One by one, my friends age and turn to the right. I'd rather not.
March 5, 2018 10:41 AM   Subscribe

Approaching 50 (about half a year out, now). English; male; liberal. Believe in immigration, diversity, the EU (remain voter), and education, public libraries and healthcare completely funded by e.g. higher corporate taxation. But, one by one of late, peers (colleagues, friends from university days) of my age have said some variation of "Actually, I think [right wing or fascist person] has a point" and then it's revealed they have quietly become the opposite of my (and their old) positions on many things. How can I stop this happening to me?

Note: this is not a proxy discussion on what are the right and wrong politics, or which policies are best or not. That is not the question. The question, if needs putting another way, is "I have a set of political views and beliefs. How do I retain this set as I move into deep middle age, especially when peers of my age who I socialise and work with are not retaining theirs?"
posted by Wordshore to Human Relations (51 answers total) 45 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think you have to embrace change and keep on top of media literacy as you get older to achieve this.

Political and social conservatism often looks a lot like fear of change, or a reaction to the idea that the change that is happening is for the worse (either for the conservative person specifically or for all of society).

People have been saying variations along the lines of "kids these days" for hundreds of years, if not forever, but the kids keep turning out to be not wrong, society gets more progressive and then the older people who were resistant to those changes sound like absurd cranks when you read about them in the past.

Embrace the changes that time and youth and new generations of people bring rather than fearing them. Stay open to the idea that their experience is as valid as yours even if you've been around longer. Stay resistant to the idea that having been around long immediately demands respect from those who haven't been around as long; everyone spends their whole life learning to be a person and you're both still learning as long as you're both alive. Spend time with younger people and treat them like people rather than like "young people".

And in terms of media literacy, remember that there are powerful forces who have significant political and financial interest in keeping you afraid and conservative, because that mindset among voters keeps entrenched power nice and entrenched.

Not being afraid of change, immigrants, poor people, people who care more about other people than they do about rich people getting richer - whoever the chosen media enemy is at any given time - is really important here. Make a conscious effort to read narratives of people from groups you're not a member of, particularly minority groups and groups that are currently being demonised by mainstream narratives. Make them real to you as individuals, not just a bucket of people you have one set of feelings about.

Humanise people as much as you can, take everyone as an individual. Challenge your own heuristics about what people are and how they work.

Keep doing this as you get older, even if it gets harder and the scary change sounds scarier because you're further away from it than you used to be and you understand it less.
posted by terretu at 10:55 AM on March 5, 2018 [70 favorites]


I think it's keeping in contact (however that may be) with the groups that share those beliefs; as people get older I think that there's a tendency (very understandable because of children, work etc) to keep less and less in contact with, for example, political groups, or even keeping up reading more than the basics about issues. The conservative view is the easier one, and the easier to access.
My grandmother was still actively out protesting into her 70s; in her case she remained an active member of the Quaker community so those things were always to the forefront.
posted by Vortisaur at 10:57 AM on March 5, 2018 [15 favorites]


The first response is that there is nothing about turning 50 that automatically changes your politics. I think there is a tendency for people to become more conservative when they get to place that they are more concerned about losing what they have worked so hard to accomplish. At the same time, I see people become more social active in their late 60's and 70's as they start to worry about the long term future for their grandchildren.
posted by metahawk at 10:58 AM on March 5, 2018 [19 favorites]


My mother was a firm believer in making and maintaining friendships with people younger than herself (decades younger, not just a few years). This included me - I was born late-ish in her life.
Her thought was that young(er) people have different beliefs, are focused on change, and are more forward looking - and that being around those folks, and being challenged by them would help keep her thinking younger/more progressive.
I think she was right, and currently consider as best friends a few people who are 20-30 years younger than me.
posted by dbmcd at 10:59 AM on March 5, 2018 [10 favorites]


Something we know is that as we age, (most) people become increasingly risk-averse, have fewer novel social interactions, and can additionally become more fearful and paranoid and selfish* as one is increasingly betrayed by one's body and also cognitive decline.

Focus on keeping your mind sharp and your social engagement frequent, take in a diverse range of viewpoints and by diverse I mean lefty as hell but from teenagers to people your age, especially ones that are not white and straight. Challenge yourself when you get a bad case of "kids these days" and "get off my lawn". Spend time with younger people. Be the non-creepy old dude volunteering with the kids these days.

*Part of what really shocks me, watching this happening, is how many people almost gleefully fuck over their own kids and grandkids. What the hell? Don't not-notice when you see these people doing that, and feel free to ask that question and see if any of these people can give you an answer that shouldn't keep a decent person awake at night.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:59 AM on March 5, 2018 [24 favorites]


I think you're looking at this backwards. Another interpretation of your question might be that you are asking how can I set the beliefs and value system I adopted in my twenties, in stone, so I never change.

I'm guessing this is not what you meant, so my straightforward answer is that the way you "hold on" to your values is to continuously challenge them, re-evaluate them, and always be willing to amend them when, not if, you find your previous constructs are inadequate.

Perhaps one way to do that is to listen without judgement to what your friends have to say. After listening, you still may not agree with them, but at least you will be sustaining your values as a living system, not falling into the same rigidity you may observe in others, just on the opposite side. Short answer: always be willing to learn something.
posted by Gnella at 11:02 AM on March 5, 2018 [33 favorites]


Just watch the BBC and read the Guardian.
posted by catspajammies at 11:21 AM on March 5, 2018 [8 favorites]


I think Gnella has it bang on here. When I compare my parents (as leftwing and radical as ever) to one of their closest friends (once the only actual revolutionary leftist in their circle of friends, now a dear and kind man personally, but slightly to the right of Genghis Khan on many issues), I feel like the difference is that my parents have kept changing their views by legitimately challenging them, by talking to people who disagree with them, and by sticking to their principles by changing their approach; their friend, on the other hand, became (for very understandable reasons that I don't need to go into) increasingly isolated in his 40s and 50s, and became increasingly despondent about realising that the world didn't work like he wanted it to in his younger days. That brought about a rejection of the fundamentals, because he couldn't happily change the expression of those values.

Also, either (a) don't get rich or (b) put your money where your mouth is. A lot of people change their minds about their principles because they realise they aren't living up to them. So instead of dealing with the guilt, they give up on their values. If you believe in a living wage, pay a living wage; if you believe in charitable and activist causes, donate to them and work for them; and so on. You can keep hold of your values by living them.
posted by howfar at 11:23 AM on March 5, 2018 [31 favorites]


I think it's one of those things where if you're sufficiently self-aware ask the question, it won't happen to you. Drifting to the political right seems to go hand-in-hand with resistance to change and a lack of interest in the future. You clearly don't have that problem. Just keep enjoying new art, new music, new books, and new people, and you'll be fine.
posted by pipeski at 11:27 AM on March 5, 2018 [12 favorites]


Everyone else has mentioned the necessity of challenging your own beliefs and seeking understanding with, for lack of a better term, "the youth."

It's easy to see flaws in institutions when you're on the outside, but for many people, age and experience lead them to believe they are the institution. And criticisms of the status quo, regardless of validity, seem like attacks on their standing. From the other side, the romanticization of a past era is something more conservative social and political elements appeal to, and with the rose-colored glasses on, it's easy for someone to look back and think "hey, I was on top of my game decades ago, maybe it's that society has changed for the worse" instead of realizing that society is constantly changing and evolving.
posted by mikeh at 11:32 AM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Agreed that it's important to make sure you stay comfortable with change, or at least accepting of personal discomfort. The older you get the more unfamiliar aspects you're likely to encounter in the world; things you love will inevitably disappear, you'll be surrounded by people who love different things whose appeal to you is nonexistent, you'll have to go out of your way to actually connect with them, and you might still feel cut off from whatever world you felt peak comfort in.

I think it's important not just to work on connecting with the younger generations and the things they love, but also to actively maintain perspective on exactly how well or how little you belonged in your world at various ages, how there have always been people you didn't connect with and things that were ugly or difficult for you, how it felt to be on the receiving end of the older generations' cultural animosity, and so forth. That sense of perspective, on questions of culture, privilege, opportunity and belonging, seems to me to be what is most missing among the right-wingers that I know. The right wing will always make points that feel attractive, because they generally try to speak to grievances and to one's sense that the world ought to be made in one's own image alone. The key is not to lose yourself to those grievances, and by "yourself" I mean all of you: the past versions you used to be, the future versions you will be, all the people you could have been had some circumstance or another in your life been different.

Since that's not a simple thing to do, there's also a sanity-check or thought exercise that's worth pulling out from time to time, which is to ask "Who gets hurt if I'm wrong?" and "How able are they to weather the injury?"

Finally, reading the work of older voices whose thinking you admire can be an anchor sometimes. As terretu says this is not a new issue, and people have always grappled with questions of values, alienation, personal merit, and change. Being able to go back and read the thoughts of people whose approaches to these questions you admire can sometimes help remind you of lines of thought you found valuable in the past, and of a sense of generosity that it's not always easy to preserve.
posted by trig at 11:33 AM on March 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


I have also noted this among my peers. At social occasions I am often a lone voice who speaks up for liberal issues. I have a theory that this is linked to the amount of bitterness a person feels. I am fortunate in that I've never had to face major adversity in my life so my liberal beliefs have never been truly tested. My strategy is to not take myself seriously and to reread my Kurt Vonnegut books.
posted by night_train at 11:33 AM on March 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


I think conservatism can sometimes come from a fear of change. You've surely heard the theory that Trump's election was white backlash and working-class whites feared they were losing their place in society to immigrants and minorities. I think you should avoid feeling out of the loop on society so as to avoid feeling resentful and dismissive of things you don't understand. Keeping up with technology so you can stay connected with what's going on with young people, for instance, would be a good way to avoid being siloed.

I think older people also tend to have more money and want to keep more of it and are more likely to judge people who don't have money. I don't know how you get over that other than making a conscious choice to be empathetic.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:37 AM on March 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


Yeah, my dad has not at all drifted to the political right but he has calcified in some ways - he's just not really willing to absorb nuance and interrogate his own assumptions. His bedrock beliefs don't really allow him to slight rightward in this atmosphere (he is a staunch supporter of African-American rights and gay rights, and is Jewish so not susceptible to evangelical Christian pressures) but he really doesn't do as much analysis and, well, *thinking* as he really ought.
posted by restless_nomad at 11:40 AM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


When I got hit with high tax rates one year due to a pay raise, my hubby jokingly said "welcome to voting conservative!"

So, stay financially generous. Yes you worked hard to get to where you are, but you stood on the shoulders of someone.

Willfully share power, don't fear losing it.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:41 AM on March 5, 2018 [15 favorites]


I’m 56 and still as liberal as can be. How did I do it? Sadly, I remind myself of my late dad’s embrace of right-wing - and worse - views as he aged. My dad, who spent much of his life in public service, who was a truly ethical man who believed in people, but who became isolated and angry and blaming as he aged. It broke my heart and I swore never to allow myself to become separated from love and human company.
posted by soulbarn at 11:42 AM on March 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yes, the goal is not stasis. What are the odds that all your positions are correct? Also, your positions, as a whole, match up pretty well with mine and with most MeFi posters. Some of that is based on common underlying values, but some is just groupthink - of which there is plenty on the left as well as the right.

The goal is not to change or retain your opinions for the wrong reasons, such as fear, greed, ignorance, self-importance, or self-righteousness.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:45 AM on March 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


I think part of it has to do with how far you personally feel or carry the impact of your beliefs, in your own life or in the lives of people you know? For example, if you have time, volunteering with one or more of the charities that plug the gaps left by the diminished welfare state—food banks, advocacy groups, homeless charities, charities supporting refugees and so on. Or maintaining/cultivating friendships with people who will be seriously personally affected by actual fascist takeover, or by a really brutal Brexit. Or going to talks or reading books by individuals who put a face on the politics. All this depends on having the time and energy to spare, of course, but I think the broad principle is solid: real stability in political belief is to do with keeping your belief system viscerally grounded, connected to your feelings and your relationships and not purely to a set of theoretical arguments.
posted by Aravis76 at 11:46 AM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


Read a lot of fiction, and fiction by diverse voices. Research has shown that reading narrative fiction (or narrative non-fiction, like a memoir) increases empathy in the reader. That's because you're constantly trying on new experiences or situations and it makes you put yourself in someone else's shoes for the length of the book--to think about how you might do things differently (or the same).

Work hard to resist defensiveness. I see this as one of the biggest separators between people I click with and people I want to avoid. If someone's immediate response is to insist that their way is the right way when they are told that their previous views are no longer considered kind, compassionate, or thoughtful--well, that does not bode well. See all the frustrating conversations on why it's important to use preferred pronouns for an example of that kind of defensiveness.

But I agree with the person above who said the very fact that you're asking this question is probably a good sign. It means you care and you know what you are trying to actively avoid. That is a good start.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:56 AM on March 5, 2018 [20 favorites]


Speaking as a self-identified conservative who voted for Bernie Sanders, two things:

First, don't be so surprised when a friend says that a right-winger "has a point". Of course they do; mass movements are rarely based on outright fantasy. The problem is usually not the root idea, but rather the proposed execution. What you can and should do is to question your friends about whether a proposed policy would actually achieve its goal. (Unless the goal is further enriching a small group of financiers, the answer will probably be no.) For example, I'm sympathetic to the Tea Party notion that the "little guy" no longer matters. But I reject the Tea Party/GOP solution of further deregulation, because that has precisely the opposite effect: it gives more power to those who already have it. I'm generally of the belief that it's easier to change someone's mind if they think you're on the same "side", so approaching an issue from the opposite side and proving it wrong is a good strategy IMO.

Second, with regard to backward-looking "well in my day" appeals, one of the most interesting developments recently has been the role reversal of the right and the left. Because of the left's postwar successes, liberalism largely became the status quo, and now a major portion of the left's program is now to conserve (or, post-Thatcher/Reagan, to return to) the economic conditions of the 50s and 60s, while the right has now become the radical challenger. Whenever I hear a Bill O'Reilly type saying "when I was your age, we didn't have x", I just want to grab him by the lapels and shake him. What do you think created the conditions that allowed that society? Could it just possibly have been lower income inequality due to high marginal taxation, Keynesian government spending, robust competition policies to prevent market domination by big firms, etc? If a right-winger is really interested in conserving a world like the one in which they grew up, maybe they should stop chopping down the pillars that held that world up.

(On the latter point also, it's possible at least some of your friends were never actually committed to actual positions in their youth, but we're just interested in throwing bombs at the establishment. Now that the radicals are on the right, it makes sense that they'd throw their bombs from that direction.)
posted by kevinbelt at 11:59 AM on March 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


I was pretty shocked that my mom was starting to say things like that, "Well so and so has a point." I determined that the reason she was saying those things was because my dad watches FOX News all freaking day long and that's all she was being exposed to. She doesn't read the newspaper or even know how to surf the internet, and if she's watching TV on her own, she's not watching CNN or BBC or PBS, she's watching Murder She Wrote reruns. Which is fine! But she wasn't getting a variety of opinions and news and actually correct facts. I make it a point now to talk news with her at least once a week so she's getting more than just right wing talking points.

So that's my advice. Stay informed. Get your information from a variety of sources. Think critically about what you're hearing. If it sounds bogus, dig in deeper and find out if it is.
posted by cooker girl at 12:11 PM on March 5, 2018 [6 favorites]


My mother is a 74 expat Brit that has lived in Australia for 50 years she was a staunch liberal all through my childhood, I was wheeled in a stroller in more anti war, womens rights, aboriginal rights marches than I can count. She is still a staunch liberal who actively protested for gay marriage rights in Australia. All while living in a town so full of conservatives that a labor member hasn't stood a chance there for the past 50 years.

She is a bit of my idol in these matters. How I think she has done this is to remain intellectually curious, she follows the issues, reads the news, watches several news channels a day. She also has a wide variety of friends, of different ages & political views. She's got friends as young as 20 and has coffee with a woman of 99 semi regularly.

She also does something I am still trying to master, she stays friends with people that she disagrees with. She doesn't burn bridges, she doesn't hide what she believes & thinks on political issues, but she can actually say "I agree to disagree" and mean it. That is a hard life skill to master but one that has given her friends on both sides of most major issues. She can separate someones politics from the person. I suspect it's because she believes there is good in everyone & managed to miss the whole being cynical is cool thing.

She is also very kind. Not in a naturally kind way, but in a I decide everyday that my actions are going to be kind. When in doubt she defaults to kindness, to helping people, fighting for the underdog etc. You chose your beliefs & your reactions to other peoples beliefs every single day. Make what you believe part of how you act, don't keep your politics entirely theoretical, but part of who you are.
posted by wwax at 12:13 PM on March 5, 2018 [26 favorites]


I'm so glad that I have not seen this in my little circle of contacts. However, I'm living in Trump country these days, and as much as I try to avoid engaging the locals, some contact is inevitable. Based on this, I recommend staying on top of the injustices and atrocities in the world. Ignorance seems to breed complacency with the status quo.

Include younger folks in your social circle. They are more likely to believe that change is inevitable simply because the masses will not continue to put up with this shit (i.e., another generation takes on the "revolution on our lifetime" mantra)—less likely to be jaded and just so fucking tired of the whole damn mess. E.g., my son was 15 when Obama was elected—that's his "normal" and he sees Trump et al as an aberration, rather than just another link in a chain that for me began with Nixon.

Finally, at the risk of sounding simple, keep listening to socially aware music.
posted by she's not there at 12:20 PM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


I'm going to take a slightly different and less popular approach and say: cultivate your echo chamber. I live in and am of the world; I have in no way cut myself off from news and media. However, I curate my sources very carefully. I choose media that reinforces my political commitment and social and economic beliefs. I do not need to watch FOX or Sky News or read the Daily Mail or the Express for plurality of opinion. I intentionally protect myself from the normalisation of right wing ideology and against the shifting of the Overton Window.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:22 PM on March 5, 2018 [17 favorites]


Stay active, socially engaged, and as healthy as you can!

I see some of the older men in my boyfriend's family express beliefs that situate them firmly outside of the reality-based community. (Note that they have *not* turned to the right wing, but they have adopted other strange beliefs.) I strongly believe this is partly genetic, but partly because they have women who are willing to run their lives for them and because they don't stay active or have jobs. Exercise and work may be able to delay that kind of cognitive decline that can lead to paranoid or reactionary thought patterns.
posted by phoenixy at 12:23 PM on March 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


FWIW, I'm 50 and I'm getting decidedly more liberal as I get older. I have a lot of younger friends, which I think helps. I also have a great relationship with my two young 20s kids, and we talk politics and issues often. Metafilter helps too. It keeps me exposed to a lot of people and ideas that I otherwise wouldn't interact with.
posted by COD at 12:36 PM on March 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


Go see Black Panther. It will totally renew your belief that humanity is basically good and that every person deserves honor and decency. Also, it's a monumental creative endeavor worked on by hundreds (maybe near a thousands?) people collaborating together and individually improving a shared vision of what really great movie making can be. It's an accomplishment on every level. It's kinda hard to see where your conservative friends are coming from after that.

Immerse yourself in culture that speaks to your values.

I mostly listen to DubLabs online radio, even though I pay for Spotify. Get some new art for your home. Refreash the pieces once in a while. Don't engage with tv shows, books, or films that feature anti-heroes. And like that. Populate your world as much as possible with the values and aesthetics you want to embody.
posted by jbenben at 12:43 PM on March 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Stay healthy and in good financial shape and don't get divorced. Cynical answer but I've noticed that illness, loss of relationships or family (especially if it's your own fault) and loss of financial security are what drive people to tribalism, sexism and all the other "I got-mine, fuck you ism's". People who've always struggled are far less likely to go there than people who thought they were secure and lost it. People who never thought they mattered are less affected by aging than people who thought they mattered a lot and their opinions should be influential. I think this is why old white men become more conservative than women for example. Or why activists of all stripes tend to go far right as they age.

Assuming you are healthy, secure and happy probably the best thing you can do for yourself and society is fight for other people to have security through political and social action.
posted by fshgrl at 12:45 PM on March 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


My parents are in their 70s and are still quite liberal. Or, rather, they have only gotten a bit more conservative, and only in a couple of areas. I think it's because of an inner set of values that they've always had - they genuinely are interested in other people and see them as equals, and always have been. That kind of outlook makes it hard to swing them all the way to the right, even if you expose them to right-wing media (my parents had extensive exposure to FOX news radio once while they had a work crew doing construction at their house, but instead of falling prey to it, they just complained about how shitty it was and how they were stuck listening to it).

Also, my father examines his own views a lot.

I think having a good inner rock-solid foundation of empathy and compassion, combined with checking in with your views regularly, will help.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:50 PM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I liked this person's comment -
"The first response is that there is nothing about turning 50 that automatically changes your politics. I think there is a tendency for people to become more conservative when they get to place that they are more concerned about losing what they have worked so hard to accomplish. At the same time, I see people become more social active in their late 60's and 70's as they start to worry about the long term future for their grandchildren."

I'm much younger than your friends, and yet, this comment resonated with me. Even as a minority, even as someone who is really trying to build a career in social justice and health equity, as I start to climb the ranks a little bit after a lot of hard work, I catch myself from time to time thinking and saying some pretty entitled things. I think, taken to an extreme, that's the sort of thing that would lead to far right sentiments if one kept on such a trajectory without self analysis, so when I catch myself slipping into that line of thinking I tend to look at health disparities literature. This helps me refocus on why it is important for me to give back as much as I possibly can as I grow older and not to ease into a comfortable place of thinking about what is best for me and only me given the social context.

I interpret your question along the lines of, how do you keep from becoming oblivious to your own privilege? Meredith Minkler (public health researcher--but not the first to use "cultural humility") says that cultural humility is a “lifelong commitment to self-evaluation and self-critique,” and adds that it can “redress power imbalances” and help one along the quest of developing mutually respectful partnerships with communities--or, more broadly, members of multiple social groups. That's one way of looking at it I find helpful because it stresses the importance of continually checking yourself and recognizing your own privilege.

I really like this website for resources for thinking about the sorts of social problems that far-right thinking seems to reduce to mere personal choice: https://www.racialequitytools.org/home . You might be familiar with the stuff on there already or with the website, but I like this site as a go-to because I think it applies to a lot of social issues that are worth revisiting constantly if your goal is to keep your own privilege in check.
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 12:55 PM on March 5, 2018 [7 favorites]


I'm going to refer you to Mark Twain on this one:
Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:02 PM on March 5, 2018 [16 favorites]


Also FWIW - one of my grad school professors encouraged us to read news sources that resonated with our political stances, and then also read news sources that represented the polar opposite stance. I think really understanding where the arguments from each side are coming from allows you to think critically about what it is that you choose to align yourself with.
posted by dubhemerak3000 at 1:08 PM on March 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


We all change. Don't sweat it, go with the flow - if that means your opinions change so be it. Better to be honest with and about yourself than try and live something you are not anymore.
posted by GeeEmm at 1:15 PM on March 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


Peers will have their influence, will ye or nill ye.

But I keep them from pushing me to places I don't want to go by trying to understand why they feel that way and why I can't, and also by forgiving them as much as possible without being condescending or rubbing their faces in it.

Then I might occasionally shine a light on things they believe from a direction I think they may not have considered, and I'm not above observing what long and inky shadows are often cast in the process.
posted by jamjam at 1:17 PM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm with my retired father in FL, hanging out. He watches news from 6-9am, 12-1pm, and 4-7pm. Of course there isn't a lot of local news worthy of all that time, so they rehash every crime in scintillating detail. Sure, occasionally there's a feature on an adoptable pet or a foster child but basically it's local crime and what country wants to nuke us now. In between, he watches golf or true crime programming. His friends are all just like him and the places he goes has clientele that looks just like him. He only reads the local newspaper. He's healthy, social, and in decent financial shape (for being fixed income) but his world is tiny. I wish it were bigger.

Do the opposite of that. Make friends that don't look like you or think like you. Read books by authors that don't look like you or think like you. Limit your news intake. Allow yourself to change because the liberal idea you're tied to today might be a conservative one in 15 more years. After all, my Dad's ideas were liberal in 1968. Not so much in 2018.
posted by kimberussell at 1:42 PM on March 5, 2018 [5 favorites]


So many good answers already but As a southern, divorced female my political and social views have changed multiple times in my life because I have changed. There are little points in my life where something clicked and I changed course, never radically but I have drifted away or towards various views. I read news (I never watch news) and I stay tapped in (but not immersed) in social media and for for me, keeping engaged with a wide range of ages and economic groups helps me ground myself and see people as individuals and that each life is different and unique. So many times it is easy to judge on what you see on the outside but I have found that details matter, a lot. Every day I learn something new, this world is changing everyday and until I reach the age that I cannot go any further, I will just keep changing with it.
posted by ReiFlinx at 1:58 PM on March 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


I'm 60+ and my views are still quite liberal. I watch some of the people I know become more set in their ways because some people just lose the ability to be flexible. Some people get more conservative because they have accrued money, a house, and beliefs that challenge wealth are harder to maintain. Maybe they just had to sell too many pieces of their soul to make a living and support their family.

It's harder to make new friends as you get older. You don't take as many classes, you don't start as many new jobs, etc. You have to make a lot more of an effort to make new friends, because you will grow apart from some of the people you know. Some of the people who were my friends 20 years ago are now close acquaintances because their beliefs and lifestyles grew in a different direction.

Keep your friends if you can, especially if the friendship is apolitical. You can play chess or sing in a choir with people whose political beliefs are different, even distasteful. If people are outright racists, sexists, grossly insensitive to the poor, go ahead and disagree and explain why. The ones who listen and think are worth keeping. The ones who are genuinely racists, sexists, or other forms of jerk will drop you because they won't enjoy having their ugly beliefs brought to light; they will see it as you being out on the fringes.
posted by theora55 at 2:00 PM on March 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


Avoid the fnording news. You don't need endless lists of new ways people have learned to be vicious to each other, nor body counts from disasters, to remind you to be decent to the people in your life. (It pretty much works the opposite - the more stories you see about tragedies and malice, the harder it gets to live with empathy and consideration for others.) Find a way to keep up with relevant changes in politics, law, and community without drenching yourself in hours-long tales of woe.

Find a way to connect with nearby people who aren't all like you - a hobby group, or a movie-watching group, or volunteer at a school, or something else that will bring you into regular contact with a diverse group of other people. ("Nearby" is optional, but for regular activities, most of us need some measure of "nearby.") You don't even have to focus on the social side of things; just being around people who don't share your outlook (because they don't share your background) will keep you aware of different possibilities.

You might try Tumblr. Tumblr skews intensely liberal and fairly young, and it's delightful to see both savage, articulate takedowns of Nazi hate (which I get to reblog and say, "yes yes this is how it works") and the tremulous, worried posts saying, "I don't know how to be a grownup" (which I get to reblog and say, "look, we're ALL faking it; just be confident that you deserve a chance to be happy").

Watching wave after wave of new kids discover that their history classes were full of propaganda, and that living conditions aren't the same everywhere in the world (note: "lemonade" means something different in the US and the UK), and that omg if your boyfriend smacks you because your alarm woke him up that's abuse, helps keep me connected with liberal, feminist, pro-diversity ways of thinking.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 2:20 PM on March 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think it’s important to remember that staying set in your ways can cause the problem just as badly. For example: if you were a liberal Democrat 40 years ago, you generally opposed gay marriage. If you kept those beliefs to the modern day, that would make you a fairly right wing thinker, because society has moved.

So in some cases, people are sticking with their old beliefs and not updating them. You need to identify what’s more important to you - keeping the beliefs you currently feel, or keeping the values that drive those beliefs, which may change.
posted by corb at 3:00 PM on March 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


It has been interesting to watch my father make the opposite move in his later years. He was never hard right, but has moved further and further from right to left over the past 15 years during his retirement. Retirement was probably a large part of it. He moved out of a bubble of a conservative workplace; your friends may be staying in a shrinking bubble. He did and still does a lot of volunteer work that did things like take him out of the suburbs and into the city on public transit. He mixed with people--many of them younger than him. But also until recently he tended to watch less TV and was always a reader. Time has allowed him to really go with that. I think his reading of all of Dickens and Trollope over the past decade or so has probably been the best thing.
posted by Gotanda at 3:03 PM on March 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


A strong (strong) second for hurdy gurdy girl's recommendation to keep/start reading fiction. My 83-year-old father hasn't read a novel in over 25 years and is as conservative, reactionary, racist and sexist as they come. He's also susceptible to a lot of online right-wing garbage (Jordan Peterson is his latest fascination). My mother is only five years younger, but has read fiction all her life and is far more understanding of people who are not like her and is still open to new ideas. Exercising her imagination and temporarily inhabiting other worlds with characters totally unlike her has kept her mentally flexible and empathetic, where my father is stuck with a worldview he cannot seem to change. Read novels. By people who aren't like you. Often.
posted by longdaysjourney at 4:46 PM on March 5, 2018 [9 favorites]


How can I stop this happening to me?

It's not really happening to you though, is it? Other people's mental constructs, beliefs or opinions, has nothing to do with you. As you move through life keep your opinions and beliefs and allow them to evolve, or not, as they will.

Having said that, I get what you're saying and feeling. I have experienced the same. In the US the division is palpable. It can be very stressful if you allow it.

I have friends and coworkers who support Trump. Sometimes my ego gets the best of me and I can feel resentful and label them as idiots. I have to remind myself that I'm not superior just because I think some people are ill-informed. The people I encounter at work mostly behave decently. The best thing I can do is to avoid political discussions and see the human being before me. There are some people who I would never see socially because their politics are too wacko, and I get to choose how I spend my time.

I wouldn't worry too much about retaining your beliefs or values or feel compelled to explain yourself.

If you do want to talk politics I think it is important to listen to people. I think immigration is a tough subject. Some people get shut down as racists even if they have an opinion on tighter immigration laws. (I heard Amy Chua speak about this. She said that's when people go underground and form fringe groups because they can't speak about immigration without being labeled as intolerant, racist, and xenophobic.). If you have friends with differing opinions, and you can have respectful discourse, it may be helpful to have a discussion to better understand their point of view.

Other than that what does it matter if I believe in immigration (or anything) and my friend or coworker does not? Votes mean something. Opinions and four bucks will get you a latte.
posted by loveandhappiness at 6:59 PM on March 5, 2018 [3 favorites]


I agree with everyone above. You don't have to strive to preserve and retain your views, just keep an open mind. It helps if you can interact a bit with today's youth, who are mostly not the way that the media portrays them.

Speaking of the media, I think that this odd new generation gap of old folks suddenly turning weird is the result of exposure to the harsh new Murdoch television propaganda regime. So it helps if don't watch too much TV nowadays.
posted by ovvl at 7:41 PM on March 5, 2018 [4 favorites]


My dad is in his 70s and still very far left - he was involved with the Civil Rights Movement when he was in grad school and protested the Vietnam war. His friends aren't terribly diverse, but he keeps on top of the news (real news, not Fox), was volunteering with his church at a soup kitchen before his knees got too bad for that. He barely uses facebook and has no idea what tumblr is, but he reads a lot and he thinks critically about everything that happens.

Growing up with him, I started out with a very leftist perspective and have been pushing it further left by working in the disability field, where I get to handle civil rights issues for a very vulnerable population. I've traveled a lot inside the US because of my previous job, which helped a ton too. I think there's a ton of great advice in this thread, but what I would recommend is 1) volunteering with people who are vulnerable or volunteering time to work on political issues that impact vulnerable populations, 2) travel, 3) reading books and consuming other media by people whose lives and identities are very different from yours, and 4) critical thinking about everything. What motivations do various politicians have? How is this going to play out? What's the obvious goal, and what's the hidden goal? What would it be like to be a member of X population that's getting talked about? What privileges do I have here, what am I not thinking about or taking for granted? What's happened to my friend that they're thinking like this, or that they're so disconnected from who they used to be?
posted by bile and syntax at 6:04 AM on March 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


Lots and lots of thoughts on this, as I've sometimes pondered the "will I turn into a horrible person when I get old?" question.

- Lyn Never: Something we know is that as we age, (most) people become increasingly risk-averse, have fewer novel social interactions, and can additionally become more fearful and paranoid and selfish* as one is increasingly betrayed by one's body and also cognitive decline. I think this is something that one should be aware of and work to counteract, just as we're urged to get regular cancer screenings, fall-proof your home, write your will, etc. as we age, because we are more vulnerable in certain ways. So guard your mental health and your cognitive ability, too. Don't be guarded or suspicious, rather, "trust but verify" and, if you want news and there is no MetaFilter around years from now, the Guardian, Vox, Washington Post, or other mainstream sources are a better "news diet" than RantyCurmudgeon.com.

- As others have said, keep a wide range of friends and acquaintances. Cults, and Fox News is one IMHO, prey on the lonely and isolated. Right-wing types are often "Christians" who don't go to church at all or else they go to one of those prosperity-gospel churches which are echo chambers, and usually racist and sexist as all hell, pun intended - so while church or synagogue are great social outlets, you want a liberal, inclusive, social-justice-and-service religious organization. For nonbelievers or spiritual-but-not-religious people, Unitarian Universalist churches are usually welcoming and focus on social justice. Same with Quakers.

- With that, you want to be the kind of person other people want to have around. You don't have to be a social butterfly but you do want some friends - and if you are obnoxious, embittered, have poor hygiene and crude manners*, you might be tolerated out of duty but not actually liked or loved - and that really, really sucks, and because cults love-bomb, they draw in the friendless; "they don't love you but WE do!" Likewise, don't be the kind of spouse, parent, sibling, etc. that is tolerated because faaaaaamily, and who thinks their spouse is a ball and chain, kids are disappointments, and so on. I've noticed that a lot of turned-to-the-right older folks have "awful kids" or "awful daughters-in-law" of some stripe but they are the ones who have alienated their children and families by being jerks to them.

*This is more an issue than one might imagine and goes along with cognitive decline - all of a sudden it's burp, fart, pick nose without inhibition, skip the shower and deodorant, "air" clothes instead of washing them, etc., and believe me, it won't help your social life any! Personal hygiene and good manners are your FRIENDS!

- Finally, don't be afraid of therapy! I really think that untreated anxiety and/or depression is behind a lot of older people falling into Fox's clutches. There are still people who wouldn't dream of self-treating or toughing out their diabetes or heart disease, who think that seeking therapy is not for them, and it's better to just stoically endure anxiety or depression. No! Therapy is for everyone who needs it! Same with psychiatric meds. I have known a couple of formerly curmudgeonly, cynical, not "right wing" per se but really suspicious and insular, older men, who became whole new people - kinder, sunnier, more open-minded - thanks to antidepressants. Check yourself before you wreck yourself as the saying goes - if you start feeling like you're going down a rabbit hole, see a doctor.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 7:20 AM on March 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


I can't imagine going from setting up Outer Hebrides talk boards to judging summer fete cake competitions, ...organising and visiting international library deal-ios (librarians tend to veer open-minded and inquiring as any fule kno)..., having and visiting friends from all over the place and gaining expertise in contraband cheese; to ending up in sad ignorant frightened torydom. Unless you get your heart broken or life savings stolen or something. So don't do that.

On the other hand I learnt the other day a friend is volunteering for Borderlands. She mentors a young person who has been a victim of human trafficking, who needs a lot of hand-holding and help but also just a friend to talk to. The young person's life has been at the sharp end of all the horrors we hear on the news about distant countries. Hearing what they went through was a pretty big corrective to me on my own complacency about what's happening in the world. I think being able to be of some practical help to such a person would be a tremendously good and useful thing, as well as a real reminder of the consequences of some of our comfortable prejudices.

I would never suggest 'why don't you volunteer' to anyone, because that would be presumptuous and inconsiderate. But I have this awful feeling of dread that things are getting seriously dodgy and I've been wondering myself if there's something, however minor, I could usefully do to help, and it seems there is a constituency of people who have arrived in our midst and who might seem to represent everything the rising right is afraid of, and who really, really, really need help. And a friend. And maybe even a library service or similar.
posted by glasseyes at 3:09 PM on March 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


Something that is touched on upthread - people who make the swing to hard right in their older age have the TV on all the time. And by TV, it's right-wing news, true crime, or "let's gawk at the freak show" reality TV type stuff. I don't know if Britain is as big on that sort of thing as the US, but that's not the kind of TV diet you want to be on - it's as bad for your brain as junk food is for your heart and your blood sugar. You have the BBC and those wonderful David Attenborough nature documentaries, history documentaries, science, etc. - that's the kind of television you want to be watching. Television itself is not bad, just the steady input of right-wing news and lowest-common-denominator "people suck" programs.

Jen Senko, in The Brainwashing Of My Dad, notes that her father started his rightward slide when he was on a long commute and tuned into Rush Limbaugh's talk show. So: if you have a commute, listen to music, podcasts, or audio books instead, and be really careful about the kind of "time filler" media you seek out, especially if you are going through a major, perhaps traumatic change in your life.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 5:34 PM on March 6, 2018 [3 favorites]


My dad has thus far avoided this. Part of the reason is that he's put a lot of is energy into learning foreign languages. So I imagine getting the news from multiple perspectives and havign something else to focus on has helped.

But also, his brother, my uncle, is the only person I actually know who's the stereotypical right winger. He saw his brother get angrier and angrier and stuff, and he decided he just... wasn't going to do that. He's made a point of stepping away when the news is trying to rile him up and make him go on a bender of rage and anger. He just stops it a while and thinking and doing something else. So far, it has worked.
posted by Zalzidrax at 10:15 PM on March 6, 2018 [1 favorite]


There are some - actually, all - cracking answers in here. Thank you all.

Things I am doing, or will ramp up, somewhat:

- See Black Panther: Oh that was super-fun, and am not usually into that genre of movie. Highly recommend, and will see again. Everyone should see it. That includes you, reading this, now.
- Watch the BBC and read the Guardian: Continuing to do.
- Maintain younger friends (various others): Most of my close circle are younger than me. Three best friends are 25, 36 and 41, with radically different backgrounds to each other and to me.
- Watch less TV (various): Yes, am cutting down even more. It's partially out of an "hours in the day" thing and, like I don't have the time to dedicate fully to a very complex and long video game now, the same goes for TV. Has to be high quality, and not much of, per day or week. And related to this...
- Enjoy new books, art, culture and so forth: Continuing, as time allows.
- Read the works of older voices: Near the top of my list are several novels by Margaret Atwood. Belated, but better late than never.
- Read a lot of fiction, and fiction by diverse voices: Heck, MeFites like books.
- Read Kurt Vonnegut: Added to the list. Okay, okay, I'm getting more books from the library. Okay.
- "...stays friends with people that she disagrees with": I'm still friends - though not close or great friends - with a few people who voted for Brexit, and a few Republican voters in the US. And I even speak occasionally with my local MP, which is a high profile (Remain voting) Conservative. That's okay, though racism and xenophobia in particular (and not just from right wingers) do and would cull that grouping further.
- Keep listening to socially aware music: I might look at that, as most of my music is Boards of Canada.
- Stay ... as healthy as you can!: Yes, for a myriad of reasons. Gotten it into my head that this is a lifelong thing from now on. Highly related to this is SLEEP, as I - well, many people - make bad decisions and are more influenced, less sharper, when sleepy. I see getting good sleep as being possibly the most important thing for the next fifty years :)
- "...good financial shape and don't get divorced": working on - and for - the former, and am not married so the latter isn't a danger.
- "Travel...": Done more than most people (64 trips abroad), though not much the last few years. Sweden, Norway and the USA are top of the list for future wanderings, though political complications here may annoyingly impact on choices in the next few years.
- Tumblr: Okay; on my list to have another look at. That may be a new AskMeFi in itself.
- Diverse (multiple); other literature; Dickens: Oh, that reminds. I've watched The Wire right through several times, but not since heck 2013, which is half a decade ago. The first time I watched all of it was the summer I was living in Detroit. A rural Englishman watching The Wire while living in Detroit for the first time was ... an experience. Right; going to have another watch.
- Volunteering time: I do semi-random shifts in a food bank. It's not always a good experience for complex reasons and stories, but it helps in the core objective of getting nutrition to people who need it and otherwise would not get it.
- "Keep a wide range of friends and acquaintances": Doing and keeping. It helps to go to a range of local groups and cultural events, and have friends across the domains of game development and research, librarianship, and baking.
- Learning foreign languages: Yes; currently learning Norwegian. There's good evidence that doing this is cognitively beneficial as well.

A few other things am planning:
- Write and create more, but in different media and genre that I have not dabbled in before. Starting to do and, gosh, it is difficult but is working lazy parts of the mind.
- Practising what I preach. I have a slight beef with the Open Access "community" in UK academia in that many talk the talk and then ... publish their research behind paywalls because reasons. I believe this is tied in with various Conservative and Libertarian traits, and also makes for unequal access to knowledge. So, publishing in OA places from now on.
- Related to that, doing something a little bit extreme that is OA related in my niche field, but again that is at the planning stage and won't see the light of day for a while. It'll be in my own "free" time and will take a lot of hours, so is sort-of related to this suggestion.
posted by Wordshore at 1:28 PM on March 8, 2018


Huh; the end of that got chopped off.

A few more things am planning:
- Social media and IRL are very blurry, but go through the people in both with a fresh eye, after again re-reading all the answers on here.
- Make more of an effort to finally meet IRL, some of those who I have social media (including MetaFilter) conversations with that help/result in me being open-minded and positive, in the context of this AskMeFi question.
- Browse in sections of the public library I usually just walk by. Borrow things from there. Read them.
- Stop talking about moving permanently out of England and actually move permanently out of England. Nowhere is perfect, and there's likeable and less likeable people, situations, politics, communities and complex social structures everywhere. But, staying here has been cognitively corrosive these last few years. It seems that some people - not just my peers but plenty of those - are turning in less pleasant directions either because of the environment, or because it's increasingly easier here to hold views on the less desirable extremes of the political spectrum.

So, move. Putting on your oxygen mask before helping others, metaphorically.
posted by Wordshore at 4:48 PM on March 8, 2018 [3 favorites]


"Maybe they just had to sell too many pieces of their soul to make a living and support their family." - theora55

I'm only in my 30s, but speaking for myself, something I have realized is that people can go right because they spent their whole lives with work taking up the majority of their time and brainspace when they would have rather been doing other things and after it all they find themselves living next door to people who get public assistance and work periodically or less than 60 hours a week or never because of a disability, real or bullshit, and they start to feel like they deserve more than their neighbor because they sacrificed more of their time to bullshit jobs and "played by the rules" staying in jobs they hated because they needed insurance wor whatever.

So in that vein my suggestion would be to be on the alert for things like burnout and make sure you prioritize some time for yourself to do what you want.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:05 AM on March 9, 2018 [3 favorites]


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