Fighting for a just cause
Former Deputy Prime Minister Anthony Albanese recently penned an interesting op-ed arguing that “a just cause will win in the end, whatever people say at the beginning”.
It was a reaffirmation of an argument commonly cited by progressives that “causes for which [left-wing] activists fought have largely been realised, and views once seen as extreme are now considered mainstream”.
In other words – she’ll be right, mate. Give it time and they’ll eventually come round.
It’s certainly an argument that seems applicable to our current prime minister. Albanese specifically cites Tony “climate change is absolute crap” Abbott’s opposition to genuine action on addressing climate change as a key example of him being on the wrong side of history.
Many supporters of marriage equality would no doubt think the same. In their own minds, they’ve already skipped years ahead to a time when same-sex marriage has been entrenched in Australia for years and men like Abbott are seen to be every bit as much a dinosaur as those who opposed civil rights for racial minorities 50 years ago.
Time has certainly already proved Abbott wrong on more than one occasion. More than 30 years ago, when he was a passionate – and allegedly even violent – hard-right conservative student pollie, Abbott was strongly opposed to the decriminalisation of homosexuality in any form. While he’s never conclusively admitted since that he was ever wrong to hold those views, he has rather grudgingly acknowledged he doesn’t “necessarily” hold them today.
But assuming for argument’s sake marriage equality does become a reality in his lifetime – something, by the way, I am convinced will never happen so long as he remains PM – you do wonder if in say 20 years’ time he’ll be grudgingly confessing that he doesn’t “necessarily” oppose marriage equality. In which case, why not just skip ahead to that point now instead of dragging it out so long?
Albanese is right to argue that “by definition, conservatives fear change”. John Howard argued that “a conservative is someone who does not think he is morally superior to his grandfather”, and long-term institutions that supposedly serve society well should not be tinkered with. While there’s some nobility in the philosophy, the problem is that many social conservatives take it upon themselves to decide which institutions are serving us well, and refuse to hear any counter-arguments once they have; e.g. that the “straights-only” marriage law Howard enshrined discriminates against same-sex couples.
It is indeed often only the passing of time that proves them wrong. But the frustration some progressives feel is borne from having to wait until conservatives catch up to them.
Perhaps just causes do always win in the end. But not before a hell of a lot of time and vehement opposition has passed.