Sunday, April 10, 2005

The need for labels

Labels apparently are important. I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that I’ve placed my own share of importance on learning what label others were currently wearing.

Take for instance the conservative vs. liberal debate. It seems as though both sides are content to use the other’s label in a pejorative way. Who hasn’t heard someone say, “oh, you’re just a liberal do-gooder”, or someone try to marginalize the views of conservatives by representing them in a particularly narrow way.

It doesn’t help that the traditional meaning of "conservative" and "liberal" have been hijacked for partisan and political purposes. In tracing its roots back to the humanism of the Renaissance and even the Revolution of 1688 in Great Britain, liberalism in its development, stood in opposition to absolute monarchy, orthodoxy, and other forms of control or power.

Conservatism on the other hand, in its traditional, non-ideological definition, stood for the importance of maintaining tradition and maintaining continuity with that tradition. This could be in government, religion, or other social constructs. Traditional conservatism would be opposed to rapid changes on either the left or the right.

Recently, I’ve really come to hate having to wear a label, or even resort to explanations of my position by retreating to the tired right/left means of definition. When others accuse me of being a liberal (most often hurled in a pejorative sense), I try to explain that much of what passes as liberalism in our current form is something I’d be opposed to. There are those who claim to be liberals who are every bit as censorious and opposed to honest debate as anyone on the right-wing fringes of any of our modern-day movements.

I find so much of the political debate to be tiresome and not particularly relevant to where I see the problems in society originating. I find many of the outlets of left-wing discourse—magazines, radio, the blogosphere—to be as narrow and lacking in solutions as any of the arrogant bloviations originating from the right-wing noise machine.

When two sides have retreated to their corners and all they do is hurl rocks back and forth, its easy to end up getting bonked in the head if you dare to venture out into the middle area of debate on an issue.

I’m not sure exactly what I’m trying to get at, but part of it is driven by the discomfort I’m feeling in trying to align with any particular group.

According to one particular poll, I’d be considered a “liberal”, with my score being weighted heavily towards freedom in personal areas (90 percent), but leaning towards government control on the major economic issues (40 percent). I’d be comfortable with that, I think.

The more in-depth Political Compass has me aligned as being in the lower left quadrant of their grid (left libertarian).

I’m left of center and certainly anti-authoritarian, which probably puts me out of the current mainstream in my homeland of America. At the same time, I respect others right to differ with my views, as long as there is some sort of dialogue and rational explanation for their positions.

I’m sure that a lot of this may not mean much or register much importance with others. I’m just finding so much of the shrill baying back-and-forth to be something I no longer have much of desire to take part in. It might be a copout on my part, or just a recognition that a lot of what I’ve been involved in hasn’t amounted to a hill of beans. All I know is that I want to step back from a lot of the debates and try to reconsider what is important to me and the people I care about.


ChefDunn said...

Damn hippie.. lol

ChefDunn said...

I register as a Middle, left Centrist... Whatever that Means.

Jim said...

I like the Political Compass site the best, as it goes into more detail. It's kind of fun to see where you fall.

Then again, how important are having labels?

weasel said...

I show up over towards the commie end of the left libertarian scale (Economic Left/Right: -6.75
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.44). Too bad to see that crypto-fascist the Dalai Lama masquerading in that corner too...

Richard S. said...

Hey, here's my compass score:

Economic Left/Right: -9.88
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -8.56

When I took this survey/quiz, I thought it had some problems (I refused to answer a couple of questions, or else deliberately answered them in a neutral way, because I thought the choice was too limited)...but I didn't mind the results.