I must say that when the following popped into my cerebral inbox, it was received half as an attempt to distract, and half as a lickspittle underling: dance, boy, dance! Now dance me another dance!
'i have a question for you - why is liberalism better than fundamental conservatism? what does freedom to do whatever you want have on being told by others what to do? when you get the freedom you do whatever you want and then feel like shit and realize you screwed up anyway, and either find a cause to fight against to distract yourself or try to put all the blame on them. its all distraction. you have the freedom, now what? life still seems pretty meaningless doesnt it? i really dont see the difference between them telling me what to do conservatively and you liberally. youre both telling me what to do. though i dont mind you doing so if you do it in the comfort of your own home and not in my face.'
Fortunately (sadly?), I've got far too powerful an ego to conform to such perceptions, and far too much pride to resist the urge to talk about myself.
Let us clarify a couple of things here:
I suspect that 'liberalism' has a different definition in Northern America than it does in Australia. This is a minor problem; a much larger one is that I suspect that 'liberalism' has a vastly different meaning in Gwain's mind than it does in mine. So without taking the time to determine what the different definitions are, let's instead use mine: liberalism is the notion of individual freedom. It is not a philosophy to which I whole-heartedly subscribe.
Conservatism in my usage is the notion that there are certain fundamental values which are so self-evidently good that they should never be changed. It is not a philosophy to which I whole-heartedly subscribe.
I endeavour to extract elements of both and subsume them into a coherent personal philosophy. It is an ongoing and fascinating task.
I endorse the notion that we should have some individual liberty. I like to feel as if I am making decisions and actively participating in my own existence, and do not like feeling as if my behaviour is being enforced and that I am passively enduring my own existence. My endorsement of individual liberty stops at the point where individual liberty unreasonably encroaches upon the happiness of others. For example:
- An individual's desire for the freedom to rape children is not a freedom I endorse.
- An individual's desire to accumulate and maintain power at the unreasonable expense of the happiness of others, and to exercise that power at the unreasonable expense of the happiness of others, is not a freedom I endorse.
- An individual's desire to carry a concealed handgun is not a freedom I endorse.
I endorse the notion that we should conserve and maintain certain fundamental values. The destruction of these values, as most conservatives contend, can lead to the degeneration of a functional society. For example:
- The understanding that consenting adults may safely and privately pursue their own sex life is a fundamental value I would see conserved.
- The understanding that nobody deserves to be tortured or executed is a fundamental value I would see conserved.
- The understanding that all people deserve equality before the law I would see conserved.
On Telling People What to Do
At this point in my life, I don't aspire for more personal freedom. I'm lucky enough to be included amongst the 'freest' people in the world: I live in a secular liberal western democracy, I am university educated, I am employed, I am male, I am white. On the whole, nobody tries to enforce my behaviour. The only organisation which does (and to which I am largely bound to obey) is the state. I can see how the state has a role enforcing behaviour, such as when the collective individual liberties of a minority (eg. the desire to rape children) obfuscate the collective individual liberties of a majority (eg. the desire of children not to be raped and the desire of parents not to have their children raped). On the whole, I think it is not inherently good for the state to enforce behaviour, and the operation of the state requires constant vigilance from its citizens, who are obliged to object when the state oversteps its mandate to enforce behaviour. In my opinion this is a workable (but not unproblematic) mode of existence, not least because it is open to the notion of change, and in particular to the notion of the transfer and devolution of power.
There are certain institutions which seek to enforce behaviour without a popular mandate, without consultation with its constituents, and without recourse to the possibility of devolving power. Some examples of such institutions are certain organised religions, tyrannies, and totalitarian states. These institutions invest and seek to consolidate power in a small minority, who enforce the behaviour of the majority according either to doctrine, or to nothing more than their own unaccountable whim. In my opinion, these are unlikely to be workable modes of existence, as they resist the notion of change, and in particular the notion of the transfer and devolution of power. They will often oppress, sometimes with violence, those who endorse the notion of the transfer and devolution of power.
On Who to Listen To
The purpose of all this is to establish sufficient individual freedom and the conservation of sufficient fundamental values that each of us is able to decide for ourselves what the purpose and meaning of life is. I personally dislike the notion of being told what the purpose and meaning of my life is. That is nobody's decision but mine. Hence, I find the notion of telling others what the purpose and meaning of their lives are to be highly oppressive and totally unnecessary. Unfortunately, it is not the case that everybody has sufficient individual freedom and the conservation of sufficient fundamental values that they might decide what the purpose and meaning of their lives are. This is the motivating principle of my political activities.