“Here’s what I think…”: Why can’t we all just get on?

Tom Cleaver

I am going to start this week by thanking everyone who took the time to discuss the themes that I wrote about last week with me. Every single one of you who wrote to me, whether you wrote to me out of agreement or disagreement, put your points across in a constructive and well mannered fashion, and for that I am grateful. 

You see, I don’t expect everyone to agree with me all of the time. Around every subject, especially subjects as fiercely debated as politics, there is bound to be a multitude of different opinions. However, what is largely missing in society, both in politics and in everyday life, is sensible discourse. People disagreeing but taking the time to hear each other’s points of view and ideas, and finding common ground to build on. 

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“Politics is treated like a team sport”

Politics has become increasingly invaded by tribalism, the mentality of there being a “them” and an “us” in every debate; two ideas vying for dominance, and two sets of people willing to stop at almost nothing to make their ideas reality. These days politics is treated like a team sport: people rooting for their party/ side of the debate without necessarily considering the consequences that a policy will have on their everyday lives. This mentality is best demonstrated by the biggest issue facing European politics today, Brexit. The people of the United Kingdom are roughly split 50-50 on an issue, and this much is natural in a democracy. However, through the eyes of many on one side, this 50-50 split consists of “patriotic British brexiteers” and “liberal luvvie metropolitan remoaners”. The other side hardly come out smelling of roses either, what with their gammon-based jibes and willingness to categorise everyone who voted “leave” as a racist. 

Now, I won’t bang on about Brexit this week because there’s a whole other week’s worth of insightful content that I can create on that subject, but the discourse surrounding it is emblematic of the problem of tribalism in modern politics. In my eyes, the problem stems from people taking on an ideology as part of their personal identity, and seeing “their” politics as a part of themselves ether than as a mechanism for creating and maintaining a society. Including politics into your self-identity is what allows emotion into politics, and makes the victory of defeat of an idea feel like a personal victory or defeat, simply for agreeing with an idea that became law, or didn’t. This personalisation of politics makes people more attached to a set of beliefs and less willing to compromise.

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“Ideology leads to dogma, and with dogma people become unshakeable”

What is the root cause of all this? Personally, I believe that “ideology” has a large role to play in this. I don’t really like the idea of ideology in politics; a set of beliefs that one bases off of theory, often off the beliefs of one person. In my opinion, ideology leads to dogma, and with dogma people become unshakeable from their beliefs, even when facts and reality show that their beliefs may be wrong. To this extent, a fashion of “my way or the highway” has been created in modern politics, where people will settle for nothing less than an absolute religious execution of their beliefs in politics. In addition, being a socialist / centrist / conservative / any other ideology is not a personality trait.

Why is all this a problem? In my opinion, politics is the line of discourse that most needs cooperation, collaboration, and compromise, but seems to be the part of life in which these three things are the least present. Politics is how the world works, it’s the word we use for the making the rules by which we live our lives. And in a field so important and fundamental, shouldn’t all be working together? Rather than having all or nothing arguments over every single issue, shouldn’t we be discussing our disagreements and working to find compromises?

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“Let’s get on with each other”

I don’t expect everyone to agree with each other over politics, that much is natural, but the exclusivism and tribalism that has taken over is unnecessary. If people of all political persuasions, and all parties, decided to talk to each other, discuss the issues of the day and their opinions, and work to find a compromise, I am sure that the quality of our discourse, and of our lives, would improve greatly. The vast majority of people are genuine, so if we worked together to try and improve our lives rather than working against each other, maybe we would be more likely to succeed.

What can you take from this week’s column? Go and speak with your political “adversaries” and “opponents”; people from other parties and persuasions than your own.  Learn about them as people and discuss openly your political differences. Find compromises and common ground, and learn how to coexist, work together, and get on with each other. Let’s get on with each other, and work together to defeat the problems which face us, rather than fighting tooth and nail to defeat each other.