• gunnar.leitner

The Case for the Middle

Contemporary social discourse is largely broken. Too often, arguments are characterized by extremes. Pro-life vs. Pro-Choice, Communism vs. Capitalism, Religious vs. Atheist, and Left vs. Right. The conversations that people have are typically coloured by the extreme end of whichever argument one supports. If I support a woman’s right to choose, then I must hate fetuses and be amoral. If I support social expenditure to mediate social problems that plague us such as homelessness, extreme poverty, and access to education, then I must be commie scum. This is ludicrous. Why is it this is the only way that we seem to be interested to hear another person’s worldview? Balance is and always has been the best approach to nearly everything in life. So why, when we hear someone articulate that they don’t feel comfortable with their taxes supporting immigrants who seemingly go to a country for it’s benefits. Xenophobe! Racist! These are the thoughts that you might have if you are a leftist. All completely irrational and unacceptable reactions to someone’s legitimate concern. The right falls into the same characterization (we’re all humans after all). When approached with someone espousing support for immigrants having access to our healthcare or our government subsidizing their education, a common visceral response might be: Freeloaders! SJW!

How can anyone expect to be heard when we treat those who don’t ascribe to our political ideology with such reciprocal indignity? The conversation has ceased to be more than thinly veiled contempt between two extremes with the majority of us, the centrists, confused as to who is who. Centrists have come to have their own identity due to the sheer scale of modern political extremism, but seemingly no voice. As a self-describing centrist, I honestly feel uncomfortable with both extremes. The left is bordering fascism with attacks on freedom of speech which equate to authoritarianism and the right is bordering inhuman with it’s refusal to recognize human equality and environmental reality. Both suck. I wouldn’t want to vote for a politician who represented either extreme.

I could speculate that a large part of this issue is that the media has made it seem that only extremes exist now. One could further speculate that an individuals upbringing plays a role into the development of extremism, or alternatively that social media plays a role, or any other semantic issue you could possibly think of, but this is pointless to do. We can identify all the problems that we want but no one seems willing to come up with a fucking solution. So, allow me to posit forth the notion that we begin to listen to people and understand where they are coming from. Both sides are inherently not evil. They may be misguided by mechanisms that prevent them from recognizing reality but that doesn’t mean that we all have to pretend that their behaviour speaks for us. I do not feel as though my political identity is represented in the media or in social discourse. I am not a commie nor capitalist, I am a social capitalist.

Progress can only exist when we are all represented. Everything else becomes either a tyranny of the majority or a cacophony of disagreement and name calling. Progressive doesn’t mean ‘for the left’ it means progression of our collective in an effort to maximize happiness and minimize grief. Progression of society; towards a system that enshrines the weak with power and limits the reach of the powerful. We may not agree on everything but continually going from extreme to extreme will exhaust our systems and limits our power to do what is morally right. One way of achieving this is through listening and understanding the arguments that people have. I may want to increase access to education because historically, human suffering and the level of those educated in a society are inversely correlated. I may want to limit immigration because I am worried that I will be unable to compete in an immigrant-based labour force. At some level we are all people and want what is best for ourselves and those around us. Unfortunately, what we consider as being ‘best’ is subjective and likely isn’t shared by everyone else. This is why care must be taken when confronting the extremes, they seem willing to impose what they feel as being best for our collective. This is why we must not fear confronting the extremes and telling them that our conversation isn’t going to be dictated in their terms anymore. That we will no longer let them yell over us to further their own, typically narcissistic agendas.

There is a better way forward and it is through conversation. It is through the exchange of ideas. It is through the fundamental truth that we are all people and deserve to be treated fairly and equally. This pertains to those on either side of the coin, we are after all, on the same god damned coin. So please, don’t extremify your beliefs. The left can be every bit as wrong as the right. The only way for progress is when we can come together, recognize the merits in both sides and stop fixating on the negatives associated with ascribing to those arguments. When we unite somewhere in the middle we will be able to have much more constructive conversations with our fellow humans.