Thursday, April 07, 2005

Thoughts from the sober middle

We'll be undergoing a few changes around here in the coming days, as I try to improve the look and content of the site. Stay tuned, and thank you all who have spent some time here, especially those of you who visit regularly. It's enjoyable to be able to write and post on a variety of topics each and every day, but you make it all the more worthwhile and rewarding.

We're now a week old -- hard to believe -- and I hope that what I post here contributes in some way to a medium, not to mention to a society, that seems to be sorely lacking in independent, non-partisan commentary and the intelligent discussion of politics, philosophy, and culture. The adversarial nature of our political arena -- certainly an American phenomenon, with its Crossfire-style shout-fests, but increasingly also a Canadian one -- means that the sober middle is left largely voiceless, if not outright abandoned. If it's all about visibility, and personal reward, then it's much more profitable simply to take a side and stick to it remorselessly and without reservation. Profitable, but, more than that, it's the easy way out. Being in the sober middle means listening to all sides and thinking about compromise, acknowledging that there are simply no easy answers to many of our most pressing concerns. Being at the drunk extremes, if I may put it that way, whether of the left or the right, often means ceasing to think and merely repeating catch-phrases and partisan slogans -- talking points, as they're known. Oh, of course, there are many intelligent voices on both the left and the right, but, again, the adversarial nature of our political arena means that winning is often more important than either detached intellectual probity or a pursuit of a common good that transcends the endless, self-perpetuating partisan bickering that, let's face it, gets us nowhere. The Schiavo fiasco was a good example of this, and the sordidness of it all doesn't need further commentary here. At the end, it wasn't about Terri anymore, for she had simply become an excuse for yet more bickering and political opportunism, yet another battlefield in a "culture war" that makes no sense at all and of which there will be no victors.

It would be easy for me, too, to pick a side. Liberal, conservative, whatever. That's where all the action is, after all, out there on the drunk extremes, preaching to the converted and blogging away into shameless self-importance. That's not where The Reaction will go, however. Here, already, I have defended the mainstream media against right-wing accusations of liberal bias, taken the social liberal position on Terri Schiavo (to me, also a conservative appreciation of the dignity of life well-lived), trumpeted the extraordinary faith and good works of Pope John Paul II (including both his social progressivism and his moral convictions), and defended the noble idealism of Paul Wolfowitz (a man of courage, whatever his other flaws). In future, I will continue to call them as I see them, and that means moving around a political spectrum that just isn't as neat and tidy as the drunk extremes -- firing their slings and arrows at each other often in complete disregard for the truth -- seem to think. To be sure, there is some healthy, internecine debate among both self-styled liberals and self-styled conservatives, but why not approach our most pressing concerns from a perspective that hasn't been drained of intellectual rigour by the win-at-all-costs mentality of hardened partisanship or that, more simply, hasn't been tagged with a label that by definition constrains serious thought and virtually renounces the prospect of conciliation for the sake of some higher good? Is that not truly the only way to move forward, to find common ground -- and, ultimately, any semblance of a common good?

That's my challenge, and it stems from Socrates's assertion, before his accusers, that "the unexamined life is not worth living for a human being". So let's examine it, I say, and let the drunk extremes play their self-important little games. The sober middle may not be where much of the action is, but it's the right place to be.

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  • Happy 1 week anniversary MJWS, alas the JW is sadly missing from your profile. Poor John Wells. Thank you for your contribution to the chaos that is the world and of course the internet. I know you to be a rational and thoughtful voice amongst all the talking points being repeated in the most puppet like manner. The world needs an intelligent, well informed and caring voice. And yours is just that, one that is not afraid to say what others fear and thinks before it speaks. I hope that you are able to teach people to listen. Not to pick a side and then blindly run with it's torch. I wish you luck and hope that your voice is heard and quickly becomes a beacon to many.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:41 AM  

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