I have always thought of these two political schools of thought and the dogma attached to them to be like the two halves of the brain that is our culture.
There is the rational side, which is Conservatism, and there is the creative side which is Liberalism.
A while ago, before the chasm between these ideologies became as wide as an ocean, a card-carrying Conservative of my acquaintance sat me down in a bar on Danforth Avenue in Toronto and attempted to explain the difference to me.
Liberals, he exclaimed, are all the dreamers. They look at the world through rose-colored glasses and see nothing but the infinite potential of mankind and a future where anything is possible.
I was neither a small or large L liberal, but I could not help but ask him what was so wrong about that. It seemed quite positive and optimistic.
What’s wrong with it, he stated very matter of factly, is that it’s all pie-in-the-sky. It’s tilting at windmills and dreaming the impossible dream. The world isn’t like that.
Conservatism, on the other hand, is accepting the reality that exists out there and trying to be as fair and equitable as possible bearing in mind that everybody needs to pull their own weight and make a tangible contribution to the common good.
Conservatism is accepting the reality that life is basically a jungle and that you have to fight for every scrap, and show no mercy to those who are weak or standing in your way.
We were both a couple of drinks too far gone and not really in much of a mood to argue the point into the ground.
But one thing that he was willing to concede was that in order for Conservatism to work, it needs Liberalism to counterbalance it. And the reverse is just as true.
Not The Same Ballgame Today
This was more than three decades ago, and the world was a much simpler place back then, and we were living in Canada where neither Liberalism nor Conservatism had yet morphed into the more or less unrecognizable entities we see out there today.
One made the other work for the greater good and though it wasn’t perfect at least the two parts had a grudging respect for each other and for the most part were willing to work together.
Then along came the Internet, and both sides of the political sphere were affected, and not for the better. Liberalism & Conservatism became Left & Right, and each direction expanded with the appearance of radicals pulling at what once was a fairly tolerant system and snipping away that tolerance.
The Right became the tool of big business because they were the rational half of the sphere. The Left became the custodians of the culture that the corporations could see no profit in supporting.
As the split widened, both sides began grooming their own leaders, and slowly but surely political discourse turned into political enmity, and the war had begun.
Nobody Wins This War
Our culture has lost so much by the increasing separation of the left and right spheres of our political brain. So much time is spent defending positions that are intractable. So much effort is spent devising ways to assassinate the characters of opponents and win the day for their side. So much waste is created from all this constant bickering, much of which is hateful and spiteful.
And in the middle of it, all are the people. The people who make things. Who create things. Who grow things. Who care for us. The society. The cultures. They have all become victims of this range war between Conservatism and Liberalism, a war that was started and perpetuated by those who profit more from division than unity.
This is no longer the world I grew up believing in. There is no sense of limitlessness about this world. There is very little cause for optimism about this world. We are basically running it into the ground, and for the simple reason that the two halves of our political brain can no longer stand each other.
What is the solution?
At the moment there is none. But I believe that a solution can be found by understanding the problem. And in order to do that people need to stop looking at those with different beliefs as objects of hate and ridicule, but instead, try and talk to them, and find out why they believe what they believe.
We need to get back to the way the world was before the Internet and Mass Media and Vested Interest and Big Business fu*ked it all up.
We need to get back to a world where Liberals and Conservatives can co-exist peacefully and work together to make the big changes that need to be made in order for us to all live happily ever after.
Sounds pretty idealistic, I guess. But then again, I’ve been a dreamer all my life. No reason to stop now.