Monday, August 14, 2006

What's your contra-latte?

The best thing to prevent a slip into extremism, on either side of politics, is to be anchored by a deeply personal issue on which your views are entirely out of whack with prevailing trends in your voter group. Being a gay conservative or a pro-Israel lefty might do this. Or you could be a latte-left type who generally votes with the 'inner city', while enjoying a rural pursuit like hunting or fishing.

For me it's simply fishing. Raised in the bush, I've experienced the deep connection to the earth that comes from becoming part of the food chain (part, not 'top of', in the NT in particular!). I don't fish often enough, but when I do I know I'm experiencing something absent from inner city life. Something you don't even get by watching wildlife, although I can do that for hours as well.

My attachment to it is so heartfelt that I would abandon other issues to protect it. I would never support or vote for a party that wanted to ban amateur fishing.

In this regard I am in a minority among inner city lefties. And the vast chasm between the views pushed by the likes of PETA and Animal Liberation and my own love for an age-old pursuit has repercussions far beyond this single issue. I believe that government should drive social progress and back it up with legislation, yet my love of fishing reminds me to think twice before supporting measures that take away people's rights, as opposed to protecting them. It makes me wary of the far left in general, and deeply mistrustful of any animal rights agenda.

A pity, because I believe in minimising suffering of animals in all contexts, whether that's using the most humane methods in my fishing or buying, where possible, free range eggs and beef. But while many who campaign for animal rights are willing to compromise, this does not appear to be the case for the cheerleaders of the movement. In this regard, the moral certainty in relation to something so debatable and the desire to legislate in absolutes, these activists remind me of the hardcore anti-abortion lobby. Perhaps that is what happens if you equate something morally with the murder of an adult human; all compromise becomes unacceptable.

My post is not directed at arguing about the merits of fishing, nor is it a dig at vegans or strong supporters of animal rights. I accept and even respect their reasons for choosing such a path, provided this does not trammel on something so close to my own heart. Because fishing is something I love in my soul, rather than a rational position reached over the 14th latte, I have no interest in debating its rights or wrongs.

Rather, I am interested in the idea of the contra-issue, the strongly held viewpoint that anchors you and gives you a direct insight into the flaws of those you otherwise agree with. How do people deal with this? It seems to be a choice between denial or moderation. Do you, dear reader, whether left or right, have such a contra-issue?


JahTeh said...

I would find it hard to go with a liberal voter or a smoker but then they probably don't like fat witches.

Jeremy said...

Yes - I think war is sometimes a necessary last resort, and given the choice between leaving countries full of people suffering under brutal dictators, or going to war with those regimes to restore democracy, I'd probably pick the latter.

But only if it were done with very clear and consistent rules.

#1. Open and transparent, and under the auspices of a multinational body like the UN: not one country doing it for the economic benefit of its own corporations (hence no-tender contracts afterwards);
#2. The democracy to be established would have to be a REAL democracy, not a US democracy-lite.
#3. This could only be entered into if the dictator was abusing human rights so egregiously that a war - which would almost certainly result in mass casualties - could sensibly be considered the lesser of the two evils.

There would probably be a few others.

It would have to be done in a principled and consistent way. The world's dictatorships would be ranked in terms of human rights abuses etc and toppled in that order. (So Iraq probably wouldn't go before North Korea, for example.)

In the old days, objecting to tyrannical regimes was actually a very left-wing position. It seems to have reversed lately, though.

Don Quixote said...

With respect to people's rights, you could, I guess, argue that people have a right to a healthy, vibrant environment and that recreational fishing, in certain instances, reduces the fish stocks to such an extent that it damages the ecosystem and thus the surrounding environment. In that case you'd have to say that prohibiting recreational fishing would be a restoration of people's rights. Now, I'm not arguing that in all instances, but with a booming population I foresee it becoming more and more of an issue.

But, as for a contra-issue, hmm... I guess that I like certain aspects of economic liberal theory. I think that the problems springing from economic liberalism largely come about because nutbag conservatives are the biggest proponents of it. Conservatism wedded to economic liberalism will inevitably lead to bad results - on the one hand you have people trying to free up and mobilize capital; on the other hand you have people trying to close borders, isolate races and send social progress into stagnation; it doesn't make sense as a combination. But! If you were to wed the traditions of economic liberalism with its natural ally, social liberalism, you'd have the efficiency of free-market programs with the compassion and restraining influence of social insight... I guess I see potential there where a lot of the lefties that I speak to don't.

I've gone off topic a little bit - sorry.

Armagnac Esq said...

Not at all, you were only 'off topic' effectively where you took up the fishing argument =)
(which is valid but dealt with through catch and release, something that is standard in most sport fisheries now...of course C&R is great for fish stocks but not the best marketing on the cruelty front! It's a work in progress...)

Splatterbottom said...

You need to be careful where this is heading, armaniac. In our house, it used to be that each person was allowed to like one really dodgy band. But it grew out of control, and now I like a whole swag of boy bands and other manufactured pop.

Armagnac Esq said...

I don't like most TV, and loathe most commercial stuff, but make a totally dumbed-down exception for big brother/australian idol...

Going from bad to worse, hey!?!

Splatterbottom said...

It's a slippery slope, I tell you. I recently purchased 'Nsync's Greatest Hits.

A quick test for your condition: Have you been finding Amanda Vanstone making sense lately? Didn't think so. Seems you are pretty safe for now, on the political front at least.

Daniel said...

Mr Lefty, where does Israel and America stand in your list of human rights abusers?

Given some of the human rights atrocities and war-crimes that have happened in Iraq and Lebanon recently, surely they would be near the top of your list.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure I have any real specfic contra-issue, as you put it, but I am wary of what people not intimately connected with leftist politics think when we take a somewhat extreme (even if it is quite rational and morally supportable) view on certain issues.

Probably private education comes close. I'm a strong believer that we should be focusing on improving education in this country in absolute terms, and the question of public vs. private is somewhat peripheral to this quest.

phil said...

I'm generally in favour of conserving natural resources, particularly those that are used to generate energy. Except in the case of montrously powerful sporting sedans, where my limited means preclude me from getting too far up that particular food chain. We need more renewable energy sources so that the increasingly rare oil can go to powering Maseratis, the latest on my drool-worthy wnat-I-want list.

Armagnac Esq said...

Quite partial to Jaguars myself. Lucky for the planet I went into government law.