Hamburger problem?

Someone I know shared an article by Josh Barrow “Liberals can win again if they stop being so annoying and fix their ‘hamburger problem” and I felt the need to rebut a few of its points, although there are some points I will allow. Perhaps it is because it seems addressed to me because, yes, I do care what kind of hamburger you eat and all sorts of issues. Like anyone should, I take responsibility for my own continued education about civic and environmental issues.

Barrow’s thesis is:

This combination of facts has me thinking a lot about what I call “the hamburger problem.” As I see it, Democrats’ problem isn’t that they’re on the wrong side of policy issues. It’s that they’re too ready to bother too many ordinary people about too many of their personal choices, all the way down to the hamburgers they eat.

They don’t always want to prohibit those choices. But they have become smug and condescending toward anyone who does not match the personal lifestyle choices of liberal elites. Why would the voters on the receiving end of that smug condescension trust such a movement to operate the government in their best interest?

While practicing conscious consumerism at this point IS a privilege of the upper middle class/rich left, given the disparity in wages, lack of wage growth so far, failure to institute fair minimum wage, the placement of a premium price on “conscious brands”, a completely messed up pentagon budget’s impact on our taxes, etc., think of how the spread of any innovation historically goes. Taken up by the upper middle class until cheap enough for the middle.

There have been studies showing significant numbers of people get super jelly and become haters on social media, perhaps that is just as much a reality as the proposed glut of the upper middle class/rich left with “smug condescension” on people for their personal choices.

Suppose it’s a Sunday in the early fall, and your plan for today is to relax, have a burger, and watch a football game.

Conservatives will say, “Go ahead, that sounds like a nice Sunday.” . . . But you may find that liberals have a few points of concern they want to raise about what you mistakenly thought was your fundamentally nonpolitical plan for the day.

Liberals want you to know that you should eat less meat so as to contribute less to global warming. They’re concerned that your diet is too high in sodium and saturated fat. They’re upset that the beef in your hamburger was factory-farmed.

Yes, every factory farmed patty on a plate is one more factory farmed patty than I, or probably any animal welfare, permacultural agriculture activist, want on a plate. Do I expect someone, beat down by the same Man (to use the 60’s connotation) that beat down the cow and beats down the planet, to pay a premium price for grass-fed, humanely killed, local beef? No. I understand- I lived it for many years- the frugality of the lower middle class, which seems to be fast growing.

However, now, I have a circle of people that includes people that are poor and those who are at the same economic level as me. So I share about it. It is worth noting that, I have one friend who is vegan from her assessment of right treatment of animals, despite having a low wage. You never know who might make something important their priority, their pet issue.

Maybe people take it personally when they can’t make something work for them or don’t agree with something. But the idea that liberals are annoying for trying to make socially responsible decisions which are sometimes complicated, certainly numerous, and frequently controversial just laughable.

The author then lists off a laundry list of liberal pet issues that are widely controversial and some which may even be a little absurd. Like anybody, sure, I do see a wide array of leftist material that I don’t agree with or even think really? that’s kind of a one-sided argument. Sometimes, I have a laugh at one.  Sometimes, sure, I get a little annoyed. But there is material coming out of all the major ideologies comparatively cringy. Most of them we only see because of the increased power of individual voices taking place right now because of Internet technology.

Liberals don’t moralize about everything they think is a problem. You’ll hear a lot more discussion of how people should fight climate change by eating less meat and living in dense, walkable communities than discussion of how they should fight it by flying less.

This is probably because people like to propose moral solutions that are in line with their preexisting lifestyle preferences.

This is just an insult that could probably be throne at anyone proposing anything for the purpose of virtue. Probably everyone has a bias towards “preexisting lifestyle preferences” but I think most people should be assumed until proven otherwise, of making lifestyles fit their values that they discover over their entire lifetimes.

Then the author gives suggestions for making the liberal group look better, the second suggestion which could only possibly take place if we censored some of the leftist marginal voices. I could agree that giving too much time to some marginal voices would be a strategic error. But I don’t think a policy of telling marginal liberals carte blanche that the issues they feel impact their life is damaging the liberal discourse in some way.

Forgive the classist undertones, but there is a Wall Street phrase “When even shoeshine boys are giving you stock tips, it’s time to sell”. I think the author might agree that this could be applied to the strategy of organizational messaging. However, outside the organization, no need for the ironically sanctimonious call to liberals to stop “being annoying”.

I do think a heavy dose of “open-mindedness” across the whole spectrum of political discourse is always in order, because it takes all kinds to make a world. Not in the sense that we should pretend that everybody’s idea is a good idea. But definitely in the sense that we should hear people out and not let annoyance over disagreement cause us to cherish less the diversity of commentary in our public square enabled by Internet technology and low levels  or lack of censorship (where applicable). I do think everyone could take more time to consider if what they say is strategically chosen (knowing your audience), helpful to people (authentic, original research), presented as civilly as possible, and furthers the goals of society.

Although, yeah I say presented as civilly as possible. Why? I don’t want to be a hypocrite. Everybody has their things.  For example, my offense at someone who thinks it is okay to throw a cigarette out the car window.  If someone who does that, reads this, too bad, you suck. Wanna make me not hate you? – do some ocean cleanups until you’ve picked them back up. Sometimes, we must acquiesce to the urge to roast those we disagree with.

Which leads us back to the point of this article. This guy doesn’t like that people are talking about their issues and is pinning it on liberals. Hm. Maybe liberals aren’t be the only ones who need to consider their preexisting lifestyle preferences? It would definitely help not overgeneralizing every idea, minor or major, to “liberal and conservative” when that is only one axis of a wide range of people’s political ideas.

And let’s have a quick talk about how annoying non-liberals can be.

I watched a pretty interesting talk recently. Shaving my head made me a better programmer is an hour long talk where a successful, accomplished, and altruistic programmer discusses some of the issues she faced from in sexist environments and how she noticed a stark difference when she shaved her head, and what that might mean. Liberal, I guess, because it is a woman talking about how to make an environment more friendly to people like her. The kind of topic that might make someone “feel guilty” or change their “personal choices” that Barrow thinks is driving people from liberal values. She articulately describes her experience in a way that provides a clear picture of the nature of the negativity she faced, that many women can verify is a systemic problem (just because the problem is not everywhere, does not mean it is not widespread). She told her story in an engaging and sometimes humorous way. She convincingly proved that she was a reliable narrator.

And yet, look at the comments:

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