How to bridge the gap between left and right
When I was at school studying History, I had a diagram of political leanings. It was a spectrum from left to right with a big chunky centre and really thin tapering bits on the extremes on the left and the right… although it was set out like a crescent – with the extremes of left and right almost touching – with fascism and communism ending up pretty close to one another.
From my limited understanding the left and the right are oddly paradoxical. The right are supposed to be into the rights of the individual – and the left are supposed to be into the rights of the group. But, the left are all about identity politics and the rights of the individual and the right seem to be more about order and structure, rather than fragmentation. But whaddooIknow?
It is Remembrance Sunday today – which reminds me of a quote about war that can perhaps shed a bit of light on this question. Bertrand Russell said:
“War does not determine who is right. Only who is left.”
I know this has nothing to do with left and right in the political sense – but when there is a gulf between people that could descend into conflict I think it is important to think about how one’s opinion and how correct you think you are is not more important that the fact that your political opponent is a person, a human being – and if your side wins, that doesn’t mean you are necessarily right about everything. I think it puts the onus on the “winners” to extend their concept of “us” to include the opponents. That might take a bit of imagination, but it is important to find a common denominator. Humanity is always a good common denominator.
I think the first step to closing the gap between left and right is to ensure that people are people first.
I can’t help but be drawn back to the Parable of the Good Samaritan. In the culture in which he lived, the Good Samaritan would not have been criticised for walking on by on the other side – but it was better that he helped; it was better that he gave of himself to bring back to safety and health someone he would have argued with, someone he would have opposed in demonstrations.
To close the gap between right and left will take as many steps as there are people. It takes a Marcus Rashford to persist with Boris Johnson. It takes each individual to be ready to listen and learn and love and be open to understand the fears and concerns of the other. And when that happens, I think the other stops being the other. And that is the trick.
The solution, as ever: “Love your neighbour as you love yourself”.
We just need to learn how to do that.