Daniel Blewitt

The difference between left and right isn’t about right or wrong

The difference between the political left and right seems to be built on the assumption that the other is wrong. That thinking is fundamentally flawed.

 

 

It isn’t a secret of any sort that there has been an enormous amount of dissonance between the conservative and progressive/liberal ends of the political spectrum over the course of the last couple of years.

Elections such as that of Donald Trump’s illustrated very acutely the extremely sharp separation between right and left. In many cases, as can be seen from voting maps, it’s city against countryside, cosmopolitan vs homogeneous, educated vs working class, young vs old. In much the same way as we saw reflected by the debate in the UK around Brexit, the older, less educated and more country orientated people came out in favour of leaving, whilst the younger, more educated and city dwelling people were overwhelmingly in favour of staying. These are all generalisations, but the statistical trends were extremely clear and much touted in the aftermath of both the US and the UK’s monumental shifts away from progressivism.

I’ve written about this previously, the apparent schism forming in the west between our older communities and the new world we’ve entered into, of cultural, ethnic and religious osmosis. These new worlds are extremely prevalent in the cities but far less apparent in more rural areas. But they’ve well and truly started to meet now, and people who lean towards the protection of a perceived historical community identity and experience are reacting to the imposition of change by rebelling against it.

In Haidt’s book, The Righteous Mind, he explains the fundamental differences between the conservative and liberal mindsets, that is not to say that either is right and the other wrong, but rather that they perceive things differently. Neither side is actively more selfish or evil than the other, but they perceive different things as risks and benefits. I won’t go into it too much detail, but our brains develop with every so slightly different idea of how good change is. Those people who see change and are attracted to it, to variety and difference, are overwhelmingly more likely to become of the liberal mindset (or at least they are predisposed to it, and these early predispositions push them in one direction or another, leading to a lifetime of compounding choices).

Vice versa, someone who leans slightly more to the “danger” response when faced with new and different things is much more likely to become conservative. Obviously, where you grow up has a huge impact as well, as you can easily become the most conservative liberal or the more liberal conservative as well. Political thought is a complex spectrum which is usually done a great disservice by the simplifications of left and right.

The question is, for each and everyone to define the limits of your responsibility. I’m not telling you what that limit should or shouldn’t be, but understand the implications of your beliefs.

The question in my opinion, where it all seems to end up coming down to, is how far exactly does our responsibility extend. I think what defines the two sides, overwhelmingly, is the partitioned vs universal sense of responsibility. It’s not that those of conservative mind are against programs like healthcare and education funding, as can be seen in the UK, they simply feel it should be kept in the UK. All of the UK’s economic output should be fed back into itself to fund assist UK citizens alone. Their money and their output should never be taken outside of the national borders. The more liberal-minded people tend to feel that the borders themselves are growing redundant. This is the fundamental separation. Both sides believe in assisting those who need assistance, but the difference is in those who they feel deserve assistance. I’m not even talking about welfare programs and the difference between the unemployed and the hard-working, as this varies, but that it should stay in house.

The more liberally-minded seem to overwhelmingly care primarily about care and assistance, and less about the nation. The fundamental difference is not in how they would like to help, but how far that help should extend, as the liberally-minded seem to overwhelmingly feel that that help should extend beyond the national borders, that the question is not about national or community similarity, but in that they’re human. Responsibility in their minds extends to all people, not just your own. The concept of “our” people is becoming a redundant one in an ever more interconnected and advanced society, in the midst of a tidal wave of cultural amalgamation. But again, only in the cities. In the countryside, this new world hasn’t impacted fully, but it has begun to and this is what has set off the alarm bells of the MAGA voters and Brexiteers.

The clash, is separationist versus a universalist mindset. Some conservative voters only care about their town, some about their religion, some about the whole country and everyone in it, but there is always a line upon which responsibility ceases to apply. The universalist mindset extends far beyond these same borders, it encompasses all people. This is why there is always such incomprehension from the left when the conservatives push to stop immigration and asylum seekers, as they believe the responsibility extends to all people.

Of course, the most liberal liberals believe that this also extends to all animal life as well, and the same universalist mindset moves even beyond human beings. The most conservative conservatives probably believe no one except themselves matters, as this is the most extreme representation of the limitation of responsibility.

So the question is, for each and everyone to define where you declare the limits of your responsibility. I’m not telling you what that limit should or shouldn’t be, but understand the implications of your beliefs.

I for one (and of course you can disregard this entirely) believe that absolute human universality is unsustainable economically, but desirable ethically. To that end, I believe we need to alter the global economic and political structure to make what is desirable sustainable.

 

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