Conflating People with Ideology

I often see comments made by people growing up in “ultra-conservative” households or areas and becoming a “liberal” as a result.  Similarly, my early exposure to hippies living in the area of Nelson, BC was probably a major reason I was driven to the right.

There are still a lot of “conservatives” who are genuinely homophobic, transphobic, probably racist, or generally hold views that a lot of people would consider regressive.  On the right, there are people who consider faith more important than reason, people who put all their stock in tradition as opposed to what makes sense, people who think in terms of buzzwords and slogans, people who make personal attacks and fallacies in place of logical arguments, and people who seem to attack conservatives more than leftists.  In general, there are lots of people on the right who I do not agree with, as well as some that are rather despicable.

These kinds of experiences with people affect people’s perception of an ideology.  I like to think that I have arrived at my beliefs through careful, rational consideration, but I am not under the illusion that I haven’t been affected by this kind of thing as well.  As I said, I saw a lot of hippies when I was a kid.  Conservatism appeals to my personality; I am generally cautious and I don’t like to be the centre of attention, and thus I tend to wear pretty conventional clothes (that I buy at Walmart) and I speak quietly and generally fade into the background when I am around people.  I like to be in control and dislike chaos (one reason I don’t want the government to run my life for me; it takes control away from me).  And when I think of a leftist, I generally picture an unkempt and perhaps effeminate guy with a high-pitched voice who wears lots of bright-coloured clothes and hipster glasses.

But what kind of people you associate with a particular ideology or what kind of personality you might expect those people to have doesn’t have much to do with the underlying ideology.  Leftists can live like Mormons (or be Mormons) and conservatives can look like hippies (although I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such a thing) or use drugs and have a lot of anonymous sex (with people of either gender).  I can understand the frustration you might get as a young person growing up in a strict, conservative household, but that doesn’t imply anything about right-wing ideologies.  Which are quite diverse, and conservative/right-wing people themselves are quite diverse (in many ways).

On the other hand, there is probably some kind of correlation between a political ideology and what kind of person it attracts.  People who like to be in control of other people might be attracted to totalitarianism of some kind.  But thinking about politics in terms of people obfuscates the actual merits or demerits of the ideology in question.  You don’t need to consider communists to realize that communism isn’t a good philosophy, for example.

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