Re­treat to trib­al­ism

The New Zealand Herald - - EDITORIAL & LETTERS -

Deborah Hill Cone's tale of re­for­ma­tion high­lights a prob­lem in con­tem­po­rary pol­i­tics — a re­treat to trib­al­ism. Hill Cone is far too ready to as­cribe bad in­ten­tions or a lack of care to right-wing views.

Whether you are a “left-wing” or “rightwing” per­son, this sort of think­ing is un­for­tu­nate, and does noth­ing to cul­ti­vate an ef­fec­tive so­ci­ety, nor po­lit­i­cal process. All it does is en­gage in a self­con­grat­u­la­tory ex­er­cise of iden­ti­fy­ing one­self as one of the good peo­ple, and os­tracis­ing all the bad, dif­fer­ently minded peo­ple. Yes, be­liefs may be sin­cerely held which are none­the­less in­cor­rect, but we should be care­ful in how read­ily we con­clude that the other side's pol­i­tics must be in­formed by some­thing as damn­ing as a lack of care or love. So­lu­tions to com­plex so­cial, eco­nomic and po­lit­i­cal prob­lems are al­most never as simple as the var­i­ous “sides” would have us believe, and ly­ing to one­self that they are is a road to de­spis­ing our fel­lows, lock­ing our­selves in a bub­ble, and be­com­ing frus­trated and furious that these prob­lems, sup­pos­edly cur­able sim­ply by car­ing more, are never fully solved.

As it is, Hill Cone's screed is lit­tle more than home­work in iden­ti­fy­ing how aw­ful “right-wing” peo­ple are com­pared to “left­wing” peo­ple (though she iron­i­cally shuns the lat­ter term as un­help­ful), and how the re­pen­tant au­thor was once a bad per­son, but fear not, has re­joined the ranks of feel­ing hu­man be­ings again.

Nei­ther “right-wing” nor “left-wing” peo­ple need to “con­fess” for some sort of wrong­think, nor do they need to “re­form” as though they were some sort of de­gen­er­ate; ex­cept per­haps at the most ex­treme ends of the left and right spec­trum (which share more or the same faults and flaws than they would like to ad­mit). We need ev­i­dence-based pol­icy which re­lies on rig­or­ous sci­ence to pro­pose ac­tual so­lu­tions. Where peo­ple's pol­i­tics fly in the face of clear ev­i­dence, then fine, demon­strate their id­iocy. You will find those op­por­tu­ni­ties few and far be­tween, though, and they will have lit­tle to noth­ing to do with a lack of love or care. Cur­tis Barnes, Dunedin.

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