Conservative versus liberal. Republican versus Democrat. Capitalism versus socialism. Individualism versus collectivism.
As if one is all right and the other is all wrong. Please.
There’s truth in every perspective.
By buying into either/or debates we lose depth, substance, nuance. We stifle our intellectual progress. We make enemies unnecessarily. We lose a sense of balance.
Ultimately, we lose freedom.
Truly free citizens are independents. They see beyond black and white, right and wrong debates.
To put it concretely, they don’t view Republicans as good and Democrats as bad, or vice versa.
They identify and incorporate the good and reject the bad in every perspective.
Of course, this requires intellectual maturity. Slapping black and white labels on ideologies, ideas, and philosophies is a very natural thing to do.
It makes life easier for us. It means we don’t have to think as hard.
What makes this kind of thinking difficult is not that we’re trying to choose which side is right and which side is wrong, but rather that we’re trying to reconcile the good of two sides, which are seemingly contradictory.
As the Nobel prize-winning physicist Niels Bohr said:
“The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”
“Good things come into conflict. And there is no choice so difficult as the choice between two good things.
- Justice or mercy?
- Honesty or loyalty?
- Inspiration or accuracy?
- Time or money?
- Science or romance?
Which way do you lean?
A weak student will choose one side of a duality and disparage the other side while a brilliant student will stand between the poles and feel the energy that passes between them.
F. Scott Fitzgerald put it this way, “The test of a first rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”
Life is a tightrope.
Leaning is dangerous.
Balance is what you need.
I’m not suggesting that you seek watery compromise, that mind-numbing “happy medium” cherished by the frightened and the weak. I’m suggesting you find the electricity that flows when two poles of a duality are brought into close proximity.
Electricity is not a compromise. It is an altogether third, new thing that emerges from two potentials.
Can you see the truth in opposite possibilities?
Your opponent isn’t always an idiot.
Your adversary isn’t always evil.
Learn to love your enemy and feel fully alive.
Reach for the electricity.
Roy also said:
“The key to miracles is to recognize the beauty of both sides of a duality – black and white – while not allowing yourself to get trapped in the perspective of either side.”
Not only is it important to see the good in all sides, but also to identify the bad.
One of my favorite books, Beyond Capitalism & Socialism edited by Tobias J. Lanz, is a perfect example of independent, judicious, dialectic thinking that recognizes the good and bad of both capitalism and socialism.
As one author writes:
“Communism emphasizes social use to the exclusion of personal rights, and capitalism emphasizes personal rights to the exclusion of social use. …both are wrong, for though the right to property is personal, the use is social…Monopolistic capitalism concentrates wealth in the hands of a few capitalists, and communism in the hands of a few bureaucrats, and both end in the proletarianization of the masses…The Christian concept denies there is an absolutely owned private property exclusive of limits set by the common good of the community and responsibility to the community.”
It’s not a debate between private property or communal property, individual rights or community responsibilities. That’s a flawed construct that can, by default, never lead to truth.
If you want to arrive at truth, you must first start with the right questions. In other words, the framework of the intellectual query must be structured properly.
The question must become not which of those is right or preferred, but rather a recognition that both are good and HOW to properly balance the two with your forms of government and culture.
How can you protect individual rights while simultaneously providing for communal goods, such as caring for the weak and poor, building schools, libraries, roads, etc.
The first step in answer the question of “how” is to take as many factors as possible into consideration, to see the whole picture and to approach it from a holistic perspective.
Most people fail to arrive at the correct framework because their debate is two-dimensional — limited to the two-party political sphere.
The debate revolves around the limited question “What is the proper role of government?”, rather than the more holistic question, “How is ideal society created and sustained?”
In our current two-party monopoly, generally speaking Democrats focus on the power of government, while Republicans focus on the power of business.
In the first place this creates a flawed construct of either government or business, where debaters label one good and the other bad.
But on an even deeper level, this debate doesn’t even take into consideration five other fundamental societal institutions, namely:
When you include those in the mix, a whole new world of possibility opens that was never considered before.
Freedom is ultimately cultural, not political.
To preserve freedom, we must move beyond flawed either/or political and ideological debates. We must look for truth in every perspective. And we must consider many more factors than just government and business.