Understanding the relationships between order, innovation and freedom.
Have you ever wondered about the meaning of the political terms left-wing, right-wing, centrism, conservatism, liberalism and socialism? What kind of ideas do they really represent and why does it matter?
First of all, we presume our goal is to live in a peaceful, flourishing society that grants its citizens the most freedom possible. It’s useful to characterise the establishments governing such societies with labels of some sort. The terms ‘left’ and ‘right’ have their origin in the seating order of the representatives in parliaments in times past. I’ll leave out the historical details though. Instead, I rather prefer to draw the attention to the essential question:
how should a just and flourishing society govern itself?
Plato pretty much covered all that matters on this topic. I encourage to reading his work Republic that deals with the above question. But what’s the answer in a nutshell from our modern point of view?
Well, it all has to do with the relation between the government and the governed. Individual people are always part of some group, family and clan being the most obvious examples. A few families and clans together make up a geographical community, which can already be characterised as a political unit of some sort. Now, depending on how big you make your political units, you can end up with a city-state or an entire nation that needs to manage its own affairs on this higher level of organisation.
Power is about the relation between the governing and the governed.
That’s where a government comes into play. It’s a political establishment that is responsible for managing the affairs of the highest political unit that encompasses all the smaller groups underneath. The more complicated the state, the more governing hierarchies there can be all the way between communities and the government. All modern states are highly complex so that a huge number of hierarchies exists. We call them public authorities and they deal with more or less local issues.
Now as you can imagine there are countless ways of how a state hierarchy can govern itself. And countless ways have been tried out in the course of world history. There’s a multitude of other factors coming into play as well, in which e.g. economy can define the real power relationships or in which religion might have a huge impact.
However, since at Jadespark we’re all about human relations and development, we’d like to focus on the social aspect of how a government relates to its citizens. This will help us clarify the political terms mentioned above and most importantly realise how the development of thinking and its inadequacies manifest themselves in political concepts.
There’s a multitude of factors influencing power relationships.
Balance between Forces of preservation and change
Political classifications have to do with political parties’ attitude towards change and order. Depending on where you stand on topical issues, you might strive to preserve order and traditional structures, or you might go with the flow and be open to change. The former strives to preserve (conserve) the existing order and institutions – we call them conservatists. The latter strives for change and adaptation to modern times - they are called liberals.
Conservatists oppose change, liberals embrace change.
It’s important to note that those terms are expressed in absolutes, although they really rarely occur as absolutes in reality, e.g. you can be a conservative and still embrace change of some sort. Those terms merely describe tendencies that a person or a party might have in their political thinking. But don’t consider anything in absolutes.
Conservatists represent right-wing policies. Liberals represent rather centrist or centre-left policies, but you can still be a liberal conservatist too. Centrism is just an indication that you strive after balance and moderation in your decisions. You try to balance things out, regardless of whether you’re liberal or conservative.
Left-wing policies are about social equality and egalitarianism. They represent the interests of workers, making sure that their rights are protected and not oppressed by companies’ decision-makers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either.
Whether we describe left or right-wing parties, conservative or liberal forces, there’s one thing that is common to them all: they are positioned pretty close around the centre of the spectrum. They are centrist, moderate and that’s what gives them their democratic justification. With such parties you can govern a modern democracy. Whether the real individuals involved are actually competent and morally flawless is another question. At least their parties’ ideological foundation has the right potential for a frictionless governing.
The United States Capitol in Washington - a prime example of western democracy.
Now here’s the catch: things start to look very different if you move away from the centre of the spectrum. Anyone has heard the terms far-left, or far-right. That’s exactly what it says: you’re too far right or too far left from the moderate centre. Basically, far-right and far-left are the parties of extremism of any kinds. By definition they’re not moderate, they’re extreme.
Now considering all we know about emotionality and mentality, what can we realise when we compare centrist parties with extremist parties? Moderation is a mental virtue, it’s not an emotional one. It’s the intellect that can control impulses and objectively analyse facts. That’s what makes it moderate. Therefore, centrist parties on both sides are the parties of reason.
Extreme parties on the other hands are the parties based on emotionality of the worst kind. That’s what makes them extremist in their thinking and behaviour. They don’t base their views on objective facts, otherwise they wouldn’t be extremist. Instead they base it on emotional wishful thinking and blame shifting. And emotionality knows no limits to its excesses. Perhaps that’s the essential factor (one of many though) explaining the radical behaviour so characteristic of extremist groups.
Extremists base their political views on emotional wishful thinking of the worst kind (violence).
However, there’s still one major point that needs to be mentioned. The gap between centrist and extremist parties has also to do with the concept of freedom. In a nutshell, moderate centrist parties want to grant you the most freedom possible. They are truly democratic, emphasising social equality and equal opportunities for all.
Extremist parties on the other hand want to impose their opinions on you and use violence if necessary to enforce their way.
Extremism is authoritarian. Centrism is about freedom.
All contemptible dictatorships and regimes can be classified either on the far-right or far-left of the spectrum, with communism on the far-left and with fascism, Nazism and nationalism on the far-right.
The more you move towards the centre, the more political thinking matches the common sense attitude of granting freedom to all people. The more you move away from the centre on either side, the more political thinking becomes authoritarian and restrictive, forcing a one-sided ideological view on people.
What do we learn from all that? Go and vote for reasonable, moderate people from reasonable, moderate parties. Whether it’s liberal or conservative doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things. Just don’t jump on the insidious bandwagon of extremists by believing every cheap rhetoric gimmick promising you personal gains. Try to see the bigger picture and realise that personal wellbeing in the highest sense is forever intertwined with the wellbeing of your collective, which spans your city, your country, your continent, your world.
Personal wellbeing is intertwined with the wellbeing of society.