The yin and yang of the political spectrum
As I grow older, I feel like I’m turning into the clichéd example of the bright-eyed young idealist that steadily becomes more conservative with age. Four years ago, I would have strongly asserted my liberalism, and told anybody who would listen that I vote a straight Democratic ballot, no question. Now, as a college junior, I like to characterize myself as being “left of center,” basically a nice way of saying a liberal leaning moderate.
Never in a million years would seventeen-year-old Raymond have thought that his political views could move so far right in just a short four years. With this moderation of my politics, I have also come to believe that there may not be a correct answer to the political debate between right and left. It is possible that this belief may be born out of my moderate anti-confrontational nature not to pick sides, but I am steadily coming to believe that both strong liberalism and strong conservatism are necessary if democratic society is going to survive.
I am not trying to say that everybody should be a spineless moderate, like myself, who always hems and haws about being able to see both sides of the issue. If this were the case, we would be a society of indecision and stagnation. Rather, I am beginning to believe that it is necessary that in society there are both extreme liberals, and extreme conservatives. Before I go any further, let me clarify that by liberals and conservatives, I am not necessarily talking about Democrats and Republicans in the contemporary sense, because neither are strict representations of the theory and ideology which drives their respective side of the political spectrum. For the sake of this article, I will define liberals as those seeking to progress and change society, while conservatives are those who are happy with it the way it is.
I have reached this belief because I think that it is the only way that a democratic society can function both in terms of meeting the needs of its citizens and also remaining stable. If it weren’t for liberals, for people that want to change and progress the world, for people like Galileo, Columbus, MLK, and others of that same nature, where would we be? If everybody was a conservative, and wanted to keep things the way they are, where would we be? We would still most likely be in the dark ages living in a backwards, bigoted, static, and underdeveloped society. Liberals are generally more in tune with the important changes that society needs to adopt to meet the needs of its citizens. It seems to me that in many situations, it is the extreme liberals who are responsible for progressing society and bringing about important and necessary changes.
That being said, I have a hard time believing that the world would be better off if every single person was like that. While progress and change are important, there is also a lot to be said for stability, deliberation, and continuity in society. Too much change, too fast can destabilize a society, and there is often a lot to be said for old traditions. There is a lot of collective wisdom built up in society which is accumulated by generation after generation, and to totally disregard that with unchecked change and progress, I thoroughly believe, is dangerous. If everybody in the world were hard core liberals I feel like society would just fly apart at the seams. It is important for there to be extremely conservative people in society who can question the prudence of changes, and speak for the generational wisdom of tradition and custom.
I guess what I am trying to say here is that I am coming to believe that it is important that we have discourse in society from both the far right and the far left, so that they can keep each other in check. I almost envision liberalism and conservatism as existing in a yin and yang relationship with each other, in that neither can exist without the other, and that they depend on each other for viability in practice. Total domination by one side of the political spectrum would ultimately spell ruin, both are necessary.
This whole crackpot theory that I’ve cooked up may be one hundred percent off the mark. There is a good chance that this yin and yang idea may just be the moderate in me trying to justify his lack of strong ideological convictions. However I will stand by this: that strong discourse from both sides of the political spectrum creates thoughtful deliberation, and that is always a good thing in any given society.