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LEFT, RIGHT OR CENTRE: It's time voters pondered on the correct decision
WITH the general election, as it is, perennially around the corner, the voting populace is once again faced with the question of which side they're on. Because polls are all about picking sides. They are about making decisions. They are about making choices. Not permanent ones. But ones that have a lifespan of at least five years in our parliamentary democracy.
So, which side are you on? Right or left? This or that?
How does one even begin to answer that question? Is it any different from being asked, "yes or no?" It is vague and it is ambiguous. It is a sentence without a subject or a predicate. A motherless child. A stray, left to fend for itself in infinite grammatical space. "Yes or no?" Without context it's meaningless. To agree or disagree without perspective is surely the recourse of the ignorant.
"Right", like handedness, is after all a lot more popular. It is the positive of your two halves. Itchy right palms indicate the imminent arrival of money, while itchy left palms represent its very opposite. Getting out of bed right foot first almost always means you'll have a good day. Doesn't it? The wrong side of the bed then, is surely the left. And what about that ringing in your right ear?
"Right" is often stronger. Like most right hands, it is a little more defined. Naturally. It is after all the one that you're partial, too. Unless, of course, you're left-handed. Which is in itself a rarity. About 13 per cent of the population. And majority rules. Right?
But maybe we're just being impulsive and haven't yet properly considered the alternative. "Left", being on the other hand, is atypical. It is unique and that is certainly a good thing these days. They don't stone you for that any more. They don't hold your head underwater to prove you aren't a witch. Not any more.
But like handedness, "left" does have the weight of folklore to overcome. In France, for example, it was widely held that witches greet the devil avec le bras gauche or "with the left hand". What about those ghosts we see when we look over our left shoulder? Isn't that why we throw spilled salt over in that direction? To placate the devil?
But superstition and myth aside, devil or not, I'm quite certainly more "left" than "right". I favour a government that taxes more and spends it on activities such as welfare, healthcare, education and funding for the arts. I favour personal and political freedoms over economic ones. And even though I'm not necessarily at odds with the free market. My views on abortion and homosexuality are more or less in line with being on this side than the other.
But the "right" isn't always wrong. They're dead on when it comes to laissez faire capitalism, and military defence. I'm just not sure I like the idea of being associated with a concept that's been previously abused by the likes of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.
Yes. Being this side of right is feeling pretty good so far. It implies a certain level of progressiveness. Unless, of course, you were being graphical. In which case I'm clearly on the wrong side. Go on, look at any diagram, be they timelines, or scatterplots or histograms. Draw a line from left to right.
Progress always goes from this way to that. Positive in the x and the y. Going "right" means going forward and we do want to be going forward. No looking back. It's all future, future, future. Traversing that thin black line. The one with an arrow at the end that's clearly pointing that way.
"Right or left?" It's a difficult question and we do want to make the correct decision. We would like it to be as accurate, as exact, as precise, and as true a choice as possible. And while being "left" doesn't necessarily mean being untrue, or incorrect, or inaccurate, or in any way the opposite of being right, it is, however, burdened by the inertia of implication.
We could take the easy way out. We could be neither left nor right. The centre can't possibly be too bad a place. It's easy and it's unobtrusive. There's no meddling or interfering. It's oh-so-perfectly neutral. The Swiss seem to thrive in it. It sounds easy enough, and really rather tempting.
But how do you really feel about subscribing to the notion of neutrality? It seems so wishy-washy, so indecisive. It seems to stagnate, to not go anywhere. It's like the late, great Harry Lime once said (or was it Orson Welles): "... in Italy for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love -- they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock."
"Right or left?" This way or that way? Right or wrong? Yes or no?