The traditional political model is a line with the far left at one end and the far right at the other. Parties typically occupy a range of the spectrum but may well overlap other parties, sharing some policies while differing on others. Individuals may also support a range of policies that have some fit with a range of parties, so may not decide who to vote for until close to an election or even until inside a voting booth. That describes my own position well, and over four decades, I have voted almost equally for Labour, Lib-Dem and Conservative. On balance, I am slightly left of centre, but I support some policies from each party and find much to disagree with in each too.
Over the last two decades, we have seen strong polarisation, with many people moving away from the centre and towards the extremes, though the centre is still well-occupied. Many commentators have observed the similarity of behaviours between the furthest extremes, so a circular model is actually more valid now.
Centre left, centrist and centre right parties have traditionally taken it in turns to govern, with extremist parties only getting a few percent of the vote in the UK. Accepting that it is fair and reasonable that you can’t always expect to make all the decisions has been the key factor in preserving democracy. Peace-loving acceptance and tolerance lets people live together happily even if they disagree on some things. That model of democracy has survived well for many decades but has taken a severe battering in recent years as polarisation has taken hold.
Extremists don’t subscribe to this mutual acceptance and tolerance principle. Instead, we see bigoted, hateful, intolerant, often violent attitudes and behaviours. The middle ground and both moderate wings have reasonably sophisticated view of the world. Although there are certainly some differences in values, they share many values such as wanting the world to be a fairer place for everyone, eliminating racism, tackling poverty and so on, but may disagree greatly on the best means to achieve those shared goals. The extremes don’t conform to this. As people become polarised, selfishness, tribalism, hatred and intolerance grow and take over. At the most unpleasant extremes, which are both rapidly becoming more populated, the far left and far right share an overly simplistic and hardened attitude that frequently refuses civilised engagement and discussion but instead loudly demands that everyone else listens. We often hear the expressions “educate yourself” and “wake up” substituting for reasoned argument. Both extremes are heavily narcissistic, convinced without evidence of their own or their tribe’s superiority and willing to harm others as much as they can to attempt to force control. The far right paint themselves as patriotic defenders of the country and all that is right and good. The far left paint themselves as paragons of virtue, saints, defenders of all that is right and good. A few cherry-picked facts is all either extreme needs to draw extreme conclusions and demand extreme responses. Both are hypocritical and sanctimonious, with astonishing lack of self-awareness. Both often resort to violence. Both reject everyone who isn’t part of their tiny tribe. It is a frequent (albeit amusing) occurrence to see the extreme left attempt to label everyone else as far right or racist, while declaring that they love everyone. Both accuse everyone else of being fascist while behaving that way themselves. With so much in common, is therefore entirely appropriate to place the far left and far right in close proximity, resulting in the circular model I have shown. Any minor differences in their ideology are certainly dwarfed by their common attitudes and behaviours.
I have written often about our slipping rapidly into the New Dark Age, and I think it has a high correlation with this polarisation. If we are to prevent the slide from continuing and protect the world for our children, we must do what we can to resist this ongoing polarisation and extremism – communism and wokeness on the far left, omniphobic tribalism on the far right.