Ideals and Connection: Liberals and Conservatives
Have you ever noticed how often liberals get hot under the collar or how obsessed conservatives are when it comes to doing things seemingly only by tradition? Often wondered why liberals struggle to start organisations or movements let alone maintain them for long periods of time or why conservatives don't seem to care for issues not affecting themselves? Well so have I, so here is a little take on that.
Two 'camps' Picture this: it's a sunny afternoon in late January in Melbourne, Australia. Busy traffic is bustling and the loud cries and chants of a protest can be heard as it marches through Swanston Street in the Central Business District. The crowd comes closer and closer, almost deafening as they pass. You stop and ask some of them what the issue is they are marching for. You then ask, if they are personally affected by this issue. Imagine for a moment, what would they say? Some at the coal face, directly affected. Some know others who are affected. Some are simply marching because they feel it's the right thing to do. Now imagine this: you've posted an article on Facebook - one which garners a lot of comments from all sides of thought. You're taking a progressive stance, and you ask some of the conservative commenters to post links to articles or studies backing up their claims. You push and push them for answers or facts - and at the end you find their views are based on a story about their friend or family member who had an experience, positive or negative and this has then influenced their views.
Two distinctions Think through the two different answers from both scenarios above. Hear me out, I know I'm making large generalisations here - but I think you've probably experienced something similar before and know what I'm talking about. What I'm interested in is the distinction between them. What is it in both these scenarios that separates liberal and conservative thought? My initial reaction has been to label the conservative "selfish" and "self-seeking". Only ever looking out for those they know or are associated with in the same thought patterns... And then, to label the liberal a “pioneer” and one who “seeks justice” and “fights for the truth”.
But thinking and mulling it over another explanation seems to have taken hold and that is this: Conservatives seem to be more often motivated and concerned about connection to people/places, while liberals are motivated by the ideal, the goal, the “utopian existence” (I’ve heard it said).
Thinking about this inversely – it seems to explain why each side criticises the other. Liberals feel conservatives don’t care for those they don’t have a connection with, and conservatives feel liberals are always social justice warriors.
Understanding motivations Taking a step back though – can lessons be learnt from each other? Liberals are seemingly always failing at setting up and maintaining things for any great period of time. Being able to connect with each other and those around them more would certainly be a worthy thing to attain. Conservatives would also benefit from seeing and listening to the stories of those who they aren’t connected to or affected by the way their decisions are made. So, maybe next time you see an angry social justice warrior marching, or a cold and out of touch fundamentalist preaching hate – consider their motivations and why they feel the way they do. Maybe, you might learn something? I know I have.
Michael Enderby is a Youth Worker in the South-eastern suburbs of Melbourne, Australia. Currently he works at a high school with a diverse group of young people from across the globe. He enjoys writing, spending quality time with friends and getting into the outdoors. His personal blog can be found at here.
View all previous articles by Michael Enderby