopted country. I don’t agree with France’s burkini ban, but I am against women covering their faces. I think it is misogynistic in the extreme, and if a European country asked that women stop doing so, I would support it. In short, what I am essentially saying is that today’s Left is wrong in dubbing all value systems equal.
On gender, the Left has built a cocoon that fails to account for reality. We are often told by the Left that we live in a post-family, post-gender world and that this is something worth celebrating. Yet, the number one feature in the gender/sexuality wars today is the fight for same-sex marriage and for the transgender to have the right to live as the gender they identify with, not the one they were born into. If gender and family are dead, as the Left wants us to believe, how can anyone be trans and why is same-sex marriage the new frontier in gay rights?
Speaking of specifics, my support for the National Democratic Alliance government emerges from my belief that it is making serious attempts to build infrastructure and improve the economy. I am against beef vigilantism of any sort, and against the government’s recent ideas of what a family is supposed to be (in reference to the surrogacy bill). I believe the government should not be involved in any matter of individual discretion, and should be hands-off as long as no law is violated. In general, I believe the government’s role should be as an economic enabler and provider of security and basic services.
This is the primary reason I cannot support the Congress – the party failed to capitalise on the successes of liberalisation and continued to distribute doles (that too through leaky mechanisms that are only now being plugged through technology). It did not take steps to ensure that the fruits of growth reach the last mile. Whether it did this out of ignorance (borne of Nehruvian socialism) or malice (to nurture a captive vote bank in the poor) is up for debate.
It boggles the mind that the Amethi-Rai Bareilly belt, held by the Gandhis for half a century, continues to be mired in poverty. It is egregious that 70 years after Independence, the government still has to evangelise the building of toilets. Look at where Germany and Japan are today, and where they started from in the 1940s. How did we lose so much time? It would be farcical were it not so tragic but there is no greater proof of his party’s ruinous economic legacy than villagers looting khaats from Rahul Gandhi’s khaat sabha in Deoria in Uttar Pradesh.
Support for the BJP
Finally, I am wary of the Left’s unthinking anti-majoritarianism. Its ridicule of everything that the middle class stands for – family, culture and religion – can lull the gullible into believing that there is something rotten about society, and that we must keep fighting until some perfect state of being (I am trying hard not to use the word Utopia) is reached. I find the Left’s ridicule of faith as uneducated and galling given that its agitations are themselves marked by hopes of a perfect (and in my view unrealisable) world.
Returning to the topic of conservative gays, is there a larger section of gays who lean towards the Bharatiya Janata Party? I am not sure of the numbers, but if social media is any indication, there are many. I don’t know, though, if they lean towards the BJP specifically or if they see some of their ideas about government being realised in the current dispensation.
Even there, one learns to separate the wheat from the chaff. In the case of this government, that would mean supporting its governance initiatives, anti-corruption drive, strong message on Pakistan (seen only recently), while overlooking the less savoury statements from its offshoots.
I don’t think there are any ideological parleys between the party or its parent with conservative gays. This could be because we are a diffuse group and haven’t really banded together. Also, gays, let alone conservative gays, haven’t reached a stage in this country where their voice matters politically. Yet, with the increased focus on gay rights and Section 377, there should be a space for all ideas – including, one hopes, conservatism – from the gay community.
As for the labels of Left versus Right, I am not sure what to call myself since I am economically conservative but socially liberal. I find that I hew to the classic definition of the “liberal” which was about the individual’s rights, what is termed libertarian today. But I am wary of unthinking libertarianism too. I think social bonds have a role to play in most aspects of communal living – and divorcing the fight for individual rights from the larger social context may not always yield the best outcome for the individual.
The Left has done much for mankind but its shrillness in recent times is in danger of negating the real gains it has engendered. I think that sane voices on both sides of the ideological spectrum should come together to build a new centre that retains some of the best ideas and intentions of the Left by eschewing its more radical and less effective politics.