to be liberal is to think

Today I think I will write something which I’ve been thinking about penning for quite some time, but have been weary of committing to my blog. It is my firm belief that conservatives and those on the right in general are less intelligent than liberals and left-wingers. I know that sounds awfully arrogant, especially coming from someone who calls himself a liberal, but nevertheless it is my firm conviction. Let me explain why.

As I see it right-wing politics places the individual over the group, but left-wing politics conceives individuals as belonging to a greater whole. That greater whole is the state. Given that, to the leftist, we are all equal, we can all contribute to the state and, in return, the state should do what it can to ensure equality. That’s why liberalism goes hand in glove with the left: the assumption that liberalism means people should be left alone to do what they want is to confuse liberalism with neoliberalism. To be a liberal is to hold that all views and ways of life are equally valid; that concepts such as class, morality and religion are arbitrary and divisive, and should thus be broken with. That requires people to come together as a community to ensure that everyone has equal access to resources. If all lifestyles are of equal value, then all people should have equal opportunities to express theirselves and attain happiness, which means equal support. Hence liberalism is of the left. It is also my conviction that the only way for us to solve problems like global warming and the energy crisis is for people to work together as one organism, rather than as individuals. they could only do this through a state system which prizes individuals equally.

The problem is people mistake liberalism with neoliberalism, which advocates the complete withdrawal of the state, leaving people to their own devices. This conservative, individualist idea leads only to the perpetuation of an unequal status quo: without the intervention of the state, unfair structures like the class system are allowed to continue, so only a minority are allowed happiness and freedom. That isn’t liberalism but its opposite: conservatism.

To return to my opening statement, to see the world only in terms of yourself, to question taxation because you don’t see why others should take your money, to try to cast doubt on well-established theories like global warming, to seek to perpetuate things like class and tradition simply because you benefit from them while others suffer, is a sign of a self-centred worldview. To me, to hold such a view boils down to stupidity, by which I mean an inability to see things from other perspectives, to think that only your needs and desires matter. To see things individualistically or in terms of your own immediate group (be that family, tribe or ‘race’) is to ignore the many other perspectives, mechanisms, histories and so on which combine to explain why the world is how it is. To refuse to accept new ideas, to try to hold back change, to object to immigration, betrays an inability to understand or to cope with difference. Such views impoverish society, which is why we, as liberals, must speak out against them. In a way that seems pretty illiberal, but if we want a multicultural, tolerant society, we must speak out against those who speak against multiculturalism and tolerance.

Liberalism is about equality and tolerance. Not pure, unthinking tolerance, but a kind of tolerance which realises that equality cannot be gained unless certain barriers are broken down. Thus true liberalism means one must be aware of oppressive forces in society: to be liberal is to think, to understand the mechanisms which explain why the world is how it is, which in turn means seeing the world in terms of the whole and not the individual. That’s why liberalism is left wing, as only a large, wellfunded social sector means that everyone can have equal opportunities. To refuse to accept the complex nature of the world, which conservatives seem unable to do in favour of the certainties of individualism, betrays an inability to understand which, I’m beginning to think, boils down essentially to a kind of stupidity. The way in which they seek to maintain the advantages of the few over the many – a few which most conservatives belong to – reminds me of children who haven’t learned to share.

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