How did the cultural left win the war on marriage equality,Â asks Kevin DonnellyÂ atÂ The Drum? His answer? Radical leftists completed what he claims Antonio Gramsci called â€śthe long march through the institutionsâ€ť, to control the heights of debate.
These cunning leftists apparently commanded the cultural heights, and changed the meaning of wordsâ€‰â€”â€‰â€śdiscriminationâ€ť for example, from a positive thing to a negative thingâ€‰â€”â€‰in a manner described by St George of the Orwell. Where will it end, Donnelly wails: â€śSame-sex marriage â€śraises the problem that if marriage is now to include gays and lesbians, what right do we have to exclude bisexual and transgender people?â€ť
Um, Kevin, I donâ€™t mean to alarm you, but bisexuals and transgender people are already allowed to marryâ€‰â€”â€‰as long as they marry someone of the opposite sex. Transgender people already have some leeway in which gender they classify themselves in and, um, on bisexuals, do you actually know what they actually are? The simpler explanation for the success of the marriage equality campaign is that the cultural base of social life changed over the past two decades, from a vestigial Judeo-Christian one, to one where market relations and consumptionâ€‰â€”â€‰and the notions of formal equality, exchangeabilityÂ that come with itâ€‰â€”â€‰came to the centre of social life.
Attitudes have been manipulated, Kevin wails again: â€śTo be conservative, on the basis that there are some things from the past that are worthwhile holding on to, is to be old-fashioned, out of touch and guilty of continuing past injustices.â€ť
Indeed, and what has convinced people that conservatism is a bad thing? How about three decades of top-down economic reconstruction, in which people were told that the new economy, new technology, globalisation, cutting-edge, next gen, etc, were compulsory, and the worst things in the world were protectionism, localism, collectivism, etc.Â The path to marriage equality didnâ€™t begin five years agoâ€‰â€”â€‰it began, you might say, when Sunday trading was abolished and capital finally triumphed over the Sabbath, quashing any notion that the state should have any regard to traditional values in setting the rules.
Your problem isnâ€™t the left, Kevinâ€‰â€”â€‰itâ€™s yourÂ compatriotsÂ on the Rightâ€‰â€”â€‰the Turnbulls, Kennetts and Costellosâ€‰â€”â€‰whose vision of social life involves a world entirely composed of individual contracts between people, and no institutions to be spared ceaseless transformation. In that framework, the objection to marriage equality becomes as archaic as trying to maintain a commitment to fault-only divorce.
The â€ścultural leftâ€ť could have redefined the whole dictionary but they wouldnâ€™t have got anywhere much before around 2005. Itâ€™s only after a period in which capital has made all cultural barriers to individual wants into a denial of human rights that the campaign became possibleâ€‰â€”â€‰because marriage equality cuts with the cultural grain of neoliberalism. All the marriage equality movement had to do was work hard, and do its researchâ€‰â€”â€‰a wise move, if only so that one knows that it was Rudi Dutschke, not Gramsci, who advocated a â€ślong march through the institutionsâ€ť.â€‰