A sharp observation on political extremism in this 1987 TV ad by comedian John Cleese for the Social Democratic Party-Liberal Party Alliance (1981–88) in the United Kingdom:
Extremism creates a nastier harsher atmosphere everywhere, more abuse and bother boy behavior, less friendliness and tolerance and respect for opponents. What we never hear about extremism is its advantages … the biggest advantage of extremism is that it makes you feel good because it provides you with enemies. The great thing about having enemies is that you can pretend that all the badness in the whole world is in your enemies, and all the goodness in the whole world is in you. If you have a lot of anger and resentment in you anyway, and you, therefore, enjoy abusing people, then you can pretend that you’re only doing it because these enemies of yours are such very bad persons and that if it wasn’t for them, you’d actually be good-natured and courteous and rational all the time.
As relevant now as it was then.
I don’t belong to a political party, and I don’t think I’ll ever join one. Partisan talking points irritate me no end. I’ll watch the upcoming debates, though, because I’ll find all the onstage mudslinging and the impulsive provocations very entertaining.
In politics, everyone tries to push emotional buttons. Few seem to talk about an evidence-based attitude for making decisions and allocating society’s resources where they’ll make the most impact.
Besides, the media today have made the exchange of ideas particularly charged and increasingly polarized. The only way to be heeded to in a screaming vortex is to scream louder and resort to premeditated ad hominum.
Idea for Impact: Wisdom doesn’t reside solely on one side of the center. I am partial to those moderates whose political stance often varies with the issue. Contrary to popular perception, they aren’t tuned-out or ill-informed. Instead, they’re disposed to see both sides of the complex problems, disregard the left and the right’s excessively ideological positions, and seek the middle ground.
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