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Dept. of Changes

Going In Reverse Direction

Apparently it wasn't Winston Churchill who said something like "If one is a conservative when one is 21, one has no heart; if one is not a conservative when one is 31, one has no head." I'm almost disappointed, but only because I can no longer say I disagree with Churchill about this. 

Of course there are other sayings about how people grow more conservative as they grow older, and those sayings are probably attributable to almost everyone. So I disagree with almost everyone, at least when it comes to me. (And who else should I speak of? I am a fascinating subject to dwell upon, n'est ce pas?)

I grew up in a household where the politics were distinctly (Canadian) Tory. In fact my grandfather once took me on his knee to explain why (Canadian) Liberals were bad. At the same time, I was exposed to the values of my grandmother and mother, and they were in large part what I used to think of as liberal.

Actually, I no longer know whether that's the right label, since many of the people whose political values I now feel most comfortable with appear to despise the term "liberal" but let's use it because I'm comfortable with it right now.

My grandmother espoused humanist views that were leavened by a sense of class conscious noblesse oblige, but the latter was a function of her being born white and protestant in 1902 and former was a function of her being a wonderful human being. My mother was equally wonderful, and somewhat less burdened with class conscious strictures, although not completely free of them. (I've had to fight that classist attitude in myself my whole life, and I hope I've done it as successfully as I can. Which means, of course, I know I've got a hell of a long way to go, but that's another discussion.) 

My political awakening was when I watched, from afar, news of the 1968 Democratic convention and the later trial of the Chicago Eight/Seven, although even before then, I'd been certain that something was just rottenly wrong with militarism and racism and classism and such. The first Ayn Rand Book I read, Anthem, somewhere around the age of 11, bothered me because
I knew I was supposed to think of the lead characters as heroic for abandoning people who cared for community, and I just thought they were selfish and stupid. The first and only time I was able to vote in a political election (yes, only once in my entire life and that yet another discussion), I voted New Democratic Party. I joined a union as soon as I was able to and have been a union maid (or matron, at my point in life) ever since. 

But I always had a bit of my grandfather in me, too; there was a core of me that wanted stability and unchanging verities, and that, to me, has always been inherently conservative. At best, that's the wish to preserve - to conserve - what is good from the past. At its worst? Something that leads to terrible things. 

And partly because of that part of me, I believed in many of the things that unknowingly privileged white kids believe in; that of course police are there to protect you and that the bad ones are the exceptions; that western civilization was inherently good and probably the most civilized civilization, etc. etc. et-unthinking-cetera. 

And now, I find myself not believing any of those things. Or certainly believing them less and less. I'm recognizing my own racism, my own classism, I'm trying to check my privilege, I'm trying to be woke and I think that's the right way to be. 

So much for getting more conservative as one gets older. 

This entry was originally posted at http://kaffyr.dreamwidth.org/651308.html?mode=reply, where there are currently comment count unavailable comments. You can comment there or here, but prefer to read over on DW. You can comment there using open ID if you don't have a DW account.


( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2017 02:25 pm (UTC)
It sounds rather unlike Churchill anyway, considering he actually started out as a Liberal MP! And did get more Conservative as he got older. (Well, that's not true, Churchill was basically mad all his life and everyone in Westminster knew it, but there you go.)

About you, I shall just have to believe what you tell me! I'm sure you're right. ;-)

Mar. 8th, 2017 02:39 pm (UTC)
Ah, but his madness came in very helpful in World War II (or at least it didn't impede his usefulness at that point.) And actually, although it wasn't him, that would make sense for him. He was Liberal to start with and moved right.

Goodness, I'm tempted to say you should never trust me, but I shall refrain. Heh.
Mar. 8th, 2017 05:01 pm (UTC)
Great self-reflection. I, too, grew up in a fairly conservative household, but was leaning left by high school and college. Though I was in my mid-twenties before I even heard the term "privilege," and have spent the years since unpacking my own, with varying degrees of success. I suspect it will always be a work in progress.

I don't understand how anyone could call themselves conservative now, when the very term has been highjacked by big money and corporate interests, and more and more stands for nothing but hard-hearted intolerance. The mentality that the poor and unfortunate can just go to hell will always be abhorrent to me.
Mar. 9th, 2017 04:40 pm (UTC)
I suspect it will always be a work in progress.

As it should be; we never stop growing, not until the day we die, and that leaves plenty of time to learn good habits, forget, relearn bad habit, remember and get rid of the bad habits, etc., etc. Humans are learners, but we're also forgetters. And we are sometimes prone to writing sentences that sound like they were written for George W. Bush. Ah, well, I'll do better, later ....

At its best, conservatism was always fraught with the danger of slipping into racism and classism. And that was at its thoughtful best - because reflexively looking to the past for all things good, bears with it the risk of finding the evils of the past perhaps "not as bad as all that." And we are far, far from the best conservatism. I think it's bankrupt, but people will cling to what they cling to.
Mar. 10th, 2017 10:51 pm (UTC)
I like conservatives. They're opposed to all questionable adventures abroad and for fiscal prudence and responsibility. It's right-wing nuts I can't stand.
— Molly Ivins
Mar. 11th, 2017 12:16 am (UTC)
Oh, I miss Molly Ivins.
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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