Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Left and Right

We are used to thinking about political convictions in terms of left and right. In our minds, we see a straight line that accommodates political and ideological stances from the most progressive to the most conservative. However, I often feel that the range of political beliefs is best represented not by a straight line but by a circle. The further you go to the right, the likelier you are to arrive at the extreme left. Sounds paradoxical, doesn't it?

I was reading Scheibeler's The Merchants of Deception when I noticed a striking similarity between the ideological position of the extremely conservative, fiercely Republican group of people that he describes (Amway employees) and Marxist ideology. Just consider the following quotes from the book:

"There were several examples that were frequently used to reinforce the group’s
paradigm that employers were oppressive" (42).

In their opinion, people who worked "were relegated to a lifetime of servitude to an employer who would forever control both their time and their income" (68).

"Many distributors actually began to detest their employers for taking advantage of
them and reaping the harvest of their employees’ labor. People often spoke of how hard
they worked for years with little or no respect only to have the owner and his wife go to
Hawaii, while they stayed back to watch his business" (79).

As we can see, these hardcore Republicans arrive at Marx's questioning of why the employer should be entitled to the fruits of the employees' labor. Move a little further in this direction and you will undoubtedly arrive at the necessity for a social revolution.

Now let's take an example of a radical feminist and a die-hard male chauvinist. As different as their political agendas undoubtedly are, it is entirely possible for both of them to proceed from the same ideological assumption: women are different. See how we have come a full circle by going in opposing directions?

Another example: an atheist (not to be confused with an agnostic) and a profoundly religious person. You'd think they have nothing in common. Not so. They actually share an extremely important conviction: they both KNOW for sure. A full circle yet again.

Fascism is supposed to be located at the right end of the spectrum and communism on the left. However, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union had a lot in common. Stalin admired Hitler, while Hitler learned a lot from Stalin. A circle, not a straight line.


Anonymous said...

Nazi Germany and Soviet Union had a lot in common: true. But can you explain why sadomasochists see Nazi Germany aesthetics as sexy, while Soviet Union is not?

Anonymous said...

Just imagine people doing it against the background of Soviet symbols. :-) That would have been something.

But, seriously, do you have an answer?

Anonymous said...

People do it with Nazi symbols/accoutrements... but Soviet symbols are major turn-offs.
I do not have an answer for you but it is sure funny to think about it this way. What I can say is that I am not a fan of thinking about similitudes between the right and the left ends of the political spectrum. It reminds me the conservative argument about the blurred frontier between left and right.

Clarissa said...

I believe that whenever you try to develop your own political positions, you will find that you cannot subscribe completely to the agenda of any one political party or movement. When you accept a certain political position and carry it to the extreme, you will end up having a lot in common with the extremists on the other side.

I have noticed, for example, a scary similarity between the workings of Amway (an extremely conservative distribution company) and the unions. The structure, the organization, the everyday practices, the way people relate to each other within the organization are the same. Ideologically, they want to achieve the opposite goals but somehow they end up with the same way to organize for those goals.