False Dichotomy

All we are saying is give peace a chance.

-John Lennon

My predictions for total election chaos, while possibly still playing out with the Trump faithful to some degree, have missed the mark.  It has taken me a little bit to discern why, but as usual Wall Street provides the clearest answers.  How, given that the election is still undecided as of this morning, is the stock market taking off again towards record highs?

Well, this election is already over.  The Blue Wave didn’t happen, the senate races have already been decided.  So, whether Trump or Biden win at this point is nearly irrelevant, the status quo can remain intact.  The risk of substantial regulatory and tax changes, or communist nonsense like universal healthcare touted by the far left, has effectively been squashed.  Let the Trumpers and socialists yell at each other all day long and protest, what does Corporate America vis a vis Wall Street care?  They’re laughing all the way to the bank.

For a moment there however, there was some real fear.  The prospect of a Blue Wave was certainly scaring the crap out of the powers that be.  Wall Street wants certainty, it wants the status quo.  It needs to remain in charge no matter what, to keep the unrelenting capitalist machine moving forward.

The psychology or philosophy behind the far left and the far right is fairly complicated, and as you might expect it shares a lot of overlap with the way our brain is wired to begin with.  Almost all of the problem boils down to the illusion of separate sides in the first place.  There are “socialists” and there are “Trumpers”.  There are those we agree with, and those that are against us.  Washington and Wall Street survive off of this false dichotomy.  Once you have manufactured a conflict, then it is very easy to keep people separated because our minds are programmed to work in this way.  We thrive off fighting and discrimination of one thing versus the other.  There is a very strong emotional and egoic element to this, a primal urge to be the survivor, to be proven right.

There are valuable aspects to both polarities of the political spectrum, and also dangerous elements on each end as well.  This election painted the picture pretty well, and it’s worth taking a look at both sides to see where the strengths and weaknesses are for each.

On one end of the spectrum, there is the far right.  It is generally understood as a capitalist, libertarian, rugged individualistic viewpoint.  Let each person be free to make their own choices, get the government out of the way, and the winner takes all.  Welfare and red tape for businesses are generally frowned upon, and constitutional rights are paramount.  Obviously there is a great deal of nuance with each of these issues, but I’m just presenting in general terms.

At the other extreme is the far left.  This polarity can be understood more in terms of equality, fairness, public purpose, socialism.  There is a basic dignity and standard of living provided for each person no matter what, there is an altruism that opposes the ruthlessness of the opposite extreme.

The problem we have right now is that we have let our thinking and actions become totally binary.  We have bought the lie that we have to choose one of these two extremes and oppose anyone who even whispers something to the contrary.  As I’ve said, this serves a valuable purpose for keeping the people in charge, in charge.  If we were to stop fighting, there might be peace.  And peace is bad for business as usual.  My feeling is that those in charge – the media, Wall Street, large corporations – sense that peace may be on the horizon.  So they have to make politics more and more polarizing, more and more divisive in order to keep the fight alive.

But if we were to simply stop for a moment and take a look at those “on the other side”, we would recognize we are all on the same side, more or less.  We are all standing before the same conflict, the same pull towards these opposing polarities.

The truth is, the left and right aren’t opposite or separate from one another, they are complementary aspects of the same thing.  They need to be merged into one, what was known as the middle ground in the old days.  The dangers of both ends are fairly obvious, which is why we have to walk the line, mixing the best aspects of the left and the right.

Too far to the right and you get a totally unregulated, wild west capitalism where one person ends up taking all the power by sheer force – basically what we have been doing as a civilization for thousands of years.  Too far to the left and you get a world on training wheels, everyone gets a trophy.  There is no risk, no uncertainty, no creativity.  Every thought and action gets policed into conformity.  Neither one of these visions are sustainable, obviously.

What we want is the best of both worlds, but that requires a great deal of maturity and selflessness.  I’m not sure we are quite ready for this collectively, we still can’t stop yelling at each other and then marching off to the polls to cast our useless ballots for whichever of the two corporate candidates are on offer.  But there are glimmers of hope.

The change starts, and ends, with us.  We cannot remain dependent sheep for an utterly impotent government that only traffics in fear, divisiveness, and ignorance.  We have to be willing and daring enough to cultivate the strengths that both sides have to offer – a freedom and individualism on one hand, while maintaining a selflessness and sense of public purpose.

This balance, which also basically lines up with the Middle Way described by the Buddha, is what true freedom is all about.  It avoids the mindless selfishness and hunger for power that can result from the far right, while also avoiding the overprotective, creativity-killing fear of the far left.  Without finding this balance for ourselves and collectively as a nation, we will remain caught in this false dichotomy, this seemingly endless struggle that is keeping us enslaved and continually oscillating between two polarities.

Perhaps, if the “Trumpers” and “socialists” can stop fighting for a moment and take a look at the stock market, they would become aware of the absurdity of the whole thing and find a way to come together.

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