It was quite a proud accolade for me when I was described as being 'insanely left-wing'. Because it's a good thing to be left-wing, isn't it? It means that you care about other people being equal and you don't want to shoot immigrants or privatize everything including human souls.
However, if we were to sort the left-wing hardcore 'F*CK DA SYSTEM' wheat from the 'I don't think the government are v. good' chaff, I'm sure most of us would end up in the latter pile.
When I was at university I realized I was never going to make the cut when it came to being a fully-fledged social activist on a mission to destroy global capitalism. Trust me, I tried. I went to meetings about STOPPING THE CUTS and I meekly tried to get involved in an anti-privatization campaign.
But I floundered because I refused to accept something that many of my other like-minded peers already knew: some left-wing people are just really quite annoying.
If you want to know what I'm talking about, try going to a political meeting where you will certainly find someone who will shout at you for wearing jeans BECAUSE IT MEANS YOU ARE COMPLICIT WITH THE SYSTEM!!!
You will also probably find the agenda derailed for 25 minutes as people discuss whether it is 'problematic' to use the word 'pet' because it might be encouraging the offensive cultural appropriation of northern people.
Or pop along to a picket and watch rabid lefties shout at terrified Primark shoppers for condoning an organization that uses workfare - even though said customers are probably only going in there because they're too poor to buy better quality socks.
It must be said that, inevitably, this behaviour is most common with student activists: they have not had enough experience with the real world to know that adult life is full to the brim with moral and ethical compromises. It's easy to buy all your veg from an organic farmers market and spend all week putting up aggressive flyers when you have a big old loan and four hours of lectures a week.
But when these hostile attitudes emerge, it's a tragic state of affairs: it leads to people who have an urge to do good becoming alienated because they're too intimidated to engage with people who actually share their values. This then leads to the obvious consequence of left-wing groups becoming elitist cliques, when they should be open and embracing collectives.
We often hear about the right-wing habit of scapegoating the most vulnerable for problems that were actually caused by the rich. And yet don't some left-wing people indulge in this scapegoating too?
Of course, they blame the rich - because it is actually their fault so that's sort of the point - but they also blame ordinary people for not doing or caring enough, and self-congratulate themselves for being the only ones decent enough to FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT.
Unfortunately there's a disturbing lack of empathy amongst all of this. The vulnerable people the left-wing seeks to defend can end up becoming no more than abstract faceless figures, and potential allies are scorned for not being radical enough. It seems to me that it's not us that's preventing progress - it's them.
We're all groaning under the stress of how broken the world we live in is. Even before we look out of our own inner bubble, there's the issue of unemployment, debt, the rising cost of living, the difficulty of getting into the house market. Think then about climate change, corporate tax avoidance, food banks, the erosion of civil liberties, and you're set for a full-scale nervous breakdown.
These things pain me to my core, and I know for certain I am not alone in that. We all want to do what we can in our own small way, whilst trying to struggle our way through our own little lives.
Some people don't have the luxury of being able to live an anti-consumerist lifestyle: they're poor and they need to feed their children. Others can't attend every protest or meeting, or pitch up tents at protest camps. People can't - or don't want to. Perhaps they want to write letters or read books, or talk to their friends about their passions without prefacing everything with 'YOU MUST AGREE OR YOU ARE TORY SCUM'.
Being left-wing was never about glorifying individuals, so it shouldn't be some sort of exercise in back-patting or sincerity competition. If we are going to stitch some of the tiny cracks in our society, it is surely better to jump at the chance to create allies, rather than offending them so much they start voting Ukip.
Left-wing people are supposed to be lovely folk who are hunting for an equal world, right? This means that if we're going to make any progress, some of us need to start practicing what we preach.Suggest a correction