May 14, 2007

The +ve, again

Paraphrased from a single thesaurus (Oxford American, lazily referenced via my Mac OS Dictionary/Thesaurus widget even though I have it on my shelf), these two lists of synonyms:
    conservative: reactionary, traditionalist, redneck, diehard, conventional, orthodox, old-fashioned, dyed-in-the-wool, hidebound, unadventurous, stick-in-the-mud, set-in-one's-ways, moderate, middle-of-the-road, buttoned-down.

    liberal: tolerant, unprejudiced, unbigoted, broad-minded, open-minded, enlightened, progressive, modern, advanced, forward-thinking, enlightened, beneficent, bounteous.

Paraphrased from a single dictionary (Oxford American again), these definitions:
    conservative: holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change and innovation, averse to change and holding to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics and religion.

    liberal: open to new behaviour and opinions. Favourable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms. Regarding traditional beliefs as dispensable, invalidated by modern thought, or liable to change. Favouring maximum individual liberty in political and social reform.

One of these words is now scorned and spat at. ("Liberal", in case you wondered which). Yet looking at what's above, why? Why is it any more or less deserving of scorn than the other? Why isn't it an ideal that everyone aspires to?

But, you say, it's not the definition, but the doings of people who are seen as liberal! Right you are, too. But well, plenty of people who are seen as conservative do plenty of crummy things too. Should we scorn that word as well? (Go ahead, if you like, but spare me).

Now I'm uninterested in labels. But if I had to choose, I know which I'd rather sport on my brow. I say this much with the utmost respect for several friends who consider themselves conservative, and for their views. Yep: it's "liberal" I would choose, no apologies.

So here we go: time to restore the positive connotations of the word. Time to show, again, the worth of a liberal outlook. Scorn? That's your prerogative.


Anonymous said...


You mixed up the terms - leftist and liberal. I think you are a leftist and not a liberal, in true sense of the word. You do not possess all the characteristics of real liberals. Let me explain.

From my impressions of your views about economic policies, I find you to be a conservative and leftist. This means that you prefer the kind of economic policies that were prevalent in India before 1990s and are fundamentally opposed to the new ideas that make Indian economy more productive and efficient in resource utilization.

From the perspective of social outlook, you have many attributes of a liberal. But any writer that constantly points out the flaws of Hindus while conveniently neglecting the flaws of the other participants in the conflicts of India is neither a leftist nor a liberal. He/she is plain biased with an agenda.


Anonymous said...

--- ("Liberal", in case you wondered which). ---

Thanks for clarifying, I had conservative picked out. The thesaurus sure pointed that way.

But this "we're being spat on" kind of looks like self-victimization and building up a siege mentality. Helps demonize the conserv.s


Dilip D'Souza said...


I mixed up nothing.

But let's see:

> you prefer the kind of economic policies
> that were prevalent in India before 1990s

Can you offer me evidence for this claim?

> [you] constantly points out the flaws of Hindus

Can you offer me evidence for this claim too? One article where I've pointed out the "flaws of Hindus", please.

Jai, what I meant was, the word "liberal" has become something to insult people with.

Anonymous said...

There is one anonymous handle Dilip forgot to mention in his recent Tehelka article. It’s called “illogical truisms”. Wonder why.

I also wonder what Dilip’s opinions are on people who not only change their name but also their sex (taking a name like Purvi from Finland even though the person concerned is a guy from Bombay) to write hate-blogs.

Anonymous said...

'liberal' as an insult:
Okay got that.

my 2nd and last comment. I was wondering which kind I am: by most benchmark issues (US) I would come in liberal, by India I dont know the benchmarks, probably liberal again... but with respect for tradition/ orthodoxy as long as it doesnt hurt anybody.

But somehow being liberal to me means not calling conservatives rednecks/ stick_in_the_mud ... my parents and lots of ppl I know are conservatives, and are simple decent folk living life as best as they can by their norms not particlularly looking to hurt anybody. Yes they have biases but mostly dont exercise or act on them.

If they are rednecks, I think I am one too.


Shivam Vij said...

vlThis post just took away any shard of hesitation I may have had about being called "liberal"