What do you picture when I say the words ‘Political Spectrum’? For most of you, it’s a line. You have the left (on the left side) and the right (on the right side). This is the image almost every media outlet, every pundit, every social media post leans toward. I’ll draw you a little picture.
I hope this makes sense.
I’m going to tell you a story of two people I’ve been hearing a lot about lately; Rachel Notley, the premier of Alberta and leader of the Alberta NDP, and Dr. Jordan Peterson, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto. If you live in Canada and you pay attention, then you’ve probably heard about these two people.
Let’s talk about Rachel Notley. Depending which side of the graph you sit on, you think she’s either doing a good job in an unstable economy, or she’s the spawn of Satan and wants to destroy everything you hold dear. She has received death threats. People want her to lose her job. She was recently the focal point of a protest, in which the crowd shouted out “Lock her up!”, even though she has broken no laws. People who sit on the very right side of the spectrum want to destroy her, either figuratively or literally.
Let’s talk about Dr. Jordan Peterson. Depending which side of the graph you sit on, you think he’s standing up for what he believes in, or he’s the spawn of Satan and is committing hate crimes. He has received death threats. People want him to lose his job. He’s been the focal point of a number of debates, many of which he’s drowned out by chanting and megaphones. People who sit on the very left side of the spectrum want to destroy him, either figuratively or literally.
I sincerely hope I’m using language that doesn’t make me seem elitist (apparently be elite is a bad thing) or use ideas that are triggering anyone (my blog is not a safe space). I hope the person reading this sees the similarities between the extremes of both sides.
There’s a theory in political science called the horseshoe theory, in which the two opposing sides of the spectrum have more in common with each other than those closer to the center. If you don’t remember what a horseshoe looks like, here’s another picture.
The issue right now, and in my humble opinion is the biggest issue on the planet, is our political discourse is framed with these extremes in mind. When dealing with the very ends of the spectrum, every issue is polarized. There is no middle ground. These extremist, on both sides, are the most vocal. They’re the ones spamming your feed with online petitions (I see issues from both sides), they’re the ones engaged in every argument, they’re the ones who are the problem with politics in the world.
I’m going to ask you some questions.
- Do you find yourself constantly arguing online?
- Do viewpoints that counter your own make you upset, angry, or otherwise emotional, ie. We need to stop all pipelines, or, people are gender-binary?
- If someone, especially if they are in a position of power, has a viewpoint that contradicts your own, do you fantasize about their downfall or their failure?
- Would you be offended if someone said you were on the other end of the spectrum than the one you associate with, ie. You’re a card-carrying conservative and someone called you a left leaning thug, or, you’re a die-hard liberal and someone said you were a right-wing bigot.
- Have you ever used the words right-wing or leftist, or any political label as an insult
If you’ve answered yes to three or more of these questions, you’re the problem. It isn’t the pipelines, the protesters at standing rock, the culture war, or taxes. These aren’t the problems, the issue is the conversation has now been dominated by those at the extremes ends of the horseshoe. And you people are idiots.
Here’s how you can stop being an idiot. Rather than looking up information to support your claim, look up information that contradicts your position. This blog was originally going to be a rant against Dr. Jordan Peterson. After I took the time to look into what he was saying, I found myself respecting his position. I don’t agree with what he says, but I can’t argue with his right to say it. The one thing I absolutely agree with him on is the fear of ideology. For Jordan, it’s a fear of left-wing ideologues turning the world into a Marxist utopia, where the able-bodied are made lame and wings of progress are clipped to give everyone equal advantages (I believe this is pretty silly). For me, it’s a fear the conversation is now dominated by the polar extremes of the spectrum. Discussions and arguments are seen as something to be won or lost, rather than having your own idea challenged to see if it holds. Combine this with a for-profit media that is more concerned with turning heads than jounalistic integrity, and you have a recipe for an uninformed polulace unable to correctly govern itself, paving the way for authoritarian figures who promise to solve the issues with ease. It’s how someone as unqualified as Trump has managed to gain the presidency.
So challenge your ideas. In my case, it led to me chaning my opinion on a subject. Now I’m less of an idiot than I was yesterday. Which should be a goal for everyone reading this.
The Illustrious Mr. Charlton
p.s. Knowledge! Making people less idiotic since the dawn of man.
¹Image taken from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Political_spectrum_horseshoe_model.svg