Friday, August 31, 2012
Liberals and Conservatives: The Bottom Line
It seems like we're all a little poisoned by politics at the moment. I suppose that's inevitable in an election year, and even though I'm in England, I see it on Facebook and in the blogosphere every day. I'm glad I'm not in the states, being subjected to a constant barrage of political advertisements.
Yesterday I got to thinking about the differences between liberals and conservatives. I once read somewhere that the difference lies in how people view government -- that liberals have an essential faith in government, while conservatives are skeptical. That may be true, but the difference goes much deeper, doesn't it? It's more a matter of how you see yourself and humanity.
Conservatives, I think, see the world as a threatening, us-against-them sort of place -- people all competing for finite resources, with inevitable losers and winners. Economically, they're individualists. They provide for themselves and their own, but see little responsibility for anyone beyond their family or perhaps a slightly wider circle, like a faith community. They might choose to support others, through church missions or charity, but they don't want to be compelled. It's not that they're heartless -- they really believe that a competitive environment is better for people, at least those willing to work. They greatly respect tradition.
Liberals, on the other hand, see the world and its occupants as intertwined and inseparable. They believe that government support for the poor or infirm provides social benefits to everyone, and view people in a more trusting, cooperative sense. (That's also why liberals are by and large less likely to carry a gun -- they lack the competitive, protective urge of conservatives.) To them, the cost of maintaining society through taxes, public spending, welfare programs, public education and the like is an essential obligation. They're more willing to acknowledge that not everyone can compete fairly in a purely market-driven world. They're less traditional and more open to social change.
I dunno -- I doubt any of that is particularly ground-breaking. I suppose it's even cliched. But it's interesting to try to boil our differences down to an elementary level. Can we ever learn to work together, especially in these polarized times? I'm not sure. Those world views -- even forgiving my potentially inaccurate descriptions, and recognizing that many people fall somewhere between the two extremes -- are pretty different.
I'm a liberal, but I'm really trying to be non-judgmental, here. I'm trying to understand.
In other news: Did any of you watch the opening ceremonies for the Paralympics on Wednesday night? The Queen attended and it was touching to see disabled athletes from all over the world -- Angola, Bahrain, Cameroon, Iran, you name it -- walking or wheeling their way into the Olympic stadium. I mean, can you imagine what it must be like to be in a wheelchair and living in a developing nation in Africa -- where there are few if any ramps, and where streets are badly paved, if they're paved at all? From what I hear, ticket sales have been brisk for the Paralympics. Everyone's working to make sure they're not just an afterthought, you know?
(Photo: A lone, lost glove in a stairwell off Moscow Road, Notting Hill.)