A prevailing part of our century’s divide in the society can be noticed in the extremes in the political rhetorics. Every group of people reinforce their beliefs by blaming those with opposing beliefs for all the problems that exist. Fueled by a commercially greedy news media and the public’s desperate emotional investment in this divisive culture, is there anyone who’s actually to be blamed? This growing extremism of all ideologies is seen as a form of entertainment or mockery by some, a sense of pride and purpose by many, while being ignored and yet feared by others.
The Winged-Bird Metaphor -
This is an oversimplification of things, and I know that. Now, think of a society as a bird. Yes, the wings of the bird, the right and the left, are literal metaphors for the right wing political party/ideology and the left wing political party/ideology of the society. When each wing, fueled by a personal sense of superiority over the other, constantly dominates, demonizes, and combats with the other wing, while getting the fight reciprocated however possible, what do you think will happen to the bird?
It will crash and die. The fight between the wings will only keep getting stronger until the bird ceases to exist. This entire fight is an act of emotional selfishness which does not practically benefit the bird whom the wings exist to serve. The bird requires both the wings to coordinate and function efficiently together to fly the bird wherever it needs to go. The brain is not in the wings, but in the bird. The wings are just a pair of extremely lightweight, aerodynamic, feathered pieces of muscles that are always energetic and eager to move around. They need constant supervision and neurological orders from the brain in the bird’s body, because if they are left to their own devices, it could easily destroy the bird.
When the ego of the wings goes to an uncontrollable level, the only way to save the bird would be to chop off the wings. Ostriches and emus don’t fly, but they thrive powerfully well on land. That’s better than a crashed and dead bird.
Now, this entire metaphor can seem juvenile, but let’s remember that it’s just an oversimplification, albeit a naively idealistic one. With the body of the bird aka the society and the wings aka the ideologies in play, the symbolisms do work in portraying the stark realities of the growing political extremes.
The Cycles of Blame -
When we consider the fight of the wings in the real world, the situation gets murky. The people who fall under each political ideology/party support their cause due to a sense of pride, belonging, purpose, and community. That can sound like a good thing, but it’s the antithesis of logic and rationality. Humans, being emotionally driven creatures, are biologically designed to be opposed to logic and rationality as it’s not our natural state. The virtues of logic and rationality can even be considered to be very inhuman by definition.
So, when we as emotional creatures constantly crave for a sense of belonging, purpose, conflict, meaning, community, and a dramatic atmosphere to pour our emotional energy onto, we end up finding the political/ideological landscape as the best place for all this. Like any social group, the politics of the society at large ends up becoming a popularity contest filled with drama, conflict, and sided arguments, but along a larger scale and with a higher degree of damage.
The issue in certain countries in the world can be connected to communism vs nazism, while both qualify as different brands of the same fascism. The base of each wing blames the entirety of the other wing for being part of a fringe extremist group that happens to be just one portion of the entire base. Most people just want to do their jobs, enjoy the type of fun they choose to, and live their own lives without too much interference. Nobody wants to be blamed for the destructive actions of a few who share certain arbitrary similarities with them, because when they are blamed, people start to fight back. A conflict always solidifies a sense of belonging, purpose, pride, and community which we humans are unfortunately designed to crave for even if we consciously choose not to.
This same sense of conflict in many South Asian countries is mostly in the form of religion, and sometimes also through language, culture, and other beliefs that strengthen a sense of community, pride, and purpose in people. Publicly glorifying the symbolisms of one form of belief becomes an insult to a belief whose symbols aren’t getting the same amount of attention. Communities rely on symbols. That’s why branding is powerful. It gives people something to believe in, to unite for, and also to unite against.
Being blamed for believing in something different from what’s publicly encouraged to do so, becomes a form of oppression that leads to conflicts and a divisive break that pulls at the extremes of a society. The endless cycle of blaming those who are different for all the practical problems that people face only fuels the momentum of these cycles of blame, which never ends well. Maybe there is no solution to this fiasco, or maybe it could be something simple that’s too often misunderstood.
The Hope of the Secular Ideal -
If you didn’t know by now, I’m heavily apolitical. In a world that demands absolute loyalty to one or the other ideological group, I’m incapable of having blind faith and absolute loyalty towards anything or anyone. My skeptical and cynical nature along with my dangerous curiosity and my foolhardy individuality has and will continue to land me in trouble. I know I’m not alone in this, and yet I cannot conform into any group and can never feel a genuine sense of belonging. I’ve got no problems with it but will always be fascinated with the interests, behaviors, and beliefs of others, the reasoning behind them and more importantly their consequences and impact on others.
If all ideologies are fundamentally wired for conflicts with the other groups, through the us vs them situation that polarises a society from the very sense of pride, purpose, belonging, and community that’s within beliefs, the solution can seem non-extentant. Smarter humans than me have pondered a solution for this for thousands of years with no solid answer and I don’t think there can be any that can be applied on a large scale.
I’ve had a fascination with the stoic concept of moderation from a few years, which in its own way can be found in the ancient writings of all cultures on Earth in different wordings. This concept is vaguely similar to the Buddhist principle of not desiring anything and also to the idea of the golden mean in Aristotle’s mathematics, both of which are extremely impractical and very inhumane in reality. Maybe the trick there is the ever conflicting struggle to fight for a manageable balance to make sure things don’t go too extreme. This is something addicts and former addicts can understand.
Similarly, a balance in ideologies isn’t something that’s done once and left to its own devices. It’s a constant struggle in every moment balanced through responsibility. Many of my own principles fall under both the conservative and liberal wings of the ideological spectrum of beliefs, while at the same time many of my values are against many socially destructive parts of the conservative and liberal wings. I remember learning about the original meaning of the word ‘secular’ which goes back to the French Revolution. When applied to our era it would mean to separate all forms of religion from the government, legislature, politics, judiciary, media, and the administration of the larger society. That’s an ideal that would solve too many problems.
I don’t mean to offend anyone’s beliefs and this is about a situation that is bigger than people’s beliefs. Everyone has many personal beliefs and faiths that’s not grounded in logical truth, and that’s okay as we’re all human beings biologically driven to live by our emotions. Almost all humans will have something to glorify and worship. Football fans in Europe are so fanatical about their favorite team/player that they are cases of them murdering each other in the stadium seats due to personal differences in their interests and beliefs. Thankfully, the conflicts between Marvel fans and DC fans have stayed in the limits of verbal arguments so far.
What I meant is that people need something to believe in to inspire, motivate, and to provide an ideal to emotionally connect with, but at the same time everyone’s personal beliefs and faiths are their private situation. These beliefs and faiths when connected to politics, ends up causing destructive conflicts that can easily be avoided by keeping them as separate entities and they would have the freedom to thrive productively side by side without meeting each other. And just maybe, that could help curb extremism.
(I know there’s no proper solution here, but just a hopeful ideal. This article was a philosophical exploration of extremism, political divides, probable reasons behind them, and theoretical ways to make things better.)
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