By far the most depressing aspect of the whole Johann Hari thing was the realisation of how far many people see the world in a binary ‘right/left/bad/good’ way. It sounds ridiculous to say now but it somehow had not properly occurred to me. I of course knew that this happened in party politics – that there were Labour people who were uncritical about all things Labour, who hated everything Tory etc etc (and of course all of the variations of that for other parties.) The Hari thing really helped me to see how far this extends into people’s entire view of the world, their way of processing information. They believe their world view is the ‘right’ and ‘good’ one and anyone sharing that is ‘right’ and ‘good’. Conversely, anyone who deviates from it is ‘wrong’ and very possibly ‘bad’ (the most obvious illustration being the countless appeals to Richard Littlejohn and Melanie Phillips in defence of Hari). After Hari I’ve seen it in countless discussions, even over complex, emotive issues such as abortion and religion where there cannot possibly be a ‘right’ opinion and disagreements cut across the political spectrum.
I can understand it to a degree because I have engaged in this to a degree, especially when it comes to hating Tories. I of course still fundamentally disagree with much of what it means to be a Tory. However, the other evening I found myself telling a friend that I had more respect for a Tory who had clearly thought about their opinions and had a coherent world view than for someone who blankly repeats ‘progressive’ viewpoints but, when challenged, has not thought about them beyond the most reductive and unchallenging level. More often than not, they will still have an absolute certainty of the ‘rightness’ of their opinion (this of course is not reserved to ‘progressive’ opinion by any stretch of the imagination but this is the opinion I am immersed in and surrounded by, hence why I write about that and not conservatism.)
Perhaps this acceptance that many of my opinions don’t necessarily hold any superior moral weight and could even be ‘wrong’ at times is simply a by-product of getting older. Perhaps it’s a ‘creeping conservatism’. Yet I still strongly believe in many of the same things I believed in a year ago. I just don’t want to believe any more that I’m a better person merely for believing them.
And usual proviso that we’re all hypocrites and human and fail etc etc etc. This is just something I’m working through.