It seems, to me, that in all the noise of our current political climate, it’s the position of the centrist that is lacking a voice.
Recently, I’ve been listening to the works of many brilliant minds, listening to research and discoveries on what underlies the current state of politics in the United States, although it’s not only there that we see intense political polarization.
Many brilliant minds have come up with reasoning and solutions to our current partisan divide. Among them (and worth the time to research for yourself) are Professor Jordan Peterson ( a psychologist, who’s has some fascinating findings regarding trait conscientiousness and openness in the political sphere) and Professor Jonathan Haidt (a brilliant social psychologist, who’s written several books on the psychology of politics and continues to bring a wealth of factual analysis to the current commentary), as well as many others who’ve managed to hold a sane and thoughtful position throughout these seemingly tumultuous times.
There seems to be a dynamic at play in today’s politics; from the antics of “SJWs” and the very mainstream racism seen in corporate America and the media in general (Hollywood, news networks, and talk shows, basing morality around being the appropriate skin color or gender/non-gender) to the less powerful but just as despicable racism on the far right (the Richard Spencers of the world and those that follow dehumanizing ideologies like his) and the seemingly immense divide between political parties and those who adhere to one side or the other.
It seems a pendulum has swung from one side to the other – as history has often shown it to do. This time however, it seems to be swinging to the right, as far leftist radicalism drives the general populace into the arms of potential “saviors.” The reverse will of course take place in the future as it has been taking place for the last 40 or so years.
It almost seems that the same “invisible hand” made aware to us by Adam Smith in his writings on economics, plays a role in the political sphere as well. If a recession in an economy is the way it corrects itself, this could be seen as the same type of self-correction only it is happening in our political climate, and almost seems to be a natural law at work.
What is so fascinating about today’s politics is the almost familial dynamic.
It’s something I’ve conceptualized (and likely plagiarized in some way) through bits and pieces of information shared from both of the above-mentioned professors in their research on the political mind.
You can see it in movies and pop culture. There’s archetype of the protective patriarchal figure upholding tradition, taking seriously his role of protector and provider. Then there is the youthful teenager, with a seemingly intrinsic desire to push boundaries and explore limits knowing there is more to be discovered beyond the walls or confines set in place by the “father.”
It is a natural course of action: look at the recent children’s movie Moana.
The father, knowing of the dangers that lie beyond the reef, attempts to keep his daughter from venturing beyond the borders (a typical perspective of the right, an observance of boundaries and their necessity in protecting from unknown dangers beyond).
He has good reason, he’s seen danger, he’s lost friends to that danger, and it is out of love for his family (or in a political sense, love for his country) that he seeks to keep those he loves from the dangers that lurk beyond the protective borders.
On the other side there is the daughter.
She believes that the only way she can save her family (again desiring the best outcome for country, family, and friends) from the increasing lack of food on their island is to accept that danger (to her father, she seems to almost recklessly desire the open ocean) and push beyond the protective boundaries to seek change – to seek the “better world.”
Which one is right and which is wrong? What are your thoughts? In this scenario, is one proclivity of greater benefit?
The side of youth, pushing into the unknown, ends up to be the right choice in Moana’s case, saving the day, but In many other scenarios the complete opposite may be the correct choice.
Often it is the combination of these two traits, openness (left) and conscientiousness (right) that bring the balance needed to address the volatility of our world.
There is a concept I heard when I was young, about the American political system (by now, I’m sure it’s cliche). It was the analogy of the eagle’s wings. An eagle has two wings, one left, and one right. Without either it wouldn’t get off the ground, but when utilizing the strengths that both wings bring to the entire body, well, that’s when it soars to new heights.
This is the true strength of centrists and those who reject the dogmatic ideological pull of either side – unlike the straw-man so often presented by ideologues, that centrists are “spineless” – the centrist is a person who seeks out the best ideas from opposing views. They are more than likely the scientifically minded and the skeptic; the ones who will seek out both sides to find where the truths lay .
There is so much that needs to change for us to see that kind of cooperation between opposing political spheres (the two wings as a driving force), and there is reason to doubt that there ever was a time where the country enjoyed this utopian cooperation.
But there is one practical thing that can be done to bring us closer to resuming a functional nation. If enough of us do it, the effect on society at large will be massive. But, we can only do it ourselves.
We can only look inward to make this change, and do our best to implement it in our thoughts and how we live.
We need to, as individuals, begin to look at politics the way scientists study phenomena, by looking at the center ground between the conflicting opinions and evidence that is presented.
We need to look for the appropriate answer to any particular issue: not (as John F. Kennedy so eloquently said) the Republican answer or the Democrat answer but the right answer – and yes often there is a right answer, or at least a common sense answer.
When we look for the commonalities we all have, when we try to remember that we are often approaching an issue from differing perspectives; differing and incredibly necessary perspectives, then we can start to address the issues and move forward against our common enemies rather than tearing ourselves apart from within.
We so often fight amongst ourselves, and often those who are in heated debate with each other both are pursuing the same goal, only approaching from different perspectives.
The father is necessary to protect, just as the youth is needed to innovate and improve. One without the other would fail. Often, as age and wisdom set in, both learn the value of moderation and balance.
If we can remember that a conservative position on, for example illegal immigration or terrorism, is not taken out of hatred, but out of love for their own country and family.
It is done from the psychological perspective of a defense against perceived danger.
The “father,”as one who’s put their hand in the fire and knows the danger it brings, attempts to keep his loved ones from injury by warning others and building barriers to protect.
Meanwhile the liberal position on marriage equality and “free” social services – even the perspective on gender fluidity and choice – is coming from a desire to improve, to make the world better.
It’s a desire to protect in its own way but also a desire to make life better for everyone by pushing boundaries and looking for new answers and solutions. To use the fire analogy, rather than staying far away from the fire, they desire to find out what other beneficial uses it might have.
They also desire freedoms, in the same way conservatives and libertarians do, though they believe there is a different – new – way of bringing about the utopian freedom.
Both sides of course can be (and often are) misguided, that goes without saying. The reason these aspects are presented however, is so each of us can understand the underlying principles so that, as we go about our political discourse, we can better understand each other – we can look for our commonalities and attempt to unite over changes we can agree on.
The only way to move forward into a better tomorrow is for all of us, left, right, and center to open ourselves to dialogue with each other; to open ourselves to the ideas of those whose political opinions are different from ours.
There is something we can do as individuals, something that we can do to bring about the changes we desire.
We must guard against our own prejudice (I hate that word because of its misuse, but we all have them, whether we are politically left or right leaning) and actively seek to engage with and understand the ideas and opinions of others.
It’s only when we understand the other side, when we’ve played “devil’s advocate” with our strongly held opinions and beliefs, that we can see our own errors, or ways to work together for a solution (alternatively, engaging with opposing views sometimes allows you to move forward in confidence with your presuppositions having been able to present them to opposing opinion and found them worthy).
There won’t always be a mutually agreeable option; but maybe, by challenging our accepted ideologies through interaction with those who see things differently, we can find the closest thing to truth, the closest thing to the right answer for the difficult challenges we face as communities and nations.
There is an emergence of a “new center,” as Sam Harris calls it. A group of people looking for solutions rather than to place blame, or play political games.
It’s a force that is needed to bring back balance, and to attempt the monumental task of getting both wings working again.
We must each choose to be a part of the solution, I know it’s what most, if not all, of us want.
So we must strive within ourselves to become those wise individuals that can resist dogma, and partisan politics, and start looking for the right answers again.