‘Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.’
I have always liked this Walt Whitman quote, at least partly because I think our fear of conflict is based on our fear that there are very uncomfortable internal conflicts within ourselves and external conflicts sometimes expose our far more threatening inner conflicts. I thought it might be interesting to set an example, which I might you suggest you follow, and talk a bit about my internal political conflicts between my inner right wing and my inner left wing so to speak. Of course to some reader, my left and right will be wholly left or right wing according to their extremes. But you hopefully get my drift.
(In passing I also note that Emerson said: ‘Consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” and accordingly the awful Ayn Rand said: ‘Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think you are facing acontradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong’ )
I grew up in a family of small business people, so my inner right wing believes in the virtues of hard work, thrift, honesty, avoiding conspicuous consumption and not really giving a hoot about what anyone else has. And that much wealth is created by small business people who have my respect. On the whole they are a conservative bunch. This side of me probably made me a lot richer than I might otherwise have been and I think happier too. I guess all my earnings were earned the hard way; not a lot of financial sector casino gains. And I guess I think that everyone should work hard and save for old age too. Though I am a realistic conservative and don’t think this will happen. This side of me thinks there are major virtues in the free market, as a way to make resource allocation decisions, to avoid waste in production and to reward effort. I do think that real, non-casino, sustainable wealth creation is a virtue, though I don’t think it should bring obscene rewards. And having done a fair bit of this in my professional career, I do believe that those who don’t do their job properly should be fired. Though I think this is quite common for the rank and file in organizations, I really apply it far more rigorously to senior managers and have a mental list of senior folk who should be fired right now, and that includes a lot of politicians too. 🙂 And having worked for a large corporation for decades and for some years with the US military, I did not feel out of place there, so my conservative/right wing side must have some significance, as corporate and military cultures are by definition usually hierarchical, in group/out group sort of places and this makes them rather conservative.
So I must be pretty right wing, hey? Well no actually, all that inner conservatism is balanced in my psyche by the fact that I grew up in the South Wales coalfield and think miners are the salt of the earth. So the left-wing side of my psyche values social solidarity, loyalty to your colleagues, and fellow workers, and has no desire to lord it over anyone or despise working people, and hates Ayn Rand. This side loves relatively flat organizations, has no real respect for authority unless it is continuously earned. Indeed, I might even be described as having a healthy contempt for power, bullying, and the so called ‘kiss up, kick down’ types I have met in business. Toadies I loath. And I have the Swedish tendency to argue with my bosses until we can make a better decision.
While I think incentives have a role in the economy, I am horrified by the high levels of income inequality that have developed in recent decades. I grew up in a British society with a Gini Index of about .25 (which is about present day Sweden) and both left and right wing sides of me, like this sort of more equal meritocractic landscape and they only differ about the price they are willing to pay for it. I am also a classical Keynesian who thinks that capitalism needs constantly to be saved from itself, its extremes of income inequality, monopoly and corporate corruption, not to mention its inherent economic instability that threaten to bring it down and bring in fascism or communism. And no I don’t think President Obama is a communist, at least not until he collectivizes the farms and eliminates the kulaks (joke). And of course I want a sustainable economy and a sustainable environment that will not broom the human species out of existence. So any conservatism in my psyche has a big emphasis on the root of the word: conserve.
I don’t write the above out of vanity or self-centredness, but to show how contradictory my political beliefs are, though no more than most peoples’, and to encourage you to do a similar inventory of your beliefs, which are unlikely to follow a strict party line, left/right orientation. And I do this to encourage you to let the different political sides of your psyche join the wider debate, and overcome your fear of internal conflicts and contradictions, the better to participate in outer debate without rigidity and excessive party line discipline. At least in private out of the political boxing ring. Give it a try?
Walt Whitman (1819-1892) see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walt_Whitman
And some outer political contradictions: