Left, Right, Left, Right

As I’ve said here before, I don’t like to describe the political spectrum with the words “left” and “right.” Within any given era, Left and Right are relative, so they don’t mean much. I think most people assume that any position that’s off to one side can’t be correct, that the correct position must lie somewhere in the center. If you posit Sarah Palin as representing the far right and Obama as representing the far left—which much of the media does these days—a centrist position would be somewhere in between the two. Sorry. I can’t hack that one at all.

I keep thinking up different ways to say this, but to my mind it’s like this: There’s truth and there’s bullshit. No left, no right. No two ways. To know what’s true, you have to give up all your preconceived ideas and take a completely open-minded look without pushing for a particular outcome. I don’t know of very many people who have done that or even have any interest in taking the trouble. People tend to take positions based on where they’ve grown up, what they’ve been exposed to, who their friends are, and who they’re angry with. We have to look beyond our own self-interest. The main problem I see with the so-called “right wing” is that it considers looking out for one’s own self-interest a virtue. But it isn’t. “Enlightened self-interest” is an oxymoron.

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11 Responses to “Left, Right, Left, Right”

  1. Linda Fairchild Says:

    Well said, as usual. Think Flat Earth Society…or any period in history where people behaved exactly as people often do when faced with the Truth. There are actually people on the planet today who lived during 1939 – 45 who maintain the Holocaust did not happen. But, well…it actually did.

  2. Chandani Diaz Says:

    Oh, Sarah Palin is definitely FAR, FAR, FAR right! (I think if I hear her say “how’s that workin’ out for ya’?” one more time I’ll be physically sick). But you’re correct that one’s upbringing has a lot to do with the left-right perspective. I was born and raised in Sri Lanka – to us, it was very “simple” – LEFT meant Communist Party or Liberation Party. RIGHT meant “more towards Democratic” but that is no longer true – now, RIGHT-wing means “greedy, nepotism, rob the country blind while you’re in power” and LEFT (alas, no longer exists – in Lanka). And then (in the 1970’s and 1980’s there were “Socialists” there (neither left nor right) who were more like the “greedy, nepotism, rob the country blind while you’re in power TYPE…..but who also “nationalized” the country’s main export: tea. After about 10 years of Sri Lankan “socialism” the quality of the tea (because of nepotism) was so poor that Sri Lanka ALMOST had to give up tea production and let Africa take the lead. Someone woke up in the 1990’s and let the tea plantations be privitized again. Everything is relative to one’s background.

  3. Linda Says:

    That’s pretty much what I see, the abortion issue for example, they are all against it, but they offer no solutions, except perhaps abstinence which is really no solution. Then they don’t want to pay for public healthcare but they want all those poor men and women to suffer and die without medical care and they offer no solutions to that, except to cut them off without it. I also see a lot of the opinion among what they call the right, that as long as we cut off the gays and lesbians and forbid abortion that the nation will remain great and powerful. They don’t seem to notice the people struggling to pay for food, medical care, and a place to live. Perhaps that is why that Jesus supposedly said that “The poor ye have with ye always.” He knew no one would ever really care about the poor. That they would focus on issues that God, if there is one, can and should deal with. I do believe that most of them try to usurp his words to promote their own agenda, I know the politicians do and so does the clergy. The right to bear arms is also a hot topic, but they seem to also support some rather violent ideals that I don’t think are right, like war for oil or for whatever reason they want one. I own guns myself, but I advocate not allowing anyone who is mentally defective or a violent felon to be restricted, of course they get them illegally anyway. Perhaps it would be better to simply make stiffer penalties for committing crimes with guns.

    I usually lean to the left, because they believe in regulation of business and banking and other things where dishonesty seems rampant, and they promote freedom of religion, without involving religion in government. I believe that religion must not be part of government or it becomes the driving force behind government, and then it begins to control government, just like in the middle east., we don’t need that here, else we become a mirror of the extremist movement you see in the middle east, only with Christianity as the extreme. When that happens, rather than seeing peace we will see a civil war much like you see there, it would turn into a bloody mess . The problem I see there right now, is that the Islamic extremist movement is behind some of it-not all, but some of it. That worries me, because we don’t need more extremist regimes to deal with, the few we have are enough.

    As for Sarah Palin, I think unless she does something really smart, her ship just may be sunk, I hope so, she could start a war in a matter of days if she were elected. Most of the others would only be able to start a civil war at home, she could involve the world in it. Hope some of what I have said makes sense, sometimes I don’t.LOL.

  4. Diane Says:

    There is an interesting TED talk about this. “Jonathan Haidt: The real difference between liberals and conservatives.” He lists 5 moral values and shows that in cultures all over the world, self-identified conservatives value certain morals more than liberals and liberals value other morals more. What’s missing is good/evil or selfless/selfish as values. That would probably explain a lot more.

    • markbittner Says:

      I’ve been wanting to get into the subject of “evil.” A lot of people I know think of it as a “right wing” concept and are uncomfortable with it. I’ll be taking it up here eventually.

  5. Todd Pack Says:

    You make an excellent point, Mark. It’s so frustrating when people put politics before problem solving.

  6. JB Says:

    The left-right dichotomy is just that: another linear way of thinking that is denigrating to the promotion of interconnectedness.

    Using “left” synonymously with “liberal” and the “Democratic Party” complimented with use of “right” synonymously with “conservative” and the “Republican Party” compounds the confusion of these words within our language.

    Here’s a question I have been pondering: What is liberal about conservation (as in environmental conservation)? Should not we think of conservation as a conservative value? Should not the taking of natural resources be considered taking liberty of our planet’s deposits – a liberal value? I am still playing with this semantic trickery.

    Thanks Mark, for being the one to help me delineate these thoughts. I still remember the way you articulated your misgivings about describing a person as “a liberal” or “a conservative” as opposed to having liberal leanings and/or conservative leanings about certain issues.

  7. Margaret Says:

    We’re always being told that the most basic human divisions are between those who are black or white; Democrat or Republican; rich or poor; Muslim or Jew or Christian. But I think the division that is the most basic of all goes deeper than that, far beneath race or politics or religion or money. There are people who believe whatever they prefer to believe–and it’s always, always whatever will serve their emotional comfort; and then there are those who want to know what is actually true.

    To my mind, the first way of thinking has a lot in common with insanity: trying to pummel reality into a shape that is personally pleasing. As for the second way of thinking, maybe it can become an obsession that can make everybody damned uncomfortable, but it’s a noble obsession.

  8. Linda Says:

    Oh, this is just a note to correct my post up there somewhere, I am not in favor of letting mentaly incompetent people or felons have guns. I reread it and reread it and didn’t get what I had said till after I posted. I just knew something was wrong with it. I have to chalk it up to another senior moment.

  9. ernest tomic Says:

    i find myself on the left, because when i think of social-political issues, my values tend to be around solidarity, mutual aid, redistributing wealth so that it’s more equally shared and generally being on the side of the oppressed. at the same time i try to be open minded, so i see that sometimes people from the right say stuff i can agree with and sometimes, people from the left do and say things that i wouldn’t support. but i’m a leftist all the same. from where i stand, sarah palin is on the right and barak obama is at the centre. he’s not a leftist in my understanding of the term.

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