Why I'm Really A Lefty

02 December 2015
I've heard gay people explain how they knew they were gay when they were six; before they even knew what gay was.

 Well, I knew I was a socialist at six before I knew what socialism was, or really anything about politics. Visiting Sydney's home of waterfront mansions, Palm Beach, with my parents I overheard them talking wistfully about "how the other half live". I knew that you got money from work, so I didn't understand - my father worked two jobs, he would be away from home working for weeks at a time, how could you do all that work and not be rich? Were there other ways to get rich? It didn't seem very fair.

 My knowledge of political economy has expanded somewhat from there, but my basic political philosophy remains the same. If you work hard, and are a good person, then barring calamity nothing bad should happen to you. If you are unable to work for whatever reason, those who do enjoy that good fortune, through taxes, should allow you to live a life of modest comfort and dignity. I've written extensively about my political beliefs in the past; you can get the gist here, and that's not what I wanted to write about today. No, it was a small realisation that my political beliefs may have been formed not due to envy, but something more unsettling.

My family were fairly apolitical; my parents didn't become citizens until I was well into my teens, so I didn't even experience the Aussie childhood ritual of lining up with your parents for democracy sausage. Unlike my kid, who has been to climate marches and refugee rallies and picketed outside Kirribilli house for Aboriginal land rights, all I knew of protests were my father's disdain of them. There were no political discussions around the table, no friends who told us of their work on campaigns. And yet I remember, for example, at the age of nine being bitterly disappointed that George Bush beat Michael Dukakis in the 1988 US Presidential election. Why? Why was I instinctively leaning left at such a young age?

 I worked out why. The only regular exposure I had to any form of political content was my father's love of talk back radio. We spent extensive hours in the car, stop-starting on the streets of Sydney, with possible smoking (I can't remember and don't want to ask). I do remember that I was extensively, lavishly, ridiculously car sick across the city. (I vomited under the Coke sign on William Street long before I ever had a taste of alcohol). And whilst I was sitting in my misery, or pulling over so I could dispense my stomach contents across the Sydney metropolitan area, there were John Laws and Alan Jones, droning on about referring to the Bicentennial as Invasion Day, and that Peter Garrett was a misguided fool, and how terrible the Hawke government was, and how ridiculous the Sex Discrimination Act was, and whatever other issues were exercising right wing nut jobs in the 1980s. I've thankfully blocked out most of the details, but I can see now that I was indoctrinated from an early age, in my way, that conservatives make me sick.


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