When we confine ourselves to the familiar in our lives, when we surround ourselves with likemindedness and tiptoe past those who differ from us, when we do those things, life seems simple. It is nice to be with people who think like you, who hold your values, who validate your life choices. It is comforting.
Politics has always held this taboo about it. It is rarely talked about in polite circles and people squirm with discomfort when a political topic is raised, quickly changing the subject. For some this is about a fear of conflict, for others a deep dislike of politics and for most, it is a complete disinterest in what is occurring in both our own government and those of the world.
In the current political atmosphere however, the avoidance of politics is seated in something even more aversive. There is a deep divide in the community, a chasm. A phenomenon across the world of anger and distrust towards mainstream governments has brought about a shift to the right, an angry shift. Possibly a wish to halt what they see as a dangerous progression. Progression to a world of open borders and world citizens, where Nationalism is equated with racism and culture is diluted. We have seen backlashes in European elections to far right groups, we have seen Brexit, we have seen Trump. This shift is real, this shift is large…but it is mostly underground. People don’t speak of it in polite circles, they just make their vote count.
I wonder whether the chasm, the polarities that are forming across the planet are worsened by the “teams” we play for. When we stay in our bubbles, when we only mix with likeminded, then we never question our team. A progressive has a list of beliefs, a recipe to follow. Support same sex marriage, support feminist ideals, support the equality of minority groups, support the collective. Similarly, a conservative has their own recipe written for them. Reduce the size of government, user pays, economic goals, strong borders, nationalism and traditional family values.
What happens if you stray into the other world? If, as a progressive, you try to understand the mindset of a conservative? What if you suspend the prescribed outrage you feel at the opinions they express and try to understand their perspective?
It is not for the faint hearted, for the battle lines are drawn and, for the sensitivities of a progressive, the uncensored words of the right are shocking and harsh. You have to leave your political correctness at the door. To even try to understand, you must be open to the other side being, underneath it all, just like yourself. The same struggles, the same questions….just different conclusions.
When you delve into the other side, when you stray from your home…what you find is discomfiting. You find a challenge to your belief systems, a shaking of the solid ground you think you are on. You waver.
You see, conservatism strives for an ideal that is noble. For strong families, for good work ethic, for taking responsibility for your life, for cultural purity and keeping a deity in our lives. It is a tempting ideal, it is a simple worldview.
Conservatism fears the move away from traditional values, to a world where sexuality is less defined and families are more diverse. It finds comfort in sameness.
In its own way, conservatism believes in equality, but not like a progressive believes in equality. A conservative wants equality to come in the form of equal opportunities, not privileges for minorities. They do not accept the plight of the vulnerable but see that life affords us challenges and each of us has a responsibility to step up to those challenges, regardless of gender, sexuality and race.
These are admirable ideals. They are good, they are attractive.
It is easy as a progressive that is willing to suspend their own beliefs, to find them hypnotic.
Exploring the world away from progressive ideals into the world of conservative ideals has led me to this hypnotic place, to a place where I could almost believe that these noble ideals are possible. Almost.
In the end however, the reality, the world, is for a progressive more than just constructs of family, of economy, of personal responsibility, of culture. The world is a series of stories. Personal stories, real people.
A progressive sees that people, lives…don’t just have the pre cut mould that is dictated to them by these conservative values. Many people don’t fit and the effort to fit causes them pain, excruciating pain….and it is hard for a progressive to ignore the pain…so they instead want to break the mould that confines these lives.
Equality for a progressive is about creating equity, about promoting those with less in order to provide them with what those with more, already have. It is about knowing that not everyone starts from the same starting line and so the finishing lines will have to be adjusted.
Progressives engage in the ideal of society as a collective rather than the individual. It celebrates humanity over race.
Ultimately though, once you have strayed to the other side, when you have explored, with as open a heart as is possible, then what you find you are left with is a world of contradictions, a cognitive dissonance. The simplicity of the ideals once believed in so strongly is ruined forever, for you find that there is danger in treading a path without question and that there is value in the other side, true value and true good intention.
It is an inconvenient truth.