I have begun to realise that I made a tragic mistake this year. I took to criticising one of my friends for being too "left-wing".
(Those of you who have assumed that the use of "liberal" in this site is in the American tradition are probably feeling somewhat disabused at this point!)
Up until a few years ago, my friend had been one of those people who thought a newspaper was something that was used to wrap up fish and chips. Lest you think I'm being harsh, I should stress that he took a sort of nihilistic pride in not watching the news or concerning himself with current affairs.
All this changed in the last few years. He vocally opposed the war in Iraq, and began to voice opinions about Human Rights and Third World poverty. To be fair, some of this had been hidden away in there for some time (he has been a lifelong member of Amnesty International) but since Iraq (and I would hazard because of Iraq) he has begun to give vent to his opinions.
I took issue with some of his more radical views, notably what I perceived as anti-Americanism and anti-globalisaiton. Unfortunately, in looking for a short-hand to define his views, I fell to pigeon-holing him as a member of the loony-left. I think this has backfired. It certainly has not help dissuade him. Instead, it has given him a focus for his views. He has begun to identify himself with the very left-wing factions into whose orbit I was most worried that he would be drawn.
I shouldn't over-play my hand here; his views were already forming and he was already tapping into sources with a decidedly socialist agenda. But nonetheless I think that by pigeon-holing him, I have encouraged him to read all the mail in that pigeon-hole, not just that originally addressed to him. I fear that as a result he is likely to begin to link himself with opinions and views that perhaps he might otherwise have approached with a more open mind.
I hope I've learnt a lesson. By labelling him, I have driven him into the very camp I was criticising.