7 August 2015

Am I left, or am I right?

People occasionally ask me if I lean to the left or to the right, politically.  I say occasionally, because it is far more common for people to assume they know my politics already, but what they see is based on their politics more than my own. Thus,  right wingers tend to think of me at the Stalin end of the spectrum, and the left wingers, while left wingers put me somewhere right of .. some archetypal right winger.  Reagan, perhaps. 

That is how others see me: I am not one of their own, so I must be one of them.  Oddly enough, that is half way to my own position:  I am not one of them, whomever they may be.  I have an unfortunate tendency to partly agree but to also partly disagree with almost everyone.  It makes for awkward parties and water coolers.

Am I right or left?  I don't see myself as either.  The right and the left appear to me to be characters from the story of the blind men and the elephant.  Each has touched a piece of the elephant, and are therefore correct as far as that piece is concerned, but they make the fundamental error of believing that their piece is the entire elephant, and there they are mistaken. Each side has their own characteristic truth, and that truth deserves respected, but they both make the same error in thinking that their truth is the only one.  Some people have pushed this so far that they are in the remarkable position of being both partly right and completely wrong at the same time.

As I said, each side has their own truth, but their truths are cut off from one another, and are not balanced by other the other truths.  It is the same as Chesterton's observations on the virtues gone mad:  "The virtues have gone mad because they have been isolated from each other and are wandering alone. Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful."

By self adhering to the left or the right, I believe people are insulating, isolating and perhaps even inoculating themselves from any other truths.  How often have you heard someone's point of view dismissed with a contemptuous: "Oh, they're just one of them."?  I know I have heard it many times, from both sides.  The divisions caused by left and right  may have had a purpose once, but I fail to see what purpose is served by them now.  From where I stand, view this situation from the part of the elephant I have touched, they seem more harmful than helpful.



Patience said...

I think I'm a bit like you. For example the church where I go to Mass is considered by the left to be a rabidly conservative church. I get comments from them like "I can't believe you go to...." But at church; I'm sure there's people who would think I'm a flaming liberal for some of my views. It's all about who your audience is. It seems like each side feels betrayed because I'm not 100% one way.

PS. No idea how I'm going to vote in this next election; my plan is to ignore the news articles/turn the radio station to music until about a week before.... How bout you?

Bear said...

About the same. Starting the debates this early is the perfect way to insure overload and burnout. I have no idea how the Americans can do it.