Thursday, February 2, 2017

Down with the Left-Right Binary

The following is a guest post by Jason Liggi, it doesn't reflect my views exactly... I've been feeling more united and connected with the left than ever, since Trump has been elected. Of course the left is as flawed as it was pre Trump, but having the right in power shows me just how many values I do share with the left. That said, I can completely relate to feeling this way, I've been there myself. So I thought this was a great piece to share for those who may be feeling unanchored in these turbulent times. 

Read Jason's other guest blog 'The Alt Right's Dangerous Pseudo Rationalism' here



I have a confession: I'm politically non-binary. Actually, it's more than that. I don't fit anywhere on the binary spectrum. I'm a third political gender.

I imagine already you've got Jordan Peterson's voice in your head, balking. "Something, something, neo-Marxist agenda". Binaries are the natural way of things, right? You can't just make up a new thing. I can't demand you identify me as a "Xeiberal" or a "Zirservative". Stop trying to control language!

I always found it strange that, when it comes to politics, we place ourselves on a spectrum between a binary: communism (the left) and fascism (the right). The “party of movement” (freedom, equality, human rights, progress), and the “party of order” (tradition, nationalism, order).

There’s a history behind this, of course, and it’s served a purpose. The first usages of this concept came during the French Revolution, when the National Assembly divided itself, with the supporters of the king to the right, and the supporters of the revolution to the left. The world over, every democratic society generally organizes itself along these lines. It makes sense, if you think about it: the people that value freedom and equality, generally favour human rights and progress over tradition and nationalism, and vice versa for those that value tradition and nationalism. Those people organize into groups and it generally seems to be a fairly even split, and the electorate tends to gravitate between one and the other.

These are vague categories: the Republican party of the US is right-wing, Trump’s administration are also right-wing, but they don’t really seem to like each other much. Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton are both left-wing, but again, don’t often see eye to eye on much (and nor do their supporters).

Recently, to an increasing degree, I’ve been feeling like this isn't making much sense to me.

People in this position often call themselves centrist, but I also feel like I have to stay away from that now after Glenn Beck and Dave Rubin had a conversation about creating a “new centre”. That’s not a centre that I want to be anywhere near. Sorry, Dave, but if you're buddying up with Mike Cernovich in your new club, I'm not showing up to the meetings.

I don’t know where this leaves me. Who is my tribe going to be? What shall I think?

Well, I think that the West has a moral responsibility to help refugees that are fleeing war-zones and have nowhere to go, but I support comprehensive vetting for immigrants in this climate (although I wonder how we can make this more comprehensive. I’m disgusted by Trump instituting a ban that includes permanent residents of the USA, or immigrants that have already been vetted, but I don’t agree with people who peddle statistics about how you’re more likely to be killed by a lawnmower than a refugee as if they’ve just made a knock-out argument.

I think we should be doing everything we can at the moment to criticize the right-wing, and focus our attacks on them, in order to protect minorities that are under threat, especially Muslims. But I also don’t want to throw my weight behind people that glorify the hijab as a symbol of feminism and political dissent when many women across the globe are literally forced to wear it. I fully supported the Women’s March, but also felt disturbed by a Sharia apologist like Linda Sarsour leading it.

I don’t think we should punch Nazis, but I also don’t think we should spend a whole lot of effort defending them.

Trump has to be the focus right now, because he’s in power. No-one is accidentally going to defend minorities so hard that they put Islamists in power. We have to throw all of our energy into backing the people that need it the most right now, and those are the people being separated from their families and detained at airports. These are the people being murdered by right-wing, Trump-supporting nutcases in mosques in Quebec.

But even though I’m attacking the right, I don’t feel like I’m on the left. And I’m definitely not in the centre if Dave Rubin and Glenn Beck are there. 

I know I'm not the first person to challenge this binary, not by far, but right now I'm trying to find somewhere solid to stand, and I'm hoping there are others out there that feel the same.


  1. In other words you haven't developed any solid political beliefs. Study history. Read books about politics and economic thought. Then come back to this post and see if you still feel this way.

  2. If you have any specific recommendations, I'm always open to reading more. I wouldn't say that's what I was saying... but fair enough, you're entitled to think that. I love to read, especially history and politics, so please, enlighten me.

  3. but I don’t agree with people who peddle statistics about how you’re more likely to be killed by a lawnmower than a refugee as if they’ve just made a knock-out argument.

    What's wrong with this argument? I am not saying open borders, US has to be vigilant to vet refugees and it already has enough vetting on refugees. Also no attacks by them so far.

    1. What makes me personally feel uneasy with this argument, is that while it's true today in the US, the trends elsewhere point say something else. If I didn't look at trends, I wouldn't have been worrying about the greenhouse effect for 15 years either.

    2. A couple of things I can think of

      - for some reason, a lot of those graphics don't include 9/11 even though people are still dying from 9/11 today (first responders) and even though 9/11 was a defining moment for a lot of people, it changed my understanding of the world, it was the impetus to a war that has killed a lot of people. It was a big fucking deal, quite frankly, and changed the world in ways that death statistics (which are already horrible enough) don't capture

      - statistics like those don't include the terrorists attacks that were prevented

      - as a healthy 30 something year old who stays away from lawnmowers and ladders and knows how to not drown in a bathtub terrorism actually is a bigger threat to me than those things

      So yeah, it's not a knock-out argument. It's good for a laugh or two, but if it's what your argument consists of that's kind of bad.

  4. Refreshing post. I believe the urge to fit everyone into binaries is one of humanity's main problems. I am a green socialist libertarian with an occasional crusty conservative streak. Go figure. I wrote this some time ago.

  5. Love this. I also feel partyless with the political offerings currently available in Australia. And I loved the 2nd paragraph. ☺

  6. Eh...I have some issues with this. I find it odd that there is a reluctance to show solidarity with the left simply because you believe that we are somehow in cahoots with, or at least are making excuses for Islamic extremists. Whenever I have tried to pin down what exactly it is that is giving aid and comfort to these horrible forces it usually boils down to two things: 1)They heard random people on Twitter making excuses for Islamists or 2)The left doesn't have the courage to say the magic words "Radical Islamic Terror". When I ask for actual concrete policy prescriptions that the left should be agitating for but aren't, they can't provide me with one. Do you have any policy suggestions? I don't mean this to be snarky; I mean this in all seriousness. Because it appears to me that I am getting called a regressive simply because I don't use harsh enough language vs. the Islamists.

  7. I love this post because it makes me feel less alone!