Monday, December 20, 2004

Why I'm not really a liberal, either

One of the websites I regularly read is AlterNet, a definitely left-of-center site that aggregates news from all over as well as their own content. There's a lot of really good and interesting stuff there, as well as Molly Ivins, who is terrific.

But the left-liberal perspective is one I have a lot of issues with, and some of AlterNet's content really makes that stand out. This is why I'd be a charter member of the Moderate Party and happily abandon the Democrats if the opportunity arose.

First off, there's a definite anti-consumer bias among the left. Malls exist as something to ridicule, mass merchandisers are the scourge of America, owning a car is evil (but if you must own a car it should be tiny), and your media consumption must be politically correct. The only acceptable sport to watch is baseball (because it's the pride of intellectuals who analyze it to death), and you'd be better off going to see some little independent film with subtitles instead of watching a game.


I happen to take exception to most of that, but here's a few specifics. First of all, I don't like malls that much. Because they're too crowded. But they don't bother me, and if the store I want to go to is there, I go there. I also don't mind consumerism. If you want to have the newest little bauble, that's fine. Just don't go into debt over it, OK? Heck, I've got a near-compulsive need to own the latest cool Apple gizmo. I just keep it in check, letting it out every couple of years to upgrade.

Mass merchandizers are useful. They provide a place to buy the goods a family wants, at a reasonable price. I have problems with Wal-Mart, mainly because they drive their suppliers into bankruptcy (see Vlasic and Huffy for good examples of how success can be deadly), and they don't pay decent wages or benefits to most of their workforce. The rest are generally better than that - and wholesale clubs don't encourage over-consumption, they encourage stocking up on the goods you actually use. If you buy more, you've got issues with impulse control, but that's not a societal problem.

As for cars - if you want to live and work outside the city core, you need them. Period. And you should get whatever you're happy owning, can afford to keep, and you have room to park. If you really want a Ford Excursion instead of a Honda Insight, fine - it's your gas bill. I've got a minivan, but before that my last two vehicles were midsize SUV's (a Chevy Blazer and then an Olds Bravada). They did what I wanted them to do, and I was darn happy with them. Nowadays the minivan is more practical, and I'm not bitter about that at all (OK, maybe I'm a little bitter...). If I lived in the city and had a job there, I might own a smaller vehicle. But I don't. Get what suits you, not what you think is PC to own.

And I don't see the fuss about sports. I, for one, like 'em a lot, and I'm both a baseball and football nut (oh no - that militaristic American game of football!). I play golf, I go candlepin bowling (how proletariat of me), and I love to watch pro wrestling. I'm not a big auto racing fan, but when I went to a race this summer I had a good time there - and I occasionally watch it on TV if I'm bored on a Sunday afternoon and football's not on. I don't mind trashy TV, though I don't watch that much of it, either. I don't see many movies at all, but I'm just as likely to watch a schlock Hollywood comedy as a "high-minded" film when I do. I go to the movies to be entertained, not educated.

Even when it comes to reading, I'm not a PC lefty-type. I read some books on culture and politics. But I also read trashy novels, celebrity autobiographies, and generally eclectic stuff.

Now if I were a real lefty sort, I'd either disavow all that or I'd make some quip about how it's all "ironic" of me. But I actually like all that stuff. Which excludes me from the hyper-intellectual left as much as my utter lack of religious belief and distaste for mindlessly accepting authority make me an outcast from the right.

There must be more people like this out there somewhere, but dammed if I can find very many of 'em.

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