Is the center dead?
I would like to believe that there is an alternate Universe where the lead species works in its own interest. I would like to believe that in this Universe, people of different opinion sit down to find compromise. I would like to believe that there is a time and place, somewhere in our future, where politicians will not espouse an extreme view but will instead labor to unearth the facts, use them to build models and then implement them without rancor for having shifted their views.
But for now, I guess we’re all stuck in this Universe, a place where the middle of the road has been gouged and then abandoned in favor of the cliffs on either side. We just do not have politicians willing to vote policy driven by reasonable data. Case in point are all the major legislative bodies of democracies around the world. No wait, that’s wrong, there are bodies that do adopt centrist views. There are bodies that do adopt policies that result from the best of several arguments. The European parliament is notoriously centrist. So too is Canada. Denmark, Norway and Sweden, though very social in their views, know a thing or too about fiscal responsibility.
Is Obama trying to find a middle road? Is he reaching across the aisle? He says yes. The Republicans say no. What matters to me is the result: it’s not happening. They are not working together. Will they, after the 2012 election, as President Obama promises he will? I don’t know whether he will or not, but I’m fairly certain that it won’t happen. Left and Right will not sit down and work towards the same end-game. Dana Bash, of CNN, said it best today when commenting on her five years covering Congress. She confirmed that congressional politics are a “blood sport”. That’s how it is, and that is how it will remain.
So what will it take to resuscitate the center? How will we one day have a country – many countries – who when faced with dissent, choose a Dalai Lama itinerary? When will countries reach across borders to find ways to share water, mineral resources, human resources and food? When will Iran, Israel and Iraq be part of a truly fertile crescent?
The first option is armageddon. Indeed, if the world collapses, people will rally. So all we can hope for is an asteroid or major volcanic eruption similar to the ones that drove dinosaurs into extinction 65 million years ago. You’re right, not the greatest option. Or, we could shift the rhetoric away from rhetoric (yes, that’s what I meant) towards fact. Agreed, not everyone agrees on facts. One person’s fact is another’s fantasy. But there are certain facts that are undeniable. Go ahead, pick up a coin in one hand. Open your other palm. Drop the coin into your palm. Do it again. Pick up the coin and drop it into your palm. Do it again. Do it 11 times. Did it always fall? Did it ever fly up and hit the ceiling or just float away into the adjacent room? It’s called gravity. It’s real and undeniable. No one can contest it. Yes, that is the top of the fact heap but there are others that, though obvious to most, can still be the object of disbelief. Take the round Earth. Yes, some still believe it is flat. What do we do? Do we leave them on the fringe? Do we pander to their folly? I say we bombard them with facts. We do not let up. At some point, they will start to turn. They will, one by one, realize the error of their ways. The same is true of global citizenry. We need more facts to drive the discourse. The more we have, the more this planet will work towards the middle; we will seek out equilibrium over the extreme.
I want facts. I want lots of them. I want fact checkers. I want face to face debates driven by data not discourse.
I want the center.