I mostly refrain from writing political posts here. The biggest reason being that I’m not informed enough to write a politically coherent post about the current issues. The other big reason is that I don’t want to deal with the trolls and the hate mongering. Having said that, on some days, it’s so hard to write something unrelated. There’s just so much going on right now – the regular attacks on freedom of speech in India with the most recent incident being at JNU, caste-based discrimination and exploitation, media channels doctoring videos and assassinating people’s character that can ruin their lives, unaccountable hooliganism, communal conflicts, discrimination based on people’s gender and sexual preferences, and so on. Then, there’s the refugee crisis in Europe, the terror attacks in Europe and middle east, presidential elections and the hate mongering in USA. I find myself reading more about India and USA but I’m not going to go into detail into any of these issues, this post is not about a particular incident but people’s mindsets.
Over the last few weeks, I have found myself wondering, what are the factors that decide a person’s political ideology? What makes people question the status quo? What makes people liberal vs conservative? What makes an individual hate other people based on race/religion/caste/gender/sexuality/etc.? What makes people realize their privileges? What factors decide what an individual values more – human rights for everyone, capitalistic economies, or the concept of nation states?
If you asked me this question a few years ago, I would have said education. Today, I disagree with that answer. In my experience, education equals degrees that make you employable and doesn’t really encourage you to think independently. I don’t know if it was any different decades or centuries ago or is different in other parts of the world. In my opinion, our education system and society encourage us to conform to the norms, rather than question them. I primarily studied Science, for about fourteen years, during high school, college, and then graduate school. My education didn’t really make me question anything, instead it taught me to learn and accept things for what they are. Maybe, scientific research in the last few years has been different, but I feel like it doesn’t spill over much into real life. I sometimes wish that I had a more diverse education. I wish I had taken a few courses in psychology, political science, sociology, or history. I feel that a specialized education at such an early age not only limits the knowledge/information you acquire but also inhibits a free thinking mind. Do you think that that could play a role in determining people’s political opinions?
Family? I think the family upbringing may have a strong influence if you have a liberal upbringing. However, there are many adults who were raised in conservative families but grow up to be liberal adults. I don’t know if the opposite case is true, if there are people who grow up in liberal families but have conservative opinions. I have a hard time deciding if my upbringing was conservative or liberal. I think it was a mix – my mom is more liberal than many Indian parents when it comes to some gender issues such as women focusing on their careers, being financially independent, marrying the guys of their choice, and standing up for their rights. Other than that, I was raised in a middle class north Indian family and it was a fairly conservative upbringing.
Could the city where you grow up have an impact? While one would expect to see some heterogeneity, is there a correlation between people who grow up in a cosmopolitan city vs a smaller city or a small town or village having differing political ideologies? Maybe it’s the political environment in the college or university where you get your undergraduate or graduate degree? Could your inherent privileges (example economic class/ race/ caste/ gender/ etc.) influence your political opinions?
I grew up in India and lived in my middle class bubble for most of my life. In 2011, when I started volunteering for AID, I realized the state of human rights abuses in many parts of India, specially targeting the tribal populations living in central India. Only a year or two ago, I realized that manual scavenging and caste-based violence are still a reality for thousands of people. A month or so ago, a friend created a platform to share stories about caste-based discrimination in educated urban India, and that was another eye-opener for me. I think I’ve been cognizant of gender based discrimination and have identified with feminist ideas and principles for most of my adult life. I moved to the US in 2009, and I started reading more about feminism in the Indian as well as the western context. I am sharing all this to convey that I’m not sitting on a pedestal and judging other people. I’m aware of my privileges and I’m trying to understand my journey as well – of how I became relatively liberal in my thought processes. I do have implicit biases that come up in everyday life, but I’m a little more aware now and question them.
I recently saw this on Facebook – “I’m apparently conservative on XXX stuff, I probably need to learn more about the topics.” I found it interesting and agree with the opinion that being conservative means you need to learn more about the topic.
Please share your thoughts – what do you think shapes a person’s political ideologies?