Wednesday, November 10, 2004

It's not about elitism

If pundits like Ted Rall are to be believed, the difference between "Red" and "Blue" America is a question of cultural elitism. I tend to disagree--in my view,I think it's all about the scope of your view of the world.

I think that people who tend to vote liberal tend to view themselves as voting what's better not just for themselves or for their families, but what's better for their community and the world as a whole. On the other hand, conservatives tend to possess a "me-first" mentality, making sure that they're looking out for their own interests above all others. I also believe there's a certain realization among (at least most) liberals that their position in life is more an accident of birth than a matter of privilege. Instead of living a life free of having to worry about daily subsistence needs, people in my generation could be living in sub-Saharan Africa, where we'd rapidly be approaching the average life expectancy (even though we're only in our late-20's!).

Similarly, I know in my own case, that there's about half a dozen or so moments in my life where, if things had gone differently, instead of coming to MIT and earning a Ph.D., I'd probably be trying to scrape by in a blue-collar job right know. I know that the reason I'm where I am today is because I have parents who love me and a network of contacts and colleagues who have helped to pull me through the tougher situations I've found myself mired in. A less fortunate version of myself--one who didn't have the same support system I had--would have probably done something unwittingly that would have screwed up my entire future. [Let's just say that my past experiences lead me to be deeply suspicious of "high-stakes testing."]

As a consequence of my experiences, I believe that it's wrong for the government not to enable as many people as possible to succeed just because rich people want a few extra tens of thousands to buy a gas-guzzling SUV. It's not at all a matter of elitism--it's recognizing that I could be the other guy, and who am I to deny him help just so I can spend a few extra bucks--especially when that "other guy" really could have been me?


At November 11, 2004 at 6:29 PM, Blogger Anthony said...

I think your description of liberals and conservatives are incorrect.

I think that a lot of the left acts primarily self-interested. For example, while some who press for gay rights issues do so out of principles, others do so because they are self-interested homosexuals and not because of any well-thought out ideology.

On the other hand, some on the left have criticized poor cultural conservatives for voting Republican and not voting out of self-interest when these people are acting out of a belief of what makes the world and community a better and more moral place to live.

Red/Blue, Democrat/Republican, Conservative/Liberal, Right/Left, all these dichotomies exist because of people come together for a variety of reasons. Right now, the Republicans just happen to have the bigger tent.

At November 15, 2004 at 6:59 PM, Blogger Answer Guy said...

I call "moral values" voters gullible for a reason independent of them tending to endanger their own economic future.

OK. Suppose the nation is in a state of moral decline. Does it not make more sense to blame people who actually have power, as opposed to, say, the NYU English Department? As in, the conservatives who control all three branches of government, the large corporate conglomerates that control the press and the media, and the mass advertising, marketing, and commodification of anything and everything in search of the Almighty Dollar?

The Republicans have controlled Congress for a decade now, the White House for four years, and the judiciary as long as most people can remember.

If you vote the way do because you're tired of watching Paris Hilton cavort about, and then you vote in politicians whose main priority is shifting tax burdens towards you and your neighbors and away from the Paris Hiltons of the world, well, I feel comfortable calling you gullible.

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