Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Defining Liberalism

This morning I was reading a book where I found a nice quote. I wanted to preface this quote by stating that I am a liberal. I wanted to look up the word liberal in the dictionary to define what I meant, as I don't particularly affiliate myself with any particular party. The Dems have gotten far too conservative in most things and not nearly interested enough in economics.

Based on some defnitions from my Webster's Dictionary, circa 1981, I am allowing myself to be side tracked.

First we have the noun.
liberal n: one who is liberal: as a: one who is open-minded and not strict in the observace of orthodox, traditional or established form or ways. b: cap a member or supporter of a liberal political party. c: an advocate or adherent of liberalism esp. in individual rights.

So how does the dictionary define liberalism?
c: a political philosophy based on belief in progress, the essential goodness of man and the autonomy of the individual and standing for the protection of political and civil liberties.

So why is this a bad word? Not everyone has to subscribe to a party line, but when exactly did it become "wrong" or bad to be a liberal? What is wrong with believing in the essential goodness of man?

Conservative by contrast doesn't mean anything bad either. It merely wants to adhear to traditional values.

However, in the US we've allowed ourselves to make each of these people "other." Instead of remembering that we may want progress in certain areas and tradition in other areas, we allow ourselves to become polarized about those who are and who are not like us. The political realm is a wonderful place to look at this polarization as it's come on in a fairly short span of time. How did we get so polarized? Why? What are our own reactions and assumptions about people with certain belief systems? Are their belief systems inherently wrong or do they have some merit for the person who believes them. How can we all work together to find compromises?

Finding peace means finding ways to work within a society that has many different viewpoints. It is not about erradicating the dissent, but rather about working with it to create a more vital and dynamic whole. Diversity strengthens us. Diversity includes everything we (liberal or conservative) don't like. Just something to think about.


Blogger Rebecca said...

Nice comment. You are writing about something I have often thought about writing about myself. Liberalism is confusing as well because not only does it mean “liberal” ideas such as equality but an economic—political philosophy which, by the way, is linked with today’s conservative economics—the free market. How really confusing is this? Terms are weird. First, as labels, they work to define us. We, in turn, try to find the best label for our philosophy as possible but often it doesn’t “fit.” Promoting peace partly suggest we need to deconstruct these defining labels and create a new language for peace. Good post. Rebecca I hope this doesn't post twice. I kept getting error messages. *sigh*

12:44 PM  
Blogger Vegetables Go Off said...

Fantastic post! In Australia we have 2 main parties also. Right: The Australian Liberal Party, Left: The Australian Labor Party with furthur left parties being the Greens and Democrats. Having a conservative Liberal party here can cause some confusion, but it serves to underline your point. Generally both sides are so close to being central anyway that the labels are a bit misleading.
Another term that can be misleading is 'evalgelical' which traditionally was interchangable with 'missionary' but is now a 'neo-con' word. Neo-cons piss me off. C U.

7:24 PM  
Blogger Bonnie said...

Thanks to both of you for your support and comments! I try and stay away from the political too much as it is such a polarized issue. However, at some point, to create peace, both within AND without, we do need address the larger realities and some of those are political.

7:55 PM  

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