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Conservatism - Elizabeth Unexplained
Lots of data but no answers
greyautumnrain
greyautumnrain
Conservatism
On of the things that I've been struck by a lot lately is the fact that I'm a lot more conservative in many of my opinions than a lot of my friends, and I keep finding this a bit odd. When I think about it, its not really odd, but by emotional reaction is to still feel that its weird. Its been happening for years, but it seems to happen a lot more as time goes on, probably because more of my friends are keeping blogs.

Of course is all very issue-by-issue. One of the things I despise about politics is that there's a sense in the culture at large that you're supposed to pick a side and generally agree with most of that side's values. Its insanely silly, and I don't think any thinking person could agree 100% with any particular side on all the issues, but you're still expected to pick a label and a side to support. Its all very irritating. Of course I don't engage with the culture at large or the political process, so that's not something I generally have to deal with beyond the fact that the larger culture affects the way my friends see things.

Some issues are not a big deal. I don't think there's anyone in my group of friends who isn't in favor or gay rights. Its just not a controversial topic as far as I can tell. If anyone in my circle of friends actually is bothered by same-sex couple getting married they've been keeping very quiet about it, and there are certainly plenty of folks vocally for gay marriage. I'm less sure about abortion. Its generally not talked about, which is not too surprising. You can get an abortion in Massachusetts, and its extremely unlikely that is ever going to change. I expect everyone knows that I'm pro-choice, but the subject doesn't really come up. I expect some of my friends object to abortion for religious reasons but don't feel its right to impose that belief on others through legislation, and I certainly respect that point of view. Of course I could be wrong here because it never comes up.

The area where I increasingly find myself in the minority among my friends is when it comes to military matters. Of course this comes up not infrequently these days. Most recently a friend wrote in his blog about an article he'd read in the NY times, and again I was struck with the sense of not living in the same reality as one of my friends.

Most of my friends have never been in the military. Neither have I. On the other hand, Warren and his brother George were both in the Navy, so I have regular exposure to folks who were in the military. Also, my Dad spent nine years in the British army. This is probably the most telling on my point of view. Dad is fond of saying "one volunteer is worth ten pressed men," and adage I expect he finds very true. Dad signed up for the army and really loved it, and I think at the time it wasn't yet an entirely volunteer force. I think as a result of being close to people who have served by choice I am much more sympathetic to the military point of view, particularly when it comes to conflicts in the middle east -- Dad was stationed in Aden in 1967. I think this is what leas to the point-of-view disconnect that I keep bumping into.

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desireearmfeldt From: desireearmfeldt Date: July 27th, 2005 08:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Military feelings

I think this is actually an area/issue/set of related issues where people we know turn out to have much more varied opinions than I often assume.

I don't think I'm in the minority in feeling squeamish about all things military, but that opinion is far from universal among folks that I've heard expressing opinions in person or in blogs.

Also, I think military issues are more complex, in a way, than something like gay marriage. That is, the arguments for and against gay marriage mostly end up being pretty simple, I think, and it's a question of which one you find compelling. ("Gay relationships are no different than straight ones," "marriage is supposed to be between a man and a woman".) With most any question about war or military matters you care to pose, it's less clear cut. I don' t like the idea of war, or of having professional armed forces, but I also believe that the reality is that people and nations do attack each other, and thus if you can't defend yourself, you're vulnerable to bad things happening to you... Should we get involved in X military conflict? Ick...but there are consequences to doing so or not doing so that can't just be dismissed. etc, etc. I can't so easily just say "well, that argument doesn't make any sense" when I disagree with something.
dcltdw From: dcltdw Date: July 27th, 2005 09:05 am (UTC) (Link)
To be perfectly honest, I can't figure out Tom's point. :)

Separate from that: a number of years ago, I took a night class on the history leading up to WWII in the Pacific theatre. One of the guys in the class was heading to Marine boot camp as soon as the class ended. I asked him why he signed up. He said that, first and foremost, he was a patriot, and he wanted to serve.

Yes, I suspect he wasn't quite sure what he wanted to do with his life, and that going into the service would help him get some good training and focus. But it seemed fairly clear that that wasn't the point.

It made me really stop and go "huh".
arcanology From: arcanology Date: July 27th, 2005 09:21 am (UTC) (Link)

I don't think that having a military is a fundamentally conservative value. It's a fundamentally "duh" value - we need one, and that's not really sensibly debatable.

The size and what we do with it are very much divided at the moment. I for one think that we could make do with less especially if we stopped doing stupid things with it, or if we really want to stick our noses in everywhere we should stop pretending we have enough and should buckle down and buy war bonds. Obviously since I think we're doing dumb stuff with it right now I think we could make do with less.

I'm curious what the "military point of view" is that you're referring to though.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: July 27th, 2005 09:50 am (UTC) (Link)
I deleted a lot of stuff out of this post before I commited it, so I guess I should have reread the entire thing before posting. It seems that I over-editted.

The short answer is that I find myself agreeing with the opinions and point of view of those who are/have been in the military, which are often fairly conservative.

Some examples:

When visiting Warren's brother George in NY one time, George got to talking about how the liberal attitudes he ran into in NYC really bothered him. He brought up the fact that a lot of people after September 11th were saying that we had to talk to the people who did this, that our differences should be worked out peacefully. George found this attitude to be incredibly stupid, and frankly so did I. When someone murders ~3000 people in cold blood the time for talking is over as far as I'm concerned.

At George's wedding nearly two years ago, I was talking to a friend of his who was still in the navy and working at the pentagon. He was making some references to his current work. We talked about Iraq a bit, the war on terror, and islamic extremists. He was saying these people (the extremists) were set on having a jihad, and then then he said something like "sure, jihad, have a jihad over here". It made current policy seem a bit more sensible to me. It may not be morally right, but it sure did make sense.

The first time this disjoint happened was the first Gulf War. I was for that war. My view was that letting folks get away with invading their neighbors is always a bad idea, so smackdown was certainly in order. I remember being surprised when Sherrian was so against the war, calling it a war for oil. Well, sure, the US would probably have cared a whole lot less if there wasn't oil in the region, but its still a bad idea to let countries get away with invading each other.
arcanology From: arcanology Date: July 27th, 2005 10:01 am (UTC) (Link)
I dunno, I would call those views vaguely conservative. By the standards of today's conservative hellraisers they barely rate, but they seem conservative to you because you live in a fairly liberal/progressive/leftist area. You can call yourself a wild-eyed moderate maybe.

And even here, very few people did not support going and smacking Bin Laden. It's the extension into Iraq that confused people like me wildly.
firstfrost From: firstfrost Date: July 27th, 2005 11:53 am (UTC) (Link)
we had to talk to the people who did this, that our differences should be worked out peacefully.

I think some of the disconnect is with simplification. At the most precise level, the people who did this are all dead, because they were flying the planes. At the next level up, I think it's unlikely that we can work out our differences with Osama Bin Laden or any hard core Al Qaeda. At a few more levels up, there seems to be a vast pile of people in Islamic countries who hate us, many of whom may not have gotten around to killing anyone yet, and if it's possible to bring them around to not hating us, that would be nice.

If that's possible, it seems (to me, the non-military mindset) like it would be more possible through non-violent means. But talking to them in the past has clearly not been sufficient to bring all the extremists around, or keep new extremists from being produced. On the other hand, invading Iraq seems to be generating new extremists even faster. :-\

I think this is much like a similar communication disconnect on crime. Stereotype conservatives are Tough On Crime and want muggers to go to jail for a long time. Sterotype liberals think warm fuzzy thoughts about how if we could eliminate poverty, there wouldn't be muggers. It's not that the liberals want to give money to the actual muggers to get them out of poverty.
chenoameg From: chenoameg Date: July 27th, 2005 09:26 am (UTC) (Link)

complex military issues

Are you finding it more of an issue now because it's coming up in weblogs or because it's current events?

I don't think my military views are easily describable.
I'm a big fan of more DARPA spending, because that seems to be how we turn taxpayer monies into research.

I'm bummed that as a society we consider violence a reasonable problem-solving tool rather than one of a last resort. When I was a young child and first learning what the military about my squeamishness was about being willing to kill someone, not the risk of danger to oneself. (Imagine how bad it would be if I had actually been raised by pacifists or exposed to Quakers!)

I believe that all humans owe a debt to their societies and that there are many ways to serve. I view teaching, parenting, volunteer work, academic research, monetary contributions, political/social activism, public office, firefighting, police work, and military service all as forms of service to society, along with a bunch of stuff I forgot to mention.

I have great respect for people who choose to serve in the military, and I accept that they will never be a cross-cut of our society because the middle class in the US expects (reasonably so) work to be physically safe.
countertorque From: countertorque Date: July 27th, 2005 10:08 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: complex military issues

and I accept that they will never be a cross-cut of our society because the middle class in the US expects (reasonably so) work to be physically safe.


I don't understand your statement. Are you saying that you don't think there are any middle class people in the military? I met quite a few people who considered themselves to be middle class while I was in the military. I don't think I met anyone who considered themselves upper class, but certainly many people were from families who don't have any monetary difficulties.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: July 27th, 2005 10:09 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: complex military issues

I'm not sure if its an 'issue' so much as something that's been on my mind. :-) That is to say, its something I've been thinking about, but its not really a problem or anything. Its perfectly OK by me if I see things differently than a lot of my friends do. After all, as witty and intelligent as my friends are, I'm confident enough to disagree with them without it wounding my ego.

To answer your question, its really a combination of blogs and it being current events. After all, people blog a lot about current events and articles they read, and stuff they see in the news. The regular media is certainly part of it. One of the passages I editted out of the original post was about the fact that I can not listen to NPR anymore. I just can't. I think they're 'back door draft' reporting was the turning point, and I just couldn't stand the crap they were putting out there anymore. I doubt that's true of most of the people I know.
From: readsalot Date: July 27th, 2005 09:55 am (UTC) (Link)
My family is Israeli, so I'm quite familiar with the concept of compulsory military service. It has its ups and downs. Most Israelis do 2-3 years of service right after high school, and then have one month a year of reserve duty. I grew up knowing that that whole thing existed, but that I wasn't going to have to do it because my parents had moved to America about a year before I was born. But the threat of it was always looming--my older brothers were both born in Israel, and couldn't go on visits after they were 16 because they would have been drafted.

My father was always telling stories about his Army days (volunteered for the British Army in World War II, and then regular duty in the Israeli Army until he emigrated). He saw it as a positive thing, but he never did really well because he was a smart-ass, and always had to demonstrate to his officers that he was more intelligent than them.

I thought about ROTC before I went to college, because it would have provided good scholarship money, but my parents talked me out of it. Other than the money, I never really wanted to be in the military, but that doesn't make it wrong for other people. Currently, I'm split--I think that people serving in the military are doing a fine thing, but I think that our administration went to war for bad reasons and is essentially abusing the faith and honor of all of the people who are serving.
greyautumnrain From: greyautumnrain Date: July 27th, 2005 10:20 am (UTC) (Link)
Funny. I thought seriously about ROTC too. My reason for not doing it was what I saw as gender discrimination. Back when I was applying to colleges there were no combat roles for women in the military, and there were some stupid-assed people in congress suggesting that women just weren't cut out for that sort of thing. I'm sure you can guess what I think of that.
countertorque From: countertorque Date: July 27th, 2005 10:18 am (UTC) (Link)
It's nice to hear someone else voice opposition to the widely held belief that people are either "liberal" or "conservative" and that you have to pick a side. Many people seem to also want to assign a morality to both sides, considering one Good and the other Evil. As if, by naming a position on abortion you are establishing yourself as a morally good or bad person.

If you want religion, join a church.
harrock From: harrock Date: July 27th, 2005 10:35 am (UTC) (Link)

Conservatism

My claim is that once you are able to say or write the phrase "supposed to", you already know that the thing you think you're supposed to be doing is bunk, and are just irritated about having ever bowed to the pressure. I could rant about the strategy involved, but it's your blog, not mine. :)

It's tempting to say that all voters should get educated on military matters, but there is a list of similarly important topics that are governed by politics, and nobody I know can talk sense on more than a few of them. In the end, we can try to be policy wonks in the areas that we're interested in, and we're at risk of sounding uninformed and goofy if we open our mouths on other subjects.

(Er, perhaps I only speak for myself. There are plenty of subjects I don't argue about because I have nothing better than dogma, anecdotes, and a sliver of hard-to-express intuition on them... But I suspect that this is where most people are on most vast and complex subjects.)

I don't know of a solution. The benefit and curse of being part of a huge and powerful state is that we divide labor, and part of that labor includes understanding what the heck we are doing, and the process of "re-adding-up" the results of that labor after you've divided it is nowhere near as efficient as it is on a factory floor. In fact it's pretty screwed up.

So...I'd say, educate your friends when they ask. It won't make them see what you see, but it's a start.
kirisutogomen From: kirisutogomen Date: July 29th, 2005 05:26 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Conservatism

Hmmph. I can talk sense on everything. :-)

Seriously, I think what's remarkable is that the "re-adding-up" works as well as it does. I can't recommend it, as I haven't read it, but I've heard good things about The Wisdom of Crowds. For an individual person, usually the signal-to-noise on any given issue is awful, but if you add everyone up, the noise averages out and the informed opinions dominate.
harrock From: harrock Date: July 29th, 2005 07:37 am (UTC) (Link)

Re: Conservatism

Actually, I thought about including a footnote referring to you, since as far as I know you can talk sense on more things than I can and can bluff adequately on the rest. :)

I agree, mostly. The fact that our civilization doesn't melt down every day is a demonstration that the aggregate decision-making skills of crowds are reasonably good; at least, good enough that things rate to improve given time, according to historical data. My humanist faith in this is what keeps me from running for the hills.

I think that war is a case where our crowd (the American public) is generally weak. We're pretty insulated from the facts and the obvious consequences.
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