Dialectic: any systematic reasoning, exposition, or argument that juxtaposes opposed or contradictory ideas and usually seeks to resolve their conflict. From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary.
Politics can be distinguished from religion in that there are no absolute answers in politics. In religion we can talk about an absolute Good. This serves a purpose in religion because it gives us an understanding of the transcendent and an ideal to strive for. To try to find an absolute good in politics will forever lead to frustration. Politicians aren’t saints and political discourse serves many masters. Unfortunately, there are people who take their politics with a religious fervor–as if their brand of politics could offer a lasting solution to worldly problems. This naive belief is the basis for many extreme positions in politics.
Effective political policy is the result of a dialectic. The arena of politics is in the realm of duality, the realm of thought. The ultimates of religion are beyond thought or in religious terms beyond “worldliness”. Thought is the land of opposites. We can’t conceive of a backward without a forward, a top without a bottom, an up without a down. Politics proceeds in history through a dialectic of opposing forces. These forces tend to take the form of our current Left and Right platforms in politics. Through the process of negotiating the conflict between these two extremes, our political system moves forward. Without this tension there is either stagnation, chaos or tyranny. When the Left destroyed all opposition from the Right in Russia during the Russian Revolution, communist Russia was born. When the Nazis annihilated all opposition from the Left in the Germany of the 1930′s, Hitler’s Third Reich was born.
The dialectic of politics allows for good policy to be developed through the process of negotiation. Currently, this development of good policy is blocked in the U.S. because of extreme positions held by each party and an unwillingness to compromise. An example is the dialectic in the U.S. between the need for economic prosperity and the need to protect the environment. Both sides of this debate feel strongly about the principle they uphold. However, if you take the far extremes of these sides, they appeal to hardly anyone. The extreme left would damn economic prosperity and have us all live in nature in a commune. The extreme right would have us disregard the environment for the sake of economic development and plow over any land that could be exploited economically. Both extremes are untenable, yet both sides fear that the other side will take the country to these extremes. Actually, the vast majority of people on the Right believe in some kind of environmental protection, and the vast majority of the people on the Left believe in continued prosperity.
Even though most people know that there are very few extreme radicals on the Left or Right in this country, the fear of these radicals putting into place their distasteful agendas seems to rule. The discourse on both the Right and the Left is full of fear. This makes people unwilling to negotiate because they are told if they do, they are giving in to the side that is so demonized. Currently if a person elected in a district that was skewed to the Left or Right tried to negotiate with the other side to create effective legislation the legislator is punished for their efforts. They won’t be re-elected. They won’t get campaign contributions.
Although fear can be an appropriate temporary motivator in crisis situations, it is destructive in almost all other human activities as a motivator. Fear distorts awareness and wisdom and makes clear decision making extremely difficult. When I act out of fear, just about whatever I do becomes tainted and distorted. We need to move beyond fear and understand the dialectic. To work wisely with any dialectic requires taking the highest value from each side, holding them both equally, and not believing that they are mutually exclusive. For instance, we must believe that it is possible to have a sacred concern for the environment and at the same time have a commitment to economic prosperity. This is an act of faith rather than an act of fear.
This ability to hold a dialectic is a mature capability of the human mind. Immature people have a hard time holding a dialectic. For instance, a person may have a problem loving somebody and accepting that they are angry at them at the same time. A more mature person understands that they can have both these feelings, and thus is able to work out their difficulties with their loved ones in an adult fashion.
I think most people understand that there is some kind of dialectic in politics, that politics does not contain absolute answers, and these people would like to see more balance in political discussion. This is certainly the sentiment of many people I have talked to recently. There is a vast majority of people who are sitting in the middle of the current extreme political discourse feeling dis-empowered and ignored. It is time that these people realize their voice.
The only way to do this is on a grass roots basis. Media companies are not motivated by their sense of truth or even care what is wrong with the country. Conflict increases ratings and corporations are concerned with profit. The media is no longer capable of articulating the needs of the vast majority of people in the U.S. Our politicians are not capable of doing this either. They are tethered by their fundraising needs and need to appeal to their base. The onus of responsibility falls on us. We need to be able to articulate what we see going on in U.S politics in a non-partisan manner and through this bring some sanity to political discourse in America. The more Americans who are disgusted with the current political climate find a voice, then the more the media and politicians will have to pay attention.
Join the efforts of PFA to support a third force in American politics–one that is committed to non-partisan discussion. We need to give people in the middle, who feel dis-empowered, the words to articulate their accurate sense that something needs to change in our political discourse.