Another polarity frame from the 19th century that persists is capitalism/socialism. The right has continued to represent the ancient patriarchy and it's residual power structure (the state), it has gradually been transferring its dependency on the monarchy and aristocracy into a dependence on commerce. Using a combination of traditional power and wealth as your natural source of collective strength is sensible for the right, and has always been an effective strategy. This transfer took place in Britain during the 17th & 18th centuries. The American & French revolutions created mass expectations of freedom for the masses from the traditional exploitation and oppression that the monarchy and aristocracy had been imposing upon them since the dark ages. The ancient Greek concept of democracy was revived as the political ideology of the left. It took about a century for the state to be restructured accordingly throughout western countries, but by the end of the 19th century our modern political structure had emerged.
The left and right have since been in collusion in maintaining social control via the power of the state, carefully limiting the extent of the freedom of the people. Whether by coup d'état or election, we've seen them ascend to control the government and make law changes to suppress the rights of their opponents. The most overt such behaviour became known as totalitarianism – exhibited during the 1930s as fascism on the right and communism on the left, and degenerating into assassinations, torture & genocide. All while pretending to be democratic. These political movements believed democracy must be a sham to seduce the masses into supporting them. Those who instead believed democracy must be real chose socialism (on the left) and liberalism (on the right) as better ideologies. So nowadays the historical collusion between the left and right primarily takes the form of business as usual: the idea that the traditional economy must be maintained by means of suitable government regulation of market forces. The right believes in minimal regulation; the left believes in maximal.
Dualism has this effect on the psyche: it constrains us to see things as black & white when the real world is multi-coloured (with a spectrum of shades of grey implied). When confronted by opposed views in situations where the truth is important to figure out, and vital to their future, people adopt an either/or attitude. They claim one option is right and the other wrong. When reality ain't so simple, this behaviour creates massive social pathology when done en masse. So when the green political movement emerged from the environmentalism of the '60s & '70s, it instinctively knew that it must finesse the historical status quo by means of the novel stance `neither left nor right, but in front'.
Most people remain locked into a dualist perspective their entire lives. Those transcending the primitive conceptual outlook see other options becoming available to them. Evolutionary advance comes from identifying and choosing the best alternative to the traditional dualist framework that society has inherited. Collectively, progress emerges by consensus as the dangers of both of the extremes become evident. Folks may then articulate their new consensus as a rationale for change and social development by explaining to slow learners what's obviously wrong with the traditional extremes that the political establishment continues to promote. This emerging consensus in the middle will always profit by balancing their collective critique with acknowledgement of those elements of the left & right that do have ongoing merit. Doing so then enables us to repackage these essentials into a new synthesis.
As Milton Friedman reminded us in the mid-'70s, we must be free to choose. It's our natural right as autonomous human beings. State-imposed limits on this freedom are therefore only viable if there is general agreement that they are in our common interest. The past half-century has seen the masses turn away from the old nanny state socialists cling to, with its fostering of a dependency relation between the individual and the collective. Most people now accept that they must be free to choose how to earn their living, and that being independent is ideal. However they have also proved themselves averse to returning to the law of the jungle as dictator of social outcomes (the covert agenda of the right under the guise of market forces). The middle way for the greens to follow is therefore allowing the market to prosper while using the state as a guidance function, for damage control, for disciplining and redirecting the market as & when necessary.
The Green Party must restore its authenticity by returning to the green movement's original stance of being neither left nor right. Best to point out that the realignment is not mere pragmatism, but it's in accordance with the principle famously established in the 19th century by Hegel, when he explained how any thesis usually gives rise to an antithesis – and this polarity is eventually resolved by a synthesis of both. It is indeed how we operate in a political context. The right's thesis (might is right) was opposed by the thesis of the left (power to the people). An equally succinct identifier for the synthesis is required. When the green movement emerged from the counter-culture 40 years ago, coevolution was the key identifying principle (with sustainability as the primary goal). Nature uses symbiosis in ecosystems to integrate their ecology while maximising biodiversity. We have been acting accordingly, role-modelling peaceful co-existence via non-violent conflict resolution. Progress has been much slower on the economic & political fronts due to excessive timidity, lack of collective imagination and enterprise, the failure to use lateral thinking, plus the parliamentary tactic of leftist alignment which is now years past its use-by date...
Repositioning ourselves in the political center allows us to better appeal to & represent swing voters - the 5% or so who are the interface of the mainstream from which change proceeds. Control the middle ground of the political spectrum and you are key player in the game (as NZ First has long been teaching us). Acknowledging common ground with the left and right respectively then becomes a powerful strategy for success, as it identifies fertile political terrain where collaboration with both wings of the establishment can take root. The ensuing fruits of that work will demonstrate to swing voters that we are authentic in representing them in a centrist manner, and will prove to the media that we are no longer fringe.
It will be essential to capture NZ First market share by being seen to build consensus on the basis of principle rather than on their basis of expediency. This means spelling out the underlying metaphysics: with the left, the key principles of equity and restoring the commons; with the right, the key principles of enterprise & conservation. Just explain to the media & public that a conservative is supposed to conserve - and we're just helping the right to get real, since they're incapable of figuring that out for themselves without a dictionary.
For an individual, transcending the dichotomy induced in the psyche by a dualist belief system results in personal liberation. For any collective, group or society, transcending the polarised stand-off & impasse is what is required to get us all past the cultural stagnation and social harm that dualism creates. It is never easy to cohere sufficiently to achieve collective transcendence! Unison is ever elusive, but all it takes is seeing the middle way forward to the future between the twin extremes of left and right, and agreeing to head down that path.
Triangulating a problematic polarity enables us to finesse the situation, solve the problem, by choice of a better (third) alternative. If you explain this to folks with an open mind, they get it. Eventually, even slow learners do. When the media & public remain bogged down in traditional beliefs, we can be a beacon of hope for all who seek a better way ahead. This strategy is an essential strand in the new style of politics many have long been calling for. Acting as exemplar on this basis, we can lead the way. Maybe even snowball a global trend. Ride the wave rolling on to the sustainable society...
Dennis Frank, 27/11/14