The False Dualism of “Left” and “Right”

Red Triangles and Blue Circles
Red Triangles and Blue Circles

I am so sick of “the left” and “the right” hurling insults at each other like kids on a schoolyard playground. I am sick of it because 1). It’s a waste of time 2). Rank stupidity makes me cringe.

Having spent almost my entire life under anti-communist propaganda I understand the knee-jerk panic about anything left of Mussolini. I get it, but it’s stupid. People hurl “commie” or “socialist” at people who happen to think the inalienable right to life includes not starving to death under a bridge. They cannot define socialism, but they’d fight to the death to stop it. “Marxist!” they yell, but they have never read a paragraph of Karl Marx. Of course not, they might get Marx cooties.

And people who think excessive debt is a problem aren’t fascists, either. The vast majority of people do not fit so neatly into one of the (only!) two boxes our masters have provided. Here’s left and here’s right, pick one and hop in. If you refuse to hop in, you don’t have any convictions, you’re wishy-washy, you’re a (eeoow) moderate, a traitor to The Box and you can go live in no-man’s land with the other limp-wristed wussies.

We do have differences in the way we see the world, and quite frankly I think we need each other to balance each other out. We need two wings to avoid flopping around in circles, and a car that will only turn either to the left or the right is going into a ditch. But we are too complex to fit into two boxes and if our IQ exceeds our body temperature we know it.

The basic difference in the way we see the world deals with “order.” What is the natural, and therefore we assume, the correct, order? Philosophers have speculated about this since long before Jesus was born. Trouble is, philosophers were almost exclusively well-off males with property to protect. Plato’s order places people like himself on top, with warriors protecting his position and underneath-everybody else. His job would be ruling, the warriors’ job was protecting and everybody else should work hard and shut up. Other philosophers, at least those with enough connections to have their work promoted, have echoed Plato.

I call that these the Red Triangles, roughly analogous to “right wing.” It is stable. It is definite, it is clear, everybody knows their place. The big fat base it rests on is the great mass of men and if they should get it into their heads to go to the top, what would happen? Chaos! Chaos, the whole world falls apart!

Those at the bottom must submit to and obey their betters; if not the world will end and the great mass of men will suffer along with everyone else. But who is at the top? Why is this the natural order? Those on top now are those who are supposed to be, obviously, because they are there and the mysterious working out of nature (an invisible hand?) has placed them there. Now stop asking questions and get back to work. This is the basic right wing position, no matter how much they try to church it up to get support from those at the bottom.

At the opposite end of the spectrum are the Blue Circles. To them the natural order is not static, it’s rolling along. It has a shape, but no beginning and end. Who is running things? All the spokes are needed to keep rolling, so rule is by consensus. It’s progressing; they are progressives. Who is on top? That changes as the circle rolls along and that’s fine. Everybody has a chance to be on top. This is utterly horrifying to the Red Triangles.

Few people actually fit completely into the Red Triangle or the Blue Circle, so there are intermediate positions; Cool Reds, Purples, and Warm Blues. In reality, there are thousands of shades and shapes, but one thing for sure-two boxes labeled “right” and left” are insufficient.

In the true state of nature philosophers love to reference, humans lived in kinship groups. Humans were never solitary predators red in tooth and claw, living lives nasty, brutish and short. Cooperation and ingenuity was the key to survival and the survival of the individual depended on the survival of the group. Banishment was a death sentence. In these groups no doubt there were Red Triangles. They advocated caution, the keeping of traditions and staying put. No doubt there were Blue Circles who advocated taking risks, trying something new and moving on.

Who was right? Sometimes the cautious were right and sometimes the risk-takers, sometimes the traditionalists and sometimes the innovators. They obviously discussed these disagreements around the camp fire and came to agreement or they would have died out long ago and we would not be here. We need each other and we need to listen to each other if we expect the tribe to survive the complex challenges we (still) face.


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