In this post, I will make my best attempt at brevity. I understand that those who disagree with me would not wish to read a long diatribe from a self-proclaimed centrist, and to those that would, well it’s been a tough couple of years, and it doesn’t appear to be shaping up to get any better, so I will allow you to save your strength.
The Second Coming by WB Yeats…
Yeats was an Irish poet, as such was prone to melancholy and Catholic symbolism, combine that with World War 1 and the events of sectarian violence in Ireland at the time you can see why his poetry has a funereal feel to it.
I wanted to bring this poem to you for two reasons:
- Because I find it hauntingly beautiful and terrifyingly relevant
- Because there is nothing inherently wrong with vigorous political debate, except when the “The Centre Cannot Hold.”
In the third line of The Second Coming, Yeats delivers the line “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;” My interpretation of this line in the context of the overall poem is that Yeats is viewing a world devoid of compromise. A world where you are in two opposing camps. In his time he would have had the Allies vs the German forces in WW1. In Ireland, in particular, there was the religious violence that would continue for generations.
The best lack all conviction, while the worstWB Yeats
Are full of passionate intensity.
If I was to stand up and say the above couplet outside of the context of you being aware that it is from a poem, would you know that it was from a poem written in the early 20th century? Or would you even think that I had provided an accurate albeit overly flourished account of the current political climate?
The Righteous Mind and Conservatism
Jonathan Haidt the author of The Righteous Mind: Why Good People are Divided by Religion and Politics, posits that there is a growing chasm between the left and right inside Western Liberal Democracies. Jonathan Haidt clearly didn’t need a Ph.D. to come to this conclusion, but what he does next is what was truly brave. He attempts to tell us why.
Haidt asserts that morality can be broken into six regions of priorities or in his words taste centres on a moral tongue. Just like your actual tongue, some flavours appeal to you more and there are those that appeal to you less. In the models above from his book, (which I encourage you all to read, click here), On the left you have the morality balance of the social conservative, on the right that of a liberal.
The lines are thicker where the group places more of their moral prioritization. The heavier the line the greater the emphasis. If the line leans it means that there is a perceived merger or it’s seen as the same. For example for conservatives, they see matters of providing care or causing harm to be intrinsically tied with questions of liberty and oppression. So it makes sense that taxation to a conservative seems very much like a government causing harm to an individual.
The Rise of Fake News and Moral Ice Cream
There are a lot of great reasons to vote conservative. Here are just a few:
- A prioritization of individual freedom
- A desire for lower taxes
- Empowerment of the individual
- Preservation of things seen as Sacred
Provincially, had I not had a personal relationship with my MLA and had the Conservative candidate not been a strawman candidate, I would have considered voting conservative, either way, they won the provincial election in New Brunswick. This is a bit of a digression but as someone whose values fall more on the Liberal side, I can see why many of the positions taken by Canadian right-leaning parties are attractive and in some cases even the right choice.
If we take the moral guides from above we can get a sense of where Liberals and Conservatives diverge in their moralistic pallets. Party’s in their pure forms appeal to these pallets. But like any poor diet when you overload the body with too much of the things they love, they become addicts for it and less receptive for those items for which they have distaste.
If I feed my kid Ice cream and candy for the first three years of his life and then when he hits four, I attempt to introduce broccoli and other vegetables, how do you think that will go? He couldn’t possibly have a structured understanding of why it’s important that he eats broccoli, he will simply know that the flavour profile doesn’t match what he knows he likes and that any value in the green tree like edible will be completely lost on him.
Just like a four-year-old when we only choose to indulge in the types of political and moral opinions that we agree with, the prospect of partaking in an open trial of some Liberal or Conservative broccoli seems like a horrible idea. But less like Ice Cream and more like opioids, repeated exposure drives the need for more potent and extreme doses.
So what the two wings of our political spectrum have done is deliver to us ice cream diets that match our deepest and often darkest desires for our moral filters. For the Liberals, Free tuition, taxation on Carbon, gender equity legislation, LGBTQ rights, immigration, etc.. That’s a lot of Liberal Ice Cream.
For the Conservatives, we see the Ice Cream flavours being focussed on the conservative sweet tooth of, cutting taxes and regulations, stymieing the progressive policies in schools, universities and other publicly funded institutions, preservations of traditional views on the institutions that make up the “Canadian identity.”
This is where we get the “yellow vest” rallies, ANTIFA, all of the Russian and Conservative driven Memes, it’s the cause of “Fake News.” The fake news that suits our pallet is jumped on and embraced like the very best Ice Cream. Fake news that attacks those with different moral filters or political views is like Death by Chocolate Ice Cream. The Ice Cream is obviously bad for you but so incredibly enticing, that if you’re not careful you’ll eat a whole container.
So, imagine again, me trying to explain to my son, why the empty calories, carbs and sugars are so bad for him, in fact, it’s not even food. Of course, he’s going to look at me as if I have two heads and disregard my advice and lick the bowl. It’s no different for full-grown voting adults, once our brains have formed an established emotional and intuitional position on any topic, it is incredibly hard to convince anyone to deviate from that path.
Not only will a political party feed you non-stop ice cream, the kind that is steeped in either xenophobia or wild exaggerations about an overlord style patriarchy. They are also going to tell you that if you attempt to eat the broccoli of political positions that the other party holds, well you are a traitor, you’re un-Albertan, un-Canadian or an oppressive misogynist racist. Moderates be damned, you are either with us or against us. And we eat it up, we share it, and we go back for more.
So to all my friends and family out in Alberta, whether you’re jubilant about the outcome of last night’s election or you are feeling dejected and lost, just know that we are all screwed. When the centre cannot hold, when our political choices and attitudes are driven by the worst, richest, most prejudice and oversensitive Moral Ice Cream out there, all we can end up hoping for is that after the rhetoric is done, and the yard signs go away, our leaders drift back to the middle. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case in recent history and most of us are forced to watch as our country “Slouches towards Bethlehem.”