Monday, May 01, 2006

# Posted 10:29 AM by Patrick Porter  

STATING THE OBVIOUS? Oxbloggers may be aware of the Euston Manifesto, a declaration made by leftist Britons hoping to realign the left around democratic values. It seeks to shift the left away from the totem-pole of knee-jerk opposition to Washington at all costs, and away from excuses for, or alliances with, any reactionary or theocratic force that shares a distaste for America.

One accusation made against the manifesto is that it states the obvious. It likes democracy and elections, dislikes theocracy, opposes terrorist attacks on civilians, and expresses solidarity with those who prefer to have human rights and liberties.

Its critics charge that you might as well write a document preferring nice sunny days with a clear sky above cold rainy days, and affirming the right of all human beings to get up in the morning.

But my question is, isn't it sometimes necessary to state what seems obvious? According to Christopher Hitchens, the left has wandered so far from its foundational ideals that stating obvious principles has become revolutionary:
The “Euston Manifesto” keeps it simple. It prefers democratic pluralism, at any price, to theocracy. It raises an eyebrow at the enslavement of the female half of the population and the burial alive of homosexuals. It has its reservations about the United States, but knows that if anything is ever done about (say) Darfur, it will be Washington that receives the UN mandate to do the heavy lifting.

It prefers those who vote in Iraq and Afghanistan to those who put bombs in mosques and schools and hospitals. It does not conceive of arguments that make excuses for suicide murderers. It affirms the right of democratic nations and open societies to defend themselves, both from theocratic states abroad and from theocratic gangsters at home.

I have been flattered by an invitation to sign it, and I probably will, but if I agree it will be the most conservative document that I have ever initialled. Even the obvious has now become revolutionary.
I would be interested to hear from Oxbloggers who did or didn't sign it. Reasons?

(3) opinions -- Add your opinion

Maybe I could take it a little more seriously if some of those signing a resolution against terrorism hadn't allied themselves with terrorists and drug dealers in Yugoslavia. The truth is that despite the holier than thou attitude of the document, many of those signing it have been a lot more flexible in their attitudes than they would like to admit.
I signed it. To me, it doesn't state the obvious so much as state what should be obvious. Or as you pointed out--sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.

I support the manifesto because it supports or opposes ideas rather than people and cares about practical effects. It's vague in many areas, but that doesn't bother me because its vagueness is purposeful--they are interested in what works and are flexible about the means (I assume within a strong ethical framework)

Liberalism and progressivism have lost their way. Somewhere (maybe here), I read a Hitchens quote to the effect of "I don't like the Republicans but I despise the Democrats." That's how I feel. My own ideals are fairly liberal but I see today's liberals as betrayers of liberalism. Like Peter Beinart's New Republic article shortly after the last election, I see the Euston Manifesto as an effort to put progress back in progressivism.
I signed it because for once I saw people on the left standing up for what I still believe in, but that the entire American left, at least, has abandoned.The current state of the American left, and of much of American liberalism, can be summed up in the words "we hate Bush." Everything is seen through that lens, and even when Bush seems to be trying to do something right (as he seems to be doing in Darfur right now), Bush is accused of being a puppet, of being an idiot, you get the idea. It's just nice to see a statement by leftists that doesn't center around anti-Americanism, anti-Zionism, and pretending that September 11 didn't happen.
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