Irish Papist

Irish Papist
Me and General Robert Lee

Monday, June 30, 2014

A Little Liberal or a Little Conservative

Ah, liberal and conservative. What loaded words! And how difficult to apply to the messy business of human life!

Nobody ever asks me if I'm a liberal or a conservative. Nobody ever asks me any interesting questions. They ask me how long it takes me to get to work, how many brothers and sisters I have, whether I got out in the sunshine, or whether I've been on holidays. (Answers: I've never timed it, three brothers and two sisters, not if I can help it, and 'no' at the time of writing.)

But if they did ask me whether I was a liberal or conservative, I think I might answer like this...

Economics-- fairly liberal. I don't believe the unregulated free market is a good thing, though I am not anti-capitalism per se.

Gender-- conservative. I rejoice in the difference between the sexes and I hate anything that threatens to erode it. I don't care that much about how much of the difference is cultural or biological.

Freedom of speech-- extremely liberal. There are very few instances where I think the State authorities should intervene to stop a person saying or writing whatever the heck they like. Non-State authorities, like TV stations and newspapers and schools and bookshops, are a different matter-- but I still think they should all be extremely tolerant when it comes to the exchange of ideas. I think 'hate speech' should be legal in most cases. Obscenity, scurrility and profanity is a different matter. I would be much harsher on them.

Guns-- I don't like the idea of guns and my instincts are all for gun control. However, I have heard many strong arguments against it.

Life issues-- abortion, euthanasia, human embryonic research, suicide. Conservative all the way, baby. No room for compromise there.

The penal system-- a bleeding heart liberal. I think incarceration is such a terrible punishment in itself that it doesn't need to be made any worse and should be made as humane as possible. No amount of educational or cultural or social activites can make up for the loss of your freedom and the years torn from your life, even if you fully deserve it. Even if prison was like a holiday camp, it still wouldn't be a holiday camp because you're not allowed to leave.

The death penalty-- liberal. Like the last few Popes, I am against it.

Patriotism-- conservative. I believe in the idea of the nation and I am not a fan of the idea of multiculturalism. I think the onus is on immigrants to a nation to adapt, and not the other way around. And I am not impressed by newcomers who instantly begin to complain about their reception in the land that welcomed them. If I went to live in Japan, I would be highly conscious that I was a guest in somebody else's house.

Language-- liberal. A few years ago, a book entitled Eats, Shoots and Leaves: A Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by a lady called Lynn Truss was a smash hit. I read a reply to it entitled The Fight for English which criticized the approach of such "language purists". It was written by a much-published linguist named David Crystal, who (incidentally) is a Catholic-- I just found that out from Wikipedia. (He is described as "a Catholic by conviction". One would hope that was a tautology. I'm not sure what Wikipedia means by it.)

Language changes all the time. That is part of its delight. Standard spelling and punctuation is not a requirement. I don't even think it's necessarily a good thing. I believe that, for instance, "txtspeak" is simply the latest manifestation of language's infinite richness.

The arts-- conservative. I believe that artistic conventions exist for a reason, that they are timeless, and that they are no hindrance to innovation and creativity. Rhyme and metre in poetry, narrative in fiction, representation in painting-- all of these liberate rather than stultify. Formlessness is what stultifies. I believe that the arts exist more for the entertainment and inspiration of the reader, or spectator, or listener than they do for the self-expression of the artist.

Social etiquette-- fairly conservative. I despise foul language and casual references to sex or the eliminative functions. The tone they set is inimical to gentleness and innocence.

Religion-- this is the tough one, isn't it? I would say 'conservative', except that might group me with sedevacantist nutcases. I will have to take the same approach as Bertrand Russell, who called himself an agnostic when talking to philosophers and an atheist when talking to the public. I would call myself a conservative when talking to someone who takes little or no interest in religion, but orthodox when talking to someone who has a deeper knowledge of the issues at hand.

Technology-- fairly conservative. I worry about the influence of technologies. I think the car has been a disaster. Hard to see what can be done about any of it, though.

Drugs-- conservative.

Tobacco and alcohol-- liberal. Yes, maybe they are drugs, but drugs of a very different kind.

Gambling-- conservative. I would happily see all betting shops and lotteries closed down. Especially lotteries. "What would you do if you won the lottery?" is such a tiresome conversational avenue. Do you really need millions of hypothetical dollars or euros to spark your imagination?

Monarchy-- Conservative. I am all for it, though I don't think monarchs should have any real powers. I think they should be almost entirely ceremonial.

Nobility-- Conservative. I am all for titles and hereditary honours. I think they make society more diverse and interesting.

Hunting-- I'm on the fence about this.

School discipline-- conservative. Seeing teachers bullied by students never sat well with me. Not so sure that corporal punishment is a good idea, though-- mostly because I believe it is the quiet kids and not the bullies who will end up getting caned.

Egalitarianism-- liberal, when correctly understood. "Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name!" might be altered in our time to "Equality, what crimes are committed in your name!". All kinds of political correctness and social engineering are foisted on us in the name of equality. But none of this changes the fact that egalitarianism is a GOOD thing. Every man, woman and child on this earth is of equal value to every other-- that is, infinite value. I believe this is a spiritual and social issue rather than a political issue. Egalitarianism should be a spirit, not a political programme.

Religious liberty-- extremely liberal. I think exceptions and special privileges and special protection should be extended to religious practices, since religion is of such importance to its practitioners. And I mean serious and established religions, not some joker declaring himself a Jedi.

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