There is no denying that 2020 has been a year of unprecedented occurrence for nations across the globe. The upheaval that came with the outbreak of COVID-19 hit the world with the turmoil of significant measure with the United Nations facing the worst burnt of it but June had another long-overdue wave of commotion waiting for it. The chain of events that started the black lives matters movement making it now the largest movement in American history has had a deep impact on the liberal front. The status quo that has emerged as a result has been in working for quite some time. It has a deep-rooted philosophy based on political and social injustice though it has never been orchestrated on such a scale.
The political scenario that has gripped the US has led to a series of controversial debates dividing the nation between two lines. One is governed by a progressive political identity which has taken to the streets, press and is shaking the foundation of institutions, where on the other hand the reactionary liberalism is bent upon criticizing the incoming forces of this new ideology that sees the current liberal ground as the root of white supremacy. The irony of the situation is that the reactionaries that proclaim themselves as an advocate of liberalism are the ones breeding the seeds of “illiberalism”, whereas it is the progressives who have validated themselves as the reinforcers and guardians of true liberalism.
The philosophy of liberalism lies at the foundational level of human sovereignty; it forms the bases of fundamental human rights to safeguard their social and political advocacy by protecting individual liberty and freedom. The underlining principles of liberalism correspond to the much-endorsed slogan of freedom of speech but the more indispensable principle of associative freedom which calls for unification of individuals under a common banner of values is often pretermitted in customary discussions leaving it out of political discourse altogether. It is the ignorance of this very principle that leads to social controversies and is now raising intolerance of public views in the U.S.
The certainty with which associative freedom is requisite lies at the very core of what forms a society. It is not individuals but a group of people with parallel beliefs governed by a similar value structure that forms the basis of any civilization. An individual cannot be truly free unless their freedom is shared and acknowledged in an allied manner. The progressives prescribe themselves as the supporter of this political identity while the reactionary liberals criticize this very notion and condemn such shared norms that do not align with mainstream discourse, this doesn’t exhibit the tenet of liberalism rather it squashes the freedom of collective expression. This increasing polarization of liberal thought is waging a war on itself. When individuals collectively group together to present a set of values they are criticized for spreading “illiberalism”. This puts any institution, publication, and groups supporting associative freedom under the same scrutiny. All major controversies that have recently surfaced our striving for individual rights as a group for minorities whose rights have been historically marginalized and suppressed.
In light of the historical context, America as a nation has a prolonged past of injustice and brutality against minorities, immigrants, Native Americans dating back centuries, proclaimed as a defender but it has only acted as a perpetrator taking their autonomy and rights completely for granted. Reactionary liberalism when advocating the past fails to take into account its morbid history. Not so much has changed today, the championed slogan “Make America great again” put forward by the Republican Party that brought forward the Trump leadership established its whole campaign by glorifying the past and with it the tyranny and oppression of past ages that were nothing but unjust in the most bigoted sense.
Trump’s presidency has drastically changed the global outlook of America casting doubt and apprehension on world leadership. The response with which Trump dealt the ongoing civil unrest over social injustice doesn’t come as a surprise, from the very start his policies were catered to appease the white nationalist base which brought him to power this became evident when the approach that he took towards black lives matter movement was of a white-supremacist using racist backlash to hide behind systematic racism.
However, the root of intolerance runs wide and deep originating from the cultural institutions regulated by the elite class of liberals and is propped by the same constituents of white supremacy and racialism that allows only their own privilege and cultural hegemony to pass through while blocking the arena for the marginalized groups. This outdated ideological conformity seems far away from the liberal dream. Instead of aligning with the perceived liberal norms, it is leaning more towards American conservatism against recognition of social diversity and inclusion. This is the reason why an alternative dominant ideology is on the rise that is working towards rectifying the errors of the current liberalism model and if that can’t be achieved then it can only be dismantled to be replaced by a new successor ideology.
Dua Sohail is a student of Social Sciences at IoBM. Her interests are Social Change, Modern Philosophy and Politics.