I have been reading the historian Eric Hobsbawm’s autobiography ‘Interesting Times’. Hobsbawm has been a Marxist all his life and while the book is fascinating, it doesn’t really explain how he became one. He just is one and has been since he was very young. But why?
I think the whole area of where we get our politics from is quite exciting so I have had a brief look at my own influences to see if I can puzzle out why I am what I am. I can’t puzzle it out by the way.
What I am incidentally, is a left-leaning liberal with a very strong anti-authoritarian streak. I am not a socialist mainly because I have real issues with a collectivist mind-set and with any state that has a significant role in my life. Equally I am anti corporate but very pro small scale business. I have a sense that local accountability for both politicians and commercial organisations is essential. I am also a Euro-federalist and a republican. So there.
I guess the possible influencers of a person’s political development would firstly be the family and home environment, then education and then the catch-all category of life experience.
So did I get all this from my parents? Well my mother has been a lifelong hanger and flogger (apart from W.I. members) and my father is a libertarian who mingles some patriotic and militaristic stuff with an increasingly liberal social agenda. In effect they cancel each other out and any chance of rebelling from the view of one parent would just bounce me into the view of the other. So, for once, I can’t really blame my parents.
I have a degree in politics so have read my Aristotle and Burke, my Mill and Rousseau and my Hobbes and Marx. I know my existentialism from my dialectical materialism. Has this influenced me at all? Nope. I left school a liberal and left university in the same mould. I thought I was a anarchist for a while as that type of feral female used to appeal to me but they and the army of Trots on (and teaching) a politics course in the 1970s have had no real influence on me politically.
So what about life experience then? Well I have travelled quite a lot including to some nasty dictatorships, am a news junky and read a fair bit. Surprise, surprise it all confirms that my liberalism is right. Human rights are violated daily, corporates will screw you in any way they can, big politics always leads to big corruption, politicians will play the nationalist and collectivist card when all else is failing and big countries bully small ones.
See. I was right all along. Arrogant but right.
But of course a Trot or a Neo-con seeing the same events will be right in their mind too.
As for where it comes from – well I don’t know, but in my case I try to live my politics. I have always been self employed (apart from an awful 11 months) either running a small business or being freelance. And sweet Jesus it’s been very tough sometimes. I have always worked in international education in some way or other and am naive enough to think that education promotes change for good. I try to shop locally and support non-chain enterprises where I can, and I avoid online shopping. I take an pride in and develop a loyalty to wherever I live. I think Nick Clegg should be lynched.
Before anyone mentions it, yes, my kids go to a private school and yes I drive a Mercedes Benz. Buy me a bottle of champagne and I will justify it to you because like all liberals I can always justify my own behaviour.
And l know where you live.