Or so it seems. I’ve often been puzzled, and bemused, when the extremists in some debate once again are found to be half right, and half wrong. What is it that seems to drive us to the go to the opposite poles and put us at loggerheads, whatever that may mean? (According to my dictionary, it means that all parties are being “block heads.”)
I suspect the reason is that most arguments are not, at heart, about finding the truth but about being proven “right”. In fact, all manner of selfish interests may be at stake – our personal prestige and the respect of others, political status and influence, material and financial benefits, and so forth. Also, our attitudes and perspectives are inevitably shaped by differences in our personalities and in our life experiences. And if somebody else opposes us, then a competitive psychology can take over the argument to the point that we will give no quarter even if it means saying things that we know are not true, or only partially true.
So the middle-ground between various verbal combatants is often where the truth lies undefended, and the onlookers may be asked to choose sides between two simplistic extremes. What our politics these days seems to lack is a “radical middle” – an open-minded, truth-seeking constituency that will aggressively attack the “Jacobins” of the left and right (the political terrorists) and reject their self-righteous prescriptions.
Thought for the day: I saw a bumper sticker recently that updated the famous line in Franklin Roosevelt’s inaugural address: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” The bumper stick read: “We have nothing to fear but the fear-mongers.”