Reconciling the left and right wing of politics is the only way forward
(This article first appeared at themoderatevoice.com on 13 June 2013)
The adversarial ‘left and right wing’ approach to politics is fast approaching its used-by date.
The problem is that it is being revealed as impotent when it comes to finding solutions for the real problems confronting humanity. Indeed it could be argued that having left and right wings is merely a stop gap measure to create some sort of balance between the self-corruption that excessive selfishness engenders, and the oppression of progress that enforced communal policies bring, until genuine understanding of the human condition could be found.
As it is the world is becoming more volatile every day and political solutions are becoming more fragile, and harder to agree to. This is because the left and right wings have become more polarized than ever before with both sides simply resorting to shouting down the other.
The fact is that rational balanced debate is continually hijacked by the extremes of both the left and right, and until we genuinely reconcile both sides, progress for humanity looks like being a victim of the crossfire.
Democracy, surely classical Greece’s crowning achievement, has historically served us well. Societies were able to elect left leaning governments if they felt the need for more socialist or communal policies, more directed to the well-being of a society through more inclusive ‘caring’ government; or right leaning governments if they felt the need to allow more room or liberty for the individual to excel, with the well-being for all being driven economically.
However, governance by the extremes on either side of politics is counter productive to the goal of providing an environment in which society can continue to search for understanding. On the left we see groups such as The Greens in Australia imposing a sort of ‘pseudo’ idealistic, ‘feel good’ brand of policies, which from a moral high ground point of view are easy to fall into line behind. However they are imposed or dogmatic principles which ultimately repress the individual freedom needed to progress, and so can never succeed over the long term. Communism for example might seem like a good idea, but history has shown eventually, without the promise of any ‘ego’ sustaining rewards, progress suffers, and any populace tires of its oppressive yoke.
Conversely the extreme right wing, represented by parties such as the One Nation Party (Australia), with its focus on the individual’s freedom leaves little room for any social conscience. Neither side should ever govern in their own right, because of their intrinsic lack of balance—society needs both to progress, and do so in a humane way. Unfortunately however, democracy can be undermined by these extreme ends of the scale. In Australia’s case The Greens hold the balance of power in a minority government and therefore policies have been implemented that were voted for by only 10% of the population. Fortunately though, in Australia the process is relatively civilized, but we see every day, in countries not so lucky, the tensions created by political divides boiling over, sometimes into outright war.
My fear is that in the long run this increase in polarization will one day see democracy as a functional process fail entirely. The recent US election was a classic example of the right and left drifting away from the centre, and refusing to cooperate, and it seems to have created a divide in that country that has not been seen before. The quotes below from articles about the election demonstrate the point.
Simon Jenkins in his article in The Guardian titled “The tribal grunts of left and right will not rescue us” wrote ‘The right has no answer to the widening gulf between rich and poor. The left has no answer to the chronic need for welfare targeting and means testing. When the right makes changes to health policy, housing subsidies or deregulation, the left howls. When the left proposes higher property taxes or fewer prisoners, the right howls’.
And Stephanie Pappas ‘The next question is, will our politicians be able to come together to govern the country over the next four years? ...Political psychologists say yes, but only if liberals and conservatives alike step outside their own opinions to try to understand why the other side believes as it does. That‘s difficult, research has shown, because the right and the left base their views on very different morals—and emotions often run hotter than logic’
An extraordinarily profound analysis of this disturbing development can be found in the works of the biologist Jeremy Griffith, who makes an analysis of the political situation from a first principle biological basis. Griffith explains that the current political divide is a manifestation of a two million year old, unavoidable clash between our gene-based instincts and our emerging nerve-based consciousness. Griffith says that, ‘The idea in democracy was for everyone to vote and a majority opinion to be found. We voted left wing to emphasise socialistic policies if we thought our community was too corrupt, or right wing for free enterprise policies if we thought our community was too oppressed. In this way balance was sought.’ And, at a deeper level, ‘Freedom-stressing capitalism found understanding for the intellect but was corrupting of soul. Communism and socialism fostered the integrative soul but oppressed the intellect. Both positions had good and bad elements.’ (Beyond the Human Condition, page 75). Griffith’s explanation not only has powerful explanatory power, but offers the exciting prospect of resolving what appears to be an irreconcilable polarity.
As all these comments indicate, there appears to be a real threat that democracy’s light is fading—ultimately too much polarization resulted in Greece’s astonishing invention for steering a society becoming unworkable. We are now faced with the urgent need to somehow reconcile ever widening sides of politics before they spin totally out of control.
Losing steerage at this point would quickly see us on the rocks, and this at a time when we so desperately need to keep moving forward: We are, as the Australian Journalist Richard Neville said, ‘locked in a race between self destruction and self discovery.’