People of the Liberal persuasion seem to embrace the idea that human beings are not capable of messing up, making mistakes, or being irresponsible, lazy, and plain stupid. Any misfortune one encounters has to be the result of some hidden oppressive forces.
Once I was talking to one of the organizers of my union about a large group of people who had failed their comprehensives. The organizer’s position was that these people had been failed unjustly by the profs who wanted to punish them for being politically active on campus.
“But isn’t it possible that at least some of our colleagues simply hadn’t prepared well enough for the comps and were failed fairly?” I asked. (I had very specific reasons to know that this was the case, to be honest.)
The progressive union organizer was incensed. He screamed, “How dare you speak like that of your comrades? If you passed your comprehensives it was only because that year the activism on campus was low and the profs didn’t have a reason to castigate you!”
And he stormed out on me.
To be fair, the organizer later called me to apologize. Still, this attitude that every failure (and, consequently, every success) belong not to the person experiencing them but to a combination of oppressive forces and good or bad luck is very common among my fellow Liberals. Recently, when I shared the story of N.’s hard work and professional success, some progressive readers immediately started suggesting that he was lucky while other people were less fortunate, even though they might have tried to succeed just as hard.
The Conservative readers, however, simply expressed their admiration and congratulated N. with his success.
There is, of course, a flip side to the Conservative readiness to recognize individual success. Within the Conservative worldview, you are responsible for all of your failures, too. They have very little interest in analyzing the oppressions and the individual circumstances that might have prevented one from succeeding.
I have to say that I prefer to analyze my own life based on this Conservative approach. Whenever things don’t work out or I don’t find myself in a situation I like, this is a sign to me of some sort of a personal failure. We all know how much I hate this impotent, “Society makes me do bad things / feel inferior / have psychological issues.” All of my mistakes and issues are fully my own. And so, of course, are my successes. This is why you will never catch me talking about how I am being marginalized and persecuted by some unidentified source. There is always an active agent of any oppression and a consenting victim who reaps some reward from being oppressed. And if I am being consistently oppressed, this means I am consenting to that because it serves some purposes of my own.
In this sense, I am a Conservative. But only in this sense, though. On social issues, I’m so far to the Left that I don’t think anybody who reads this blog can catch up with me. This is why I can never feel fully at home either among Liberals or among Conservatives.