I do not consider myself to be an extremist on many topics. I don’t have strong feelings about the death penalty or how to regulate the economy other than some “common sense” laws to keep corporations from abusing workers or the environment. I believe in an individual’s right to own certain weapons with proper regulations and precautions. I believe people should be allowed to exercise some choice in their own lives without government intervention. I believe in people’s rights to their opinions. I do not believe, however, that oppression is an opinion.
Oppression is not an opinion.
For the past several turbulent years it has become more and more obvious to a growingly disgruntled America that we might not be as “like-minded” as we all thought. Differences in opinion on the economy and how an individual’s income tax worked was once less—charged. Little differences in opinion have far deeper and stronger implications than many people realize. The roots of the modern American conservative trace back much further than anyone might care to admit. We often like to herald ourselves as superior in knowledge and opinion to those who lived in the 1800s, but the very platform of the conservative parties of the United States are based on the work of a sociologist by the name of Herbert Spencer, who (plot twist!) coined the term “survival of the fittest”. It was Spencer that Darwin’s theory of evolution was influenced by.
Spencer’s beliefs are what the modern conservative relies upon to justify their political views. In a country where the conservative side often uses arguments of morality against their political opponents, Spencerism gives them a “moral” excuse for why their policies are often less than kind, loving, and Christianly. Spencer was of the belief that the “weak” (aka the poor) would be eliminated as the more enterprising and astute individuals would continue to thrive. To offer the weak welfare and assistance was to simply extend their misery. Jesus must have just been prolonging the destitute’s miserable lives by giving them bread. It would be kinder to just let them die off sooner, Spencer would argue.
Though Spencer’s beliefs were quite critical of the poor they were not much kinder to the rich, as many conservatives might be surprised to find out. The rich were also idle and unfit. During the time of industrialization, it was the modern entrepreneur that worked hard to build up his business that may have been considered the “fittest”. Now in a system in which the rich often inherit their wealth (much like the noble elitist “idle” rich Spencer criticized) the conservatives have taken only half of Spencer’s “truth” to make their policies and leanings seem somehow less cruel.
Those who champion the term “survival of the fittest” deny those with less means the access to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or property, if you’re into John Locke more than Thomas Jefferson). They would argue that those who cannot work themselves up from rags to riches are somehow less fit to be alive, completely ignoring the disadvantages those very people face in a system rigged against them. It is odd how over time meaning gets lost. Ironic, almost. The modern conservative fails to see how the very foundation they base their lives upon would be against them as well, in its original meaning. Those who inherit advantage should not actively oppress the less advantaged on the basis of “survival of the fittest”—they themselves are not demonstrating enterprising and astute qualities any more than the idle rich of Spencer’s time.