Tuesday, March 9, 2010

I’ve Always Been Half Wrong

I’ve come to see that ideologies and belief systems are like sub-atomic particles in the way that they seem to exist in a world of duality where everything has a mirror image. Just like the proton has its anti-proton, every belief or ideological value is almost pre-destined to have a polar opposite, and this inevitably makes each pole seem extreme to the opposite twin. When abortion stopped being a medical issue and became a political issue, it was an automatic certainty that there would be pro-abortion and anti-abortion sides to the issue.

The immediate result of this is that nothing ever really changes, regardless of whether the “pro” or the “anti” view of anything holds sway, and the extreme right is fundamentally indistinguishable from the extreme left. As I watched the Tea Party Convention last month, and then the CPAC gathering two weeks ago, I realized that I was watching modern versions of the 1960s SDS and Weather Underground groups, polar opposites in their political affiliations but identical in their radical approach to self-righteousness. There isn’t a nickel’s worth of difference between the 1960s version of Tom Hayden and the 2010 version of Sarah Palin.

I don’t think that this is any byproduct of modern life in America where everything is stressed to the max, and then exploited by the media. My own theory is that we’re hard wired this way, and by “we” I don’t mean modern Americans, but Homo Sapiens. This tendency to split ourselves into opposite camps probably evolved along with everything else that makes us human because it had survival value. When our technology and high-level co-operative group-tasking ability finally gave us mastery over the entire lower animal kingdom, then our primary threat to daily life came from our fellow man. And at this stage of development, it probably benefitted us in a survival way to be able to quickly differentiate between friend and foe, and then to take sides and defend a position at all costs. Early cultural evolution was probably not kind to the fence-sitters and the appeasers, and the tragedy in this is that true intellect and wisdom tends to aggregate in the middle rather than at the extremes.

Speaking personally, in the last forty-plus years, I’ve flip-flopped in my political beliefs, establishing for myself a reputation as something of an iconoclast, first on the extreme right, and more recently on the extreme left. Thinking that radical views would produce quicker results, I never seemed to be smart enough or patient enough to be satisfied in the middle, but I’ve always been wise enough to know down deep in my heart that about half of everything that I’ve ever believed was just dead wrong.

No comments: