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Wednesday, July 28, 2004

We are all born liberals. We have to be trained to be conservatives.

That is Dave Pollard's conclusion to a longish post on his How to Save the World blog. He explains, in ways scarily reminiscent of what I've heard from the Democrats the last two days, how people become conservatives:
Conservatives, believers in a world of danger and weakness, must have experienced first hand, through their senses and bodies, violence, the threat of violence, abuse, neglect, repression, deprivation, uncertainty, morally atrocity, and/or moral 'failure'. We learn from what we see and what we are shown, not what we're told, which would explain why children of conservatives who live very comfortable lives tend to be more liberal, why children who are abused tend to be both conservative and abusive, and why liberals, as they get older and experience more violence, tend to get more conservative. It would also explain why liberalism peaked in the late 1960s, a time of unprecedented comfort and peace (so that, unlike the Iraq War, most saw the Vietnam War for what it was -- ideological aggression -- not for what the conservative government portrayed it as -- protection). By contrast, conservatism has peaked in depression, wartime and post-war times, when there is more physical evidence of violence, deprivation, danger and the other factors that promote a conservative worldview.
I say it reminds me of what the Democrats were saying because they all seemed to mention something about the triumph of hope over fear, while at the same time trying to out-Bush Bush in scaring us about terrorism. Pollard goes on to explain that the "war on terrorism" is really a war between conservatives:
What is particularly surprising to me is that the conservatives who are trying to make the world 'safe from terrorism' don't realize that terrorism is, in most forms, an innately (if extreme) conservative act. Bush can bluster about terrorists "hating freedom" and "being evil" but the truth is that most terrorists are not anarchists who blow things up for a lark out of self-indulgence, but rather devout, conservative fanatics who are acting out of moral outrage against what they see as evil, and who kill others as acts of retribution that they see as profoundly moral. Very much as the American neocons saw their hysterical and immensely-costly destruction of two Arab nations as profoundly moral acts of retribution for 9/11. In this sense, conservatism is self-perpetuating and self-reinforcing, and what we have seen in the last three years is different sects of aggrieved conservatives attacking each other with increasing savagery and calling each other 'evil', while we liberals sit on the sidelines saying 'huh?'

But my view of all this is, of course, a liberal one. Both the American neocons and the Arab fundamentalists would be outraged by the above paragraph, because their bodies and their personal experiences have taught them to know who is moral and who is evil, and to them, liberals just don't get it and are therefore morally weak and 'evil' as well. If you're not on the side of America/Allah/God/Whoever, you're on the side of terrorism/our enemy/Satan/evil. If you aren't part of the solution, you're part of the problem.
Pollard concludes:
I could be a pessimist and confess that the conservatives are bound to win, because as the world gets more crowded and hence more violent, dangerous and filled with catastrophe this will breed more conservatives (and because conservatives are now breeding, on average, much larger families than liberals). But as a liberal, I can't be too pessimistic. As a liberal I believe that all humans are born and remain inherently 'good', or at least start out undamaged. We are all born liberals. We have to be trained to be conservatives.