The Left... The Right... or why I wouldn't want to be labeled as either.
The problem with being in The Left (much of what I am going to talk about is mirrored in The Right as well, but to stay on topic I will not mention specifics. While they differ on the issues, the mindset and attitude on both sides is generally the same
) is that by accepting this label, you're subscribing to a whole set of accepted answers. You can't be in The Left and not feel bad for the Palestinians, or to think that abortion is bad, or to favor detention of Al Quada in Cuba. You can't think Bush's taxcut is a good thing, and you can't think drive an SUV. If you differ on any of these, or a myriad of other, issues, then you can't associate yourself with The Left, since the Left defines its views on these things rather rigidly. Being in The Left entails subscribing to predetermined views, whether you actually care about / understand the particular issues, or not.
The problem with this is that it discourages change. Particularly (and in my opinion, European newspapers suffer from this problem a lot,) The Left can't shake the notion that someone is either an oppressor or an oppressee. In the 1960's, it was clear. If you're white, you're the oppressor, if you're black, you're the poor abused victim, and it didn't need to get much more complex than that. Today, this distinction does not hold true, but the Leftist needs to paint the issues as black and white anyway. Applying the rules that worked in the 60's, the Leftist assumes that the rich and the strong are inherently in the wrong, and anyone poor and weak (and sill, prefferably non-white) is in the right. For examples, consider the Left's attitude toward any American military involvement starting with Vietnam, or Israel/Palestine. While The Left's position on Vietnam was born out of the moment, it received a lot of thought, a lot of feeling and conviction. It really captured the needs of society at the time, and provided the counterbalance to 'the great silent majority.' How it has changed. Now, no one expects much thought about new issues. It sufficed to imagine how a left-winger 'ought to' feel about an issue, and that becomes The Left's opinion. It doesn't take much to observe patterns in the mentality of The Left. Patterns which probably required an overhaul 25 years ago.
The great irony is that The Left used to be the realm of the educated, the best and the brightest. The Left shaped the way it did because in its hay-day, it did represent the best hope, the most thought out position. The people were thinking for themselves - that was the whole point. Now, being in The Left no longer requires thought or analysis. All you have to do is subscribe to the pre-defined views. You don't need to really care about all the issues, or even understand them. A typical example of this is Chomsky fans. Chomsky himself is a brilliant writer, but his followers are the worst. Chomsky's whole point is that people should think for themselves and question what is around them, even while his words are embraced and quoted almost blindly. "Chomsky is left-wing, so whatever he writes must be right" is an example of, perhaps, the deepest weakness of The Left today. The 1960's, as cool as they were, are gone, and the world is not the same. Trying to see the world through that antiquated lens is as unforgivable as the Right using whatever antiquated lens they observe their planet through. Instead of being a thoughtful, fluid group, the left is now content to merely serve, much like SconeEater, as the other extreme to The Right's nonsense.