In our increasingly polarised society, we find solace in identifying with extremes. We identify with Conservatives or Liberals, Evangelists or Atheists, the Left or the Right, Aggressors or Pacifists, Traditionalists or Progressives. We brand ourselves with Hip-Hop or Rock and Roll, Geekdom or Emo-ness. It gives us identity and purpose. It gives us someone to be like, someone to blame. It gives us salvation.
Then along comes a new campaign, a new war, an Enlightenment, A Reneissance, a famine, a flood, a new ad - the pendulum swings and masses of us change our mind, and identify with something new. Perhaps something on the other side. But do we sometimes throw out the baby with the bathwater? Do we replace communism with a rampant capitalism of excess that still leaves us with extremes of wealth and poverty and for some, death by excess? Do we oppose the fire of religious fundamentalism with an equally fanatic form of atheism, blessed with a highly presumptuous, patronising and unwarranted faith in its own abilities? Do we fight gender inequality and female suppression with a hyper-sexed and sex-obsessed society which treats women in just as severe a way, as objects?
We can all argue our bit. We can say that those women are excercising their liberal choices and being empowered by presenting themselves in that way. We can say that all of a sudden our knowledge of science is so perfect that we don’t need religion, and that religion is for the weak, because we are too weak to delve into the deeper mysteries of both. We can put our trust in the free market to deliver us from all evil for all time.
But we can also stop and wonder: Is the balance not in the middle of all these things? Is there not some truth in each side, however distorted, beneath a surface of inconsistencies and vagueries? Are we not overdue for approaching things with a world-embracing vision, one of foresight and detachment from pre-conceived notions tempered by open-mindedness and wisdom? One that can listen as well as preach? One that though progressive, is guarded and moderate in the way that it swings? Yes, this is where we must expend our energies. Somewhere between the left and the right place.
There is a certain convenience in throwing rocks at falling buildings, but there is much greater purpose in the laborious process of building a new one, giving timely and patient attention to such verities as moderation, humility and deeper truth. Building is highly underrated, but I suspect we have reached the age of the owner-builder.