Caught in the Middle

You might say that I’m an idealistic romantic, tempered by time and experience into a somewhat cynical pragmatist, who’s been caught more times than I can count between extremists on both sides who insist that their view is the only “true” one, and that their interpretation of events and facts is the only accurate one. I’ve also self-classified myself as a moderate, dangerous as that has become in a culture that has become more and more self-oriented and more and more polarized. Why do I say dangerous? Because attempting to point out that there are truths and lies on both sides can subject one to attacks from the true believers on each side. And, unhappily, there are “sides,” whether they’re called that or not, because people do have differing beliefs, based on their environment and their heritage, and, yes, even their genetics. I’ve seen this in my own extended family where, at times, siblings of the same parents have very different views of fundamental issues.

I’ve also observed that today there are fewer and fewer people who want to steer a middle course, and more and more who believe that moderation, or an understanding that one can’t remedy evils just with the enactment of a law or a proclamation, is a sin of the first order and who believe that a simple and extreme “solution” is the answer, ignoring the fact that virtually all such extreme solutions can’t be implemented, either practically or legally.

Both the extreme “Trumpists” and the extreme “Sandernistas” also seem to have the feeling that, if they don’t get all of what they want immediately, the system is rigged. And, in a way, they’re right. The Founding Fathers designed our government so that immediate and radical change in government was close to impossible. That doesn’t mean change can’t occur; it just means that you have to work at it for much longer. But some of these people turn their backs on what has been accomplished because they didn’t get everything they wanted immediately, which is another expression of the current situation, because not only is the electorate polarized, but the extremes on both ends want their polarized goals and ideology implemented instantly.

The current presidential election highlights this cultural disaster, because surveys indicate that the factor motivating most voters is not support FOR a candidate, but opposition to that candidate’s opponent. And how did this all come about?

In a single word – dissatisfaction.

Despite the fact that the United States and a number of other industrialized nations enjoy historically the highest standard of living overall, and certainly the best level of health, all too many people are unhappy. The have-nots are unhappy because they feel that too much of the recent economic gains go to the top one tenth of one percent, a feeling not unjustified by the fact that over eighty percent of American families have seen either flat or falling incomes (in real dollars) over the last ten years and that in the recovery since 2008, 85% of the income gains have gone to the top one percent of earners. Add to that the fact that somewhere between sixty and eighty percent (depending on the study) of new jobs have wages that pay less than $17.00 per hour, and roughly half pay below $13.50 [which amounts to annual wages barely above the poverty line for a family of four.

Much of the middle class and former middle class is unhappy, simply because, at best, their incomes have remained flat while costs of everything, especially education and medical care, have climbed.

Those who make more aren’t exactly happy either, because they’re working longer hours for minimal increases in income, at a time when U.S. non-hourly employees and professionals already work the longest hours in the world.

Only the top one tenth of one percent are doing really well income-wise, and they’re spending billions on the elections because there’s really only one place that there’s a large pool of taxable income necessary to cut the federal deficit or to pay for new programs – and that’s in their bank accounts and securities portfolios.

And that’s just the income dissatisfaction, without getting into education, the struggle over environmental issues, crumbling infrastructure, foreign trade, and a host of other problems.

But the bottom line is, no matter which side you’re on, or even if you have no side, problems that have been building for a generation can’t be solved as the result of one election, or simple one-time solutions, particularly if no one wants to recognize the problems that others have.

4 thoughts on “Caught in the Middle”

  1. darcherd says:

    In every revolution, it’s the moderates who die first. They’re killed by both sides.

  2. invah says:

    >And, unhappily, there are “sides,” whether they’re called that or not

    It is incredibly disheartening that this is what you pulled from that discussion, and that you are unable to even intellectually acknowledge the intersectional system-based model of analysis.

    That people perceive “sides” when it comes to that issue is problematic – it misrepresents the nature of the problem, it is not accurate, and it feeds into existing biases and cognitive distortions. It will also lead to (expensive) ineffective ‘solutions’.

    You cannot accurately predict what you or others will do, how society will evolve or transition, if your internal model of reality is not accurate.

    >who’s been caught more times than I can count between extremists on both sides who insist that their view is the only “true” one, and that their interpretation of events and facts is the only accurate one

    It is important to take great care with how we construct our identities because people will generally sacrifice truth, will endure pain and misery, in order not to go against who they believe themselves to be.

    Believing you are a “pragmatist” and “moderate” ‘in a sea of extremism’ is a identity-defining narrative. This is an invisible trap, an unseen shackling of cognition, an ego-boosting story that you can tell yourself, and so process/filter/analyze everything through this filter. But because you believe these things about yourself, you’ll also erroneously believe that your conclusions are objective and factual.

    >But the bottom line is, no matter which side you’re on, or even if you have no side, problems that have been building for a generation can’t be solved as the result of one election, or simple one-time solutions, particularly if no one wants to recognize the problems that others have.

    We need to stop sacrificing accuracy for (false) reality-defining narratives so that we can accurately ‘build’ a model of reality that will allow us to reliably make predictions.

    I am reminded of Isaac Asimov’s approach to psychohistory.

    1. I’m reminded of the very old adage that there are none so blind as those who will not see. People do take positions that others take as opposition, regardless of whether you in your ivory tower declare that this is not so. In response to that opposition, the first group then solidifies its position, and anyone who suggests otherwise gets attacked by both sides. What’s technically accurate isn’t the question. What people believe and act upon is.

  3. Tom says:

    While I agree with much of your opinion I bring myself up short trying to imagine a practical solution and that makes critical analysis difficult if not pointless. The politics we have world wide at this time remind me that you did not do what I thought and hoped you would in your ‘Madness In Solidar’; discuss the possible ways a ruler can show power to rule well but not abuse the nation.

    As I recall it the psychohistory of Asimov took millennia to evolve and what he wrote is dated now by our evolving post-industrial “me” society which Asimov did not have to deal with. The “Empress of Eternity” amusingly deals with this is, in a way, with the description of the middle technical society evolution.

    Back to the drawing board.

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