Left? Right? Mr. In-between?

Different kind of blog this time. I am truly perplexed. I am honestly asking a question about our collective mindset. Here goes:

Is anyone really, truly all left? Or all right? All good? Or all bad? I do not think so (OK, Trump is all bad but he is an exception). I think that even those who identify with the left to the total exclusion of all that is right-ist philosophy (and vice versa) will exercise some right-ist philosophies and/or actions in many situations. Even a major pinko-lefty wants the police to catch the bad guys, wants to balance their budgets and keep government intervention in their lives low. Even some of those rotten-righty-Maggots stop to help someone in distress, share their hospitality and make donations to charity.

I mean, some of the kindest, most generous people I know are righty-racist-sexist-anti-PC in their ‘personal presentation’ but they are major contributors to society, their friends and institutions. They are good in many ways. They are some of the greater builders of the community. And some of the most obnoxious, elitist, exclusionary folks I know identify with the left (like me). They are spoiled entitled brats like Justin Trudeau and lately, the Greens. None of us are all always on one side of the political spectrum at all times on all subjects.

Case in point: My father used to mumble all the time about ‘Chinks’ taking over. But one of his best friends was J. Wong. He golfed weekly with Gil C. (Chinese from the Philippines) and, when the Korean couple running the corner grocery was robbed, my dad would quietly volunteer to go and sit behind their counter if one or the other was all alone…sometimes for hours. He didn’t speak Korean. He didn’t talk. He’d just sit there protecting them. He did that for weeks at a time when Mr. Korean was in hospital for an operation. My father was not a racist, he was just blunt, rude, insensitive and a product of his times using the popular vernacular of his times.

And, just as ironically, my father identified strongly with the left. He was a pinko bleeding heart, generous to a fault. Shirt-off-his-back-kinda-thing. But I cannot count the number of guys he punched in the face. He was no peace-loving, hippy, pacifist doing yoga and smoking dope. He had a mercurial temper and a strong sense of right and wrong. But he never protested, demonstrated or even wrote letters to the editor. He drank beer at the legion, complained and punched people if they bugged him. And he projected a heavy personna like a Marvel character. He was no Bernie Sanders.

My recently deceased friend, John, was similar. He strongly identified with Capitalism, the Liberals/Socreds and he worked hard as a small-business-owner-mechanic all his life. And yet, he was a HUGE contributor to his community and not just in a small way with First Nations, addicts, widows and orphans. Few people ever demonstrate REAL life-long social work like John did.

So, what’s my point? Well, as I said: it is not a point this time, it is a genuine question. How the hell did we get polarized to the extent that people rigidly vote RIGHT or LEFT without hesitation when, in fact, they themselves are BOTH right and left in their own personal philosophy? Worse, they will actively dislike and do ‘dirty tricks’ against the other side.

Oh, I know, I know, we all vote using a mental shortcut so that we do not have to listen to the political gibberish spewed from the mouths of lying politicians. Of course we do. We have to. We have no real idea of our candidates. So, we generally vote party! Some people, I am sure, even judge just by appearance (and party)!

We are shallow in our political involvement but deep into our political identity! How did that happen?

The candidates all sing from the same hymn-sheet as their party told them to and so the candidate reveals little to nothing of their own views, abilities, influence. Our reps are unknown to us. To a typical voter, they just line up behind the ‘leader’ like cub scouts trying to earn a badge.

Even the general populace answers the ubiquitous exit poll questions with, “I voted for Trudeau (or whomever).” Which is simply NOT true. Unless they live in Quebec, they did NOT vote for Trudeau, they voted for some local ‘shill’ representing the Liberal party who, then, stands behind Trudeau and keeps quiet. We ally/identify/project ourselves based on that?!

So, if we have reduced our thinking to the cult of party, personality or simply physical appearance, if we take the democratic shortcut of primarily voting from party-name-recognition-habit, how did that devolve into such a polarized political climate?

I have no idea about my rep. She collects a salary and votes as Trudeau tells her to vote. How can I feel strongly about her? How can anyone defend her or Trudeau to the point that they must ‘HATE’ the other guys? What is happening to create this climate?

I have a dumb theory (arrived at without much thought) and this is it: we are all frustrated with our so-called modern lives (see the reluctance of people to go back to the office after Covid) or our personal situation or the planet or the economy or some major (in our own eyes) issue. Even our institutions seem to be letting us down. We want to lash out. We are frustrated! We are angry!

But there are only a few places in which we can now hurl our anger, our invectives, our negativity safely. It seems to be OK to hate white men, especially the older generations. It’s OK to hate Russians and especially the Oligarchs and Putin. For me it is OK to hate Trump and the Maggots (should be the name of a rock band). It seems to be increasingly OK to hate the police and, of course, it is always OK to hate addicts, welfare recipients, pedophiles and cartels.

I am starting to think that directed/projected/exaggerated hate is just a scapegoat for our own frustrations and unhappiness? Can anyone else explain this oddly polarized, ugly political climate in which we find ourselves?

11 thoughts on “Left? Right? Mr. In-between?

  1. Your explanation works for me. I think there is more than an element of truth to what you are saying. Social media provides a forum for invective with little consequence. The latter doesn’t make moderation’s path any easier. I too hope for a different societal climate – Perhaps reason will one day triumph over passion.

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    • Hmmm….good point: social media changed the game and maybe is the cause for much of what I am asking about. And, I suppose, millions of users just post about puppies and cookies and flowers but a significant number are disruptors, trolls, influencers and just plain ol’ crazies none of whom ever before had much of a voice. So, they vent their anger and hatred. And it starts from that?
      I think, Frederic, that is a factor, to be sure, but the root cause is likely deeper-rooted. Why do we even have disruptors and trolls? Why do people read them? Why do some people ONLY read and listen to that UGLY side of the social media community? I think social media is an accelerant-on-a-fire but I think the fire started some other way. I just do not know for sure.

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  2. In my opinion, it will get worse before it gets better. We first have to face a few years of hard economic crisis, people losing their jobs and homes, which will fuel the outrage and will increase extreme ideas and voting for the ultra left and ultra right parties (even if they also don’t have any real politicians. So the anger will increase. As always, there will be the moderate people, who help each other out and create some small communities where moderation is the keyword. But those are only going to be the proverbial drops on a hot plate

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    • You may be right. I kind of expect you are. But why? Why and HOW did we get THIS polarized when, as you say, ‘moderation’ is the key word and those moderate folks will help? Is this conflict going to be perpetual? If so, what is it based on?
      Yesterday an 18 year old sane-sounding boy, armed to the teeth, shot and killed 10 people in Buffalo, NY. He is (at 18!) a white Supremacist and he purposefully targeted blacks in order to further a race war. So, his motives are almost clear – he is also anti-Semitic. So, have politics gotten wonky because of white Supremacists? Or is racism and anti-Semiticism just a small part of this new unsettled, angst-ridden state of hatred?

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      • I don’t know my friend why and how it happened. But it’s strange to see that traditional parties are losing more and more voters. We have a Christian people’s party here in Belgium. They used to be the biggest party like 15 years ago. Last poll showed, that they became the smallest party in Belgium, with only 7% of the votes (they used to be at around 30%). Same story for the liberal party. And the winner….ultra right (currently at 28%). The traditional parties decided 15 years ago, to build a “cordon sanitaire” around this ultra right party. This means that however big their election victory was, NO traditional party would make an alliance with them to govern. So these ultra rights kept being in the opposition, even if they got bigger every election. being in the opposition of course gives them to possibility to “vent” their frustration and blame everyone but themselves (and preferably the “non-whites”). In my opinion, this “cordon sanitaire” is one of the main reasons why they are so big. If we would let them govern, they would also have to make compromises, because that’s how politics work. Of course a lot of other things also have a big influence (like social media). But didn’t “we” (or the conventional parties are also not to blame for their current success by banning them initially from the political scene. Let them rule, and then hopefully all these dumb extremists will realise that their “idols” are just as corrupt as your average politician. On the other hand, do we want more “Trumps” ruling our Western countrie? How much damage would they do in their 4 years? And to answer your last question, racism and anti-semitism are just a small part….their is a general “all included hatred” raging at this moment….and the current economical crisis and climate crisis is not helping! Maybe that is why we are standing now so united behind Ukraine (as opposed to when Russia annexed the Krim). Maybe the world needs a story like David against Goliath to lift our spirits and to find again a common belief and purpose (did you also notice how news about Covid and a lot of climate issues suddenly become “non-news”?)

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        • Good points but still not an answer for the world. Suppressing right-wing hatred in Belgium only seemed to serve the extremists. They are the biggest single-voice. So, maybe censoring and restricting is NOT the way? I really do not know. But one thing is clear – hatred and rejection of others is increasing. Violence and random danger is increasing. In an age of technological advancement, we seem to be regressing socially into gangs, tribes and cave-dwellers. Very odd.

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  3. I blame the internet.
    The geeks that created it 25- 35 years ago were only thinking of the good scenarios where it could be used.
    They didnt dream of the cesspool it could become.
    It’s a soapbox big enough and tall enough for the entire world to hear what any babbling idiot with a conspiracy theory spews forth to get their 15 seconds of fame.
    That pathetic 18 year old child with a gun will be “outed” as a loner, misfit, geek with a history of anger management issues.
    Another “young , white, male, ” mass killer statistic.
    A murderous cliche that is sadly predictable.
    Remember when “The News” was a somewhat objective tv/radio or paper where current events were reported with a somewhat objective view.
    Where politicians or people were shown with their good point and bad points.
    And Liable Law were always hovering in the back ground if a lie was published.
    The media had to be careful.
    And neighbors like John were flawed but respected because they were honest, hard working people that didn’t bitch , moan and whine every time they got a shitty deal from life.
    Now?
    The media is a whore to the highest bidder.
    Which these days seems to be big govt or big business.
    And the media is endlessly playing “catch up” with the instant internet of today.
    The internet encourages acrimony and outrageous comments or videos ( the kid in Buffalo was live streaming his vile killing rampage garbage) to sell more “clicks” and “likes”.

    There are civil Lawsuits currently pending against the likes of Facebook, Meta, Apple whatever because of the online garbage that results in murders, suicides and bullying that they refuse to censor or delete.

    Common sense and civility shouldn’t need to be mandated by Lawyers looking for a quick buck.

    And society shouldn’t be basing their social, political and personal decisions on a click or a tweet.

    Pray for a solar max flare to take down all the satellites and internet for a few years.
    While it would be painful trying to readjust to a world without endless garbage gossip at your fingertips…..
    The Amish seem much happier without “smarter than me” phones.

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    • That social media is a factor is not in dispute and that it is a really BIG factor seems also be widely accepted. But I wonder if it is THE factor? Admittedly, all this poison, vitriol and alternative facts came about at much the same time as the social media rise but all those trolls and haters HAD to start with something….or is it just young men NOT getting laid? Or is it the always-felt futility of being a slave for the better part of your life just so that you can live in a strata titled box and pay fees all the damn time? Have we been mad as hell all this time and just needed a stage like Facebook on which to act it out?
      I accept that social media is the ‘information highway’ (an old web reference) but what made some troll get in his car, gas it up and head pell mell for it? Why are we all so angry?
      I mean, there is a lot to be angry about. I accept that, too. But those aggravations, while constantly present all my life anyway, were not enough to set groups of people off on evil, destructive tangents. It was not enough to get guys like Trump a presidency. Or maybe it was and we just needed a glue or a medium like the net to vent it…..?
      The answer may be just what it seems – it was a number of ugly factors combined with technology that created the perfect storm. Throw in money-to-be-made, lust for power and the exceptionally ignorant culture of the USA and maybe it was all just inevitable.
      I may be looking for singular reason or factor when, in fact, it was more like an old recipe that eventually got put on the stove….either way, the resulting climate is kind of weird. I understand anger, I do not understand anger at others-because-they-are-different or anger generated because of fantasy-inspired conspiracies. That all just seems so weird to me.

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      • On the other hand, look at Hitler, he didn’t have internet, yet he succeeded in convincing a whole nation that the Jews were the basis for all evil in the world. With internet, he might have convinced the entire nation faster, but he started with small meetings in small villages, spreading his evil to ever bigger groups, untill he finally started WWII. So maybe this evil is JUST part of who we are. Look at history and you will find hundreds o similar examples. Yes, for sure, internet is an accellerant, but evil is in most of us I am afraid. Maybe having a stricter gun law in the US would help. At least here it is much more difficult to get your hands on a gun go to the supermarket and kill ten people (maybe the anger here is just as bad, only the outcome is less lethal). And what has created evil in the past? Economic recession?

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        • Yep.
          Money
          Or the lack of money always seems to rankle the rank and file.
          “Us” vs “Them” seems to work every time when the mob is angry.

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  4. Wow I just got back from our Rotary District conference spending two days listening to speakers and the projects (amazing projects) that rotary clubs are doing around the world and locally. I have always said we are not a true democracy when every decision comes from the PM’s office and has been that way for a very long time. I have felt strongly that our society has failed why in a prosperous country do we need to turn to drugs for relief, why can we not help the homeless and the mentally challenged, why are we depending on foodbanks to do the Govn. job. Why has it taken so long to even start to understand our First Nation issues. I could go on but I am late for my bike ride.

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