Tuesday, April 27, 2004


There is an interview in today's Age with Meyer Eidelson, the son of Jewish immigrants to Australia. As a youth, Mr Eidelson was radical enough to be kicked out of Melbourne High School. He then became a Marxist, and even today is still associated with the left.

But in some things he seems conservative. For instance, he says,

I believe places often fashion people rather than the other way around ... I strongly believe in the sense of belonging to place. Having come from an unsettled immigrant background I have this desire to make the most of my home town.

Why is this conservative and not liberal? Because liberals like to think that they are self-created by their own will. So it's not very liberal to admit that you are defined, in an important and positive way, by something you can't control: by the sense of place around you.

It's interesting too that Meyer Eidelson recognises a negative effect of immigration: that it unsettles the immigrant's sense of belonging. Liberals believe that what we need is an unimpeded will. Conservatives, in contrast, prefer to defend deeper, traditional forms of belonging and connectedness. Meyer Eidelson is someone who seems to want to build a conservative sense of belonging, rather than sacrifice it to a rootless individualism.

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