Left And Right, Male And Female, Nonhuman And Human

Plato-raphaelWatching these videos I begin to realize an important thing–well, there are at least two important things: ideas are important and so are the people who dream them up, express them, spread them around–and the people who watch them. image of plato, an old human male using his right hand, by raphael.

We all think these ideas are great, yet we’re all different, we’re all individuals. Right? Democracy rests on individualism, on each person’s right to vote. These days, there are millions of us, each thinking differently, yet with very few options to choose from, aren’t we super-organisms? One of the videos explores why in America, about half vote Democrat, about the same vote Republican, and a few vote Libertarian. In my country, Canada, we have a majority government (Conservative) voted in by a minority (by less than 40% of those who bothered to vote, which was only about 60%; 40%x60% means 24% of eligible voters voted Conservative–you want numbers? Of a country of over 31 million humans, fewer than six million voted Conservative. And one guy–one guy!–seems to call the shots.). How’d that happen? Our system allows the first-place finisher to take all. It’s called ‘First-past-the-post’. It sucks. It’s kinda like if you cross the finish line first, you get the gold, the silver, and the bronze, and the others get nothing. They might as well have ambled, or not raced at all. If neither you nor your party stand a chance of winning, it’s a disincentive to run in the election or to vote. Unless it’s close, it’s a waste of time. image from wikipedia.

So in Canada there’s a call for electoral reform, and for the parties–the Liberals, the NDP, and the Greens (nobody counts the Bloc Quebecois as a national party)–to unite, even if just for a one-time reform of the election process. Two problems: one–at the grassroots there are right-wing sympathizers in the Liberal and Green parties who may vote against electoral reform, who may even defect; and two–very few of the leaders and leader-hopefuls are seeking some kind of unification.

European_Parliament_Composition-2009.svgI live in a staunch Conservative riding, federally and provincially. As long as the vote is split amongst the opposition, my MP (federal) and MPP (provincial) are not in any danger. Ironically, some of the elected municipal politicians are liberal, but this only polarizes local debate between conservative and liberal points of view instead of seeing the other side, and municipal councils are sometimes deadlocked. What’s going on? How do we find common ground when there is this divide between left and right? image of seating in the 2009 european parliament showing one-half liberal (yellow and left) and one-half conservative (blue and right) from wikipedia.

matilda-from-britannia-comThis divide, this deadlock, goes deeper than mere left and right. True, there is a divide between the liberal desire for change and the conservative desire for stability. But there is also a divide between male and female, which, for example, underlay the struggles of early English queens, such as Matilda [1101-1169] and Eleanor [1122 or 1124-1204], who sought to rule in their own right. Matilda fought for the crown, plunging the country into deadlock and civil war. She failed. Her daughter-in-law, Eleanor of Aquitaine, ruled England in her husband’s name (Henry II) while he was busy ruling half of France. She succeeded. Finally, Kate and William’s first-born will be heir, regardless of sex, 900 years later. Nevertheless, there is still a divide between male and female. Even with the rise of democracy in the legislature, there is this polarizing deadlock in the home. And we still have to cross the divide between human and non-human. Come back in another 900 years and find out how that goes. In the meantime, have patience. image from britannia.com.

How can we build bridges to cross such divides? Is such a feat possible, or even desirable? And why is this even important? Kings and queens no longer rule. Even the ancient and remote monarchy of Bhutan (where Gross National Happiness [GNH] has superseded production [GDP]) has embraced democracy. It’s important because left or right, male or female, human or not, we all now share a common fate; to get from our isolating individualism to our common fate, we need to cross a bridge.

Turns out we don’t have to build that bridge. Why build when it already exists? Jonathan Haidt says Eastern thinkers express it in the symbol of the yin-yang, in the deities of Vishnu-the-Preserver /Shiva-the-Destroyer, in the words of Sent’ts-an. As Jesus and others have pointed out, we each have that bridge within, and to cross it we must reach out. In the West, Niebuhr advises us to accept what we cannot change and change what we can, and know the difference. Thornton Wilder writes, ‘There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.’

Alan Watts points out that a wave is neither crest nor trough but both. More even, perhaps the whole ocean, and the shores too. Centuries ago, Polynesian mariners felt unseen, far-off beaches in waves in the depths of the ocean. Modern physics presents a reality that is both connected wave-like and discrete particle-like–or is reality a unified field, ocean-like? Modern physics slowly catches up to ancient wisdom. In the meantime, how long can you tread water? image of watts from wikipedia.

By nature, I tend to be liberal. But I know that it takes two to tango, that it takes both liberals and conservatives. So should I explore my conservative side? Do I even have one? Or is my liberalism me, and I’m part of a larger whole that balances my liberal tendencies with another’s conservative ones? Shall we dance? image from wikipedia.

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2 Responses to Left And Right, Male And Female, Nonhuman And Human

  1. Susan Hirst says:

    Thoughtful and thought=provoking as always, Peter. But i’m confused…do I have to dance with a conservative…..?

    • you can dance if you want to
      you can leave your friends behind
      ’cause your friends don’t dance and if they don’t dance
      well they’re no friends of mine
      …oh, wait a sec…

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