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Fight catastrophe with Liberalism

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

A momentous decade awaits the human race. For better or worse, both ends of the political spectrum are waking up from a deep slumber. Climate change is in full swing. Environmental destabilization is fueling unprecedented political insurgencies. At this rate, the Middle Eastern refugee crisis will be a mere foreshadowing of what’s about to happen on a grander scale in Asia.
Ideas formerly dismissed as radical are now in revival. Canadian journalist and social critic Naomi Klein called this effect the shock doctrine, and then wrote an entire book about it, creatively titled The Shock Doctrine. Desperate times call for desperate measures, creating the perfect breeding ground for dangerous ideologies.

But then again, just as the crises facing humanity could be used to further malevolent agendas, they might also be our last shot at genuine social change for the better. Klein also wrote a book about this, called This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs Climate. “The Right was right,” Klein said.
Climate change is more than the environmental collapse. It is the living proof that we cannot get away with right-wing “business as usual” policies, and hope to have a habitable planet within the next century. Climate change is the existential threat for the Right, and the momentum we need to put social justice back on the public agenda.

This should be the time when we perform checks on authorities of all kinds, from the patriarchy to oppressive race-relations, from government inspections to the “War on Terror,” from law enforcement to the very foundations of the justice system. This should be the time we demand our colleges to divest from fossil fuels, our governments to stop keeping artificially low oil prices, and, perhaps most importantly, demand each other to empathize and reflect on these structural deficiencies.

We as college students are especially responsible. Despite commonplace condescension and ridicule, the political correctness campaign across colleges nationwide put privilege-checks back on the agenda. Fewer people think it is okay to believe that they could have ended up a place like Carnegie Mellon on pure merit without acknowledging the role of luck or privilege. Ever since the 2008 crash, more students respond “make the world a better place” to inquiries regarding their plans after graduation. Tides are changing, but every social movement can be paired up with its backlash.

GOP candidates like to assert that they value “correctness” over political correctness. They’d rather give you the facts, without fear of whom they might potentially offend. Despite outright doublespeak — the sheer fact of climate change does seem to offend Republican candidates — there is a dangerous sentiment at the heart of that mentality.

The truth of the matter is that unless you are experimenting on gravitational waves, reason and emotion not only coexist, but also are inseparably entangled. Politics and economy are nothing but structural manifestations of differing values. And when any non-scientist attempts to hide their radical propositions under the veil of cold-blooded rationality, that is when the responsible citizen ought to call foul.

When the Reagan-Thatcher-Friedman “cartel” claimed pure rationality in the seventies, it resulted in the greatest income gap seen in modern history, often euphemized as neoliberalism. When Wall Street did it, we had the 2008 crash. When Lenin did it, he inspired the most famous dystopian novel ever written. When Hitler did it, we had the, well, we had a bunch of things happening. A claim to objectivity in government affairs often signals a recipe for disaster.
I’ll have the millennial plea for sensitivity over right-wing claims to economic efficiency any day of the year. Go out there. Get involved. Voting is not the most democratic right you possess. It’s not even close. What you essentially have is a pick between the clown, the chief architect of the rabid Democratic shift to the right, and a self-proclaimed revoluRionary. If you honestly believe that as citizens of the freest nation in the world, all you get to do is decide which one of those gets to move into D.C. in November, well, that’s just depressing.