Conservative vs. Liberal pt II: A Better Way of Thinking

My last post attempted to illustrate the semantic and philosophical disconnect between the terms conservative and liberal. This post is an attempt to provide a better way of thinking and talking about the issue of social change.

Here’s by basic assumption: the problems conservative people have with liberal people and vice versa are not in fact, fundamentally, with their methodology regarding social change, but that both relative positions are unaware of their own historical and cultural conditioning. This is the root of the problem. Each person is shaped in innumerable ways by the experiences of not only their own lives but by the lives of their ancestors, friends and acquaintances. Furthermore, they are shaped by the place, the location, in which they live.

This shaping means that what a person feels, assumes, thinks, to be universally true may only be true where they are from. And before you go running off and taking this statement to be universally true, remember that I myself am also shaped by my history, and I am not talking in those terms. I am saying that what you consider normal is not necessarily what I consider normal, and what I am conservative about is not, therefore what you are conservative about. Conservative to me means keeping the values I grew up with, which weren’t the values you grew up with. Liberal to me means abandoning the values I grew up with, which weren’t necessarily the values you grew up with. Moreover, I am conservative and liberal on these points, in that there are some things I grew up with that I want to keep and some that I don’t.

What makes the difference is that I am aware, at least to an extent, of how I have been shaped, and that my shaping is not how everyone else has been shaped. I am conservative and liberal because I am aware. The fundamental difference is not between people who are predominantly conservative or liberal, but between people who are aware of their shaping and those who are not. This is actually the line that divides.

If you truly want to overcome these nitpicky differences, learn your history; know where you come from. Understand that the factors that have shaped you are myriad and far reaching. And seek to see beyond that shaping to be able to engage others. If we must draw lines, let’s draw them between people who are aware and those who are not.

1 Comment

  1. Nate'sMom on September 28, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Interesting perspective, Nate, and I think you've got a valid point.
    We have a difficult task convincing the majority of the Christian church in America who simply views liberals as the "bad guys" and leaves it at that. So much could be accomplished by engaging those we think of as the enemy–for one thing we would find out they really aren't!

Leave a Comment