No I’m not talking about people like David Beckham or Theo Walcott here. I’m talking about political stance. There is supposed to be this saying somewhere that goes “if you are 50 and liberal, you don’t have a head. If you are 20 and conservative you don’t have a heart” or some such. I probably first heard it some three years back, and ever since I’ve wondered why I’ve always been a right-winger in terms of my political stance. And I perhaps now have the answer.
The “social” component of rightwingery is not difficult to explain – from the ages of eight to ten, I was a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). They used to have shakhas close to my house in Jayanagar, and I would go there primarily to play Kabaddi. And I don’t think it was anything to do with what they taught us there, but maybe because the seniors there campaigned for the BJP in the 1991 elections (and my parents also then supported the BJP) I became a “social right-winger”. I’ve mostly been a supporter of the BJP since then, and if I were to vote (my name mysteriously disappeared off the voter list between 2004 and 2008, and I haven’t got myself re-registered) today I’d still vote for the BJP.
I’m much less of a social conservative now than I was maybe five years ago. I can probably describe myself as centrist – a position that is inadequately represented by any Indian political party. And it is possible that my current support for the BJP is reinforced by their economic policies during their regime earlier this decade. Which brings me to the more interesting question – about why I’ve always been an economic “conservative”.
I didn’t have an answer to this till recently, but I wonder how much it had to do with the fact that 1. I don’t have any siblings, 2. I was a topper in school.
I tend to believe that the lack of siblings helped define clear property rights for me at an early age – it is easier to divide up toys and other stuff among cousins than among siblings. And when you are convinced of property rights, you are much less likely to believe in stuff like “common good” and stuff.
As for being the topper, I’m reminded of how the class would plead with the teacher to make the exams easy, or to postpone assignment deadlines. Me being the topper, however, would have none of it. I would look at situations like those to RG (IITM lingo derived from “relative grading”) the rest of my class, and would always end up campaigning in the opposite direction (this continued till I was in IIM – when I was no longer the topper – I would encourage professors to set tough papers while the then toppers would ask for easy papers – the irony!).
While others were struggling to add two digit numbers, I would be showing off my skills at adding six-digit numbers, and encouraging the teacher to move faster. I considered myself to be “elite” and thought it was beneath myself to do what the “proletariat” did – postponing assignment deadlines or going slow in class. I would not be a part of the “class struggle”. I was a “have” (and I knew about property rights) and I would fight to retain my advantage.
So one objection to this theory could be that a lot of commies are topper-types. But here, we need to make a distinction. What if they were toppers like the ones that we had in IIMs – those that would clamour for easy papers, those that would do things the done way, and do better only because they mugged more? (I never listened to anyone. for example, I considered it beneath myself to add 5 to 4 as “five in the mind and six in the hand” and counting off fingers – while my competitor for topper used to happily do that, in public). My proposition is that those that became “radicals”, and were topper-types, weren’t that radical after all when they were young. If they were, they would’ve never turned left.