Letter: The Convenience of Being Right
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Letter: The Convenience of Being Right

Letter: The Convenience of Being Right

Dear Mon Droit,

It has been a long time since the car radio stopped being a background noise of adult voices and started to become coherent and, surprisingly interesting. It was a discovery shortly followed by the confidence (or is it arrogance?) to form my personal views on what those voices were actually saying. Whether the fact that my parents listened almost exclusively to ABC radio shaped those views is another matter.

From very early in the formation of my belief system, I have identified very strongly with people my father calls “raging lefties”. The term wasn’t a criticism – my parents are too generous and socially conscious for their own financial good. My views began as instinctive feelings as to what was right; my upbringing and subsequent experiences, particularly three months in India, encouraged me to believe that these feelings could, and should, form the basis of my own perspective.

When I moved to Sydney I quickly made friends with a girl from the country, with a practical-to-a-fault mentality and the conservative beliefs often associated with rural communities. She then introduced me to her Liberal friends, who surprised me by being fairly decent people, and by having a logical, rational basis for their views. I did not however, entirely enjoy my new friendships – I consistently heard the ‘lefty’ mindset summarily dismissed as an unviable worldview to inform governance; the Left, it was said, was good in Opposition, struggling against the status quo, but unable to handle reality. I was confidently told it was impossible for the state to achieve the Left’s lofty ideals – they accepted the “unfortunate” inequalities of capitalism because, as the late British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher once said, “there is no alternative” or TINA, as it is now known.

TINA is a very convenient theory. Why question the system, after all, when it’s the only system that actually works? Ironically, it was the use of TINA as a tool of dismissal which strengthened my own conviction that being young and ideological was a desirable trait, rather than risible. How easy it would be to believe that we should preserve the current system because it is the best and potentially the only way to organise labour and commerce. My father once quipped that, “anyone under thirty who is not a socialist is a coward, anyone over thirty who is still a socialist is a fool”. Is it inevitable that you grow up, start paying taxation and become ‘sensible’, and finally realise that your lefty ideologies were just too naïve?

I do not know of any system that will prohibit people spending millions on cars, jewelry and designer clothes so that the boys I met in India can potentially have their TB treated. I cannot yet detail the practical way that I would reduce consumerism to limit environmental degradation. My lack of tangible solution however, does not mean these ideals are impossible and do not deserve due consideration. A system, which allows millions to starve whilst a few worry about exacting the last million from their investment, deserves to be questioned and with any hope, altered.

I am impractical and idealistic, overly driven by an emotional attachment to a small group of Indian children I spent three months with. I choose to celebrate the apparent unfeasibility of my beliefs; it means that despite apparently insurmountable barriers, I still believe that what is most important is what is right, and what is fair. It is possible that eventually I may bitterly abandon my aspirations in the face of reality, but I hope not. Without the beautiful hopefulness and idealism of youth, we would never find the courage to improve this world, and without that courage we never will.

Phoebe Laing
Arts/Law I

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