Saturday, May 5, 2007

Democracy and the Binary Myth

Sitting in class a while ago, not paying too much attention to what was being said that day, I began jotting down a few thoughts, some of which resolved themselves into this grouping of aphorisms:

Identity cannot be positively formed in opposition to another group. Negative identity ceases to exist when the opposition no longer exists. A negative identity seeks its own destruction.

Although I wasn't consciously thinking about politics when I wrote this, this is I think (perhaps... maybe... my opinion could change) one of the basic problems of modern, partisan politics, which we so ardently maintain should be called democracy. No matter what we bother to tell ourselves, partisan politics does not seek the greater good. Partisan politics only seeks to achieve or maintain power. In our current and murky democratic paradigm, we seek to create a binary myth, a dichotomy of opinions that is easily filed and understood in black and white terms. It creates an Us vs. Them mentality that, instead of uniting a nation within a common identity, forces individuals to define themselves in opposition to each other.

Take the controversial question of abortion. On one side of the dividing line, the so-called Conservative or Fundamentalist side, the binary question question looks like this: you either support a pro-life agenda or you sanction the murder of unborn babies. Alternately, on the so-called Democratic or Liberal side, it looks like this: you either support womens' rights or you are a Patriarchal mysogynist. Both sides demonize their opponants' position and force each individual to take a side, the outcome of which will vilify you in the eyes of half the people.

As long as we continue to operate in such a limited and myopic political paradigm, a paradigm that eschews substantive and polite political discourse, and as long as the opposition party continues to only live and breath murder for the ruling party, democracy will continue to slide downhill. If we only negatively define oursleves against a competing ideology we do not positively become anything.

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