The Nightmare of Partisanship
I have a confession to make. While considering myself an open minded person willing to engage with a wide range of people with differing views and opinions, I found myself the other week sleepwalking into the nightmare of partisanship.
What is Partisanship? This link defines a partisan as an adherent or supporter of a person, group, party, or cause, especially a person who shows a biased, emotional allegiance. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/partisan. In my example I found my blindly adhering to a particular group from a feeling of emotional allegiance.
So back to my story. As somewhat of a fringe thinker I was discussing the Great Pyramid of Giza and the date and method of its construction. During this conversation I suddenly realised that I had been defending an idea from an emotional point of view rather than purely looking at information. While logically aware of relevant information such as carbon dating I had been somewhat emotionally clinging onto the concept that the Great Pyramid was not constructed at the time, and in the way, that mainstream scholars suggest.
I was doing this because a strong emotional divide has opened between academics and some lay persons with a questioning interest in history. Because I was strongly identifying with other lay persons I subconsciously felt obliged to stay emotionally connected to that group. To do otherwise, from the perspective of my primeval mind, would mean being flung out into the middle ground between two opposing camps and left alone, isolated!
We live today in a partisanship era where polarisation rules absolute. Blue and Red States, Scientists and Religionists, Mainstreamers and Conspiracy Theorists, Guardian and Daily Mail. In my opinion, in each of these situations many people have become so strongly identified with either group that they are completely blind to what the other group is saying – even if it is common sense. To do otherwise would be to leave the security and comfort of one’s corresponding group.
Partisanship makes us weak. It divides us and constricts the flow of information and ideas that are possible within a healthy, unified society. Partisanship poisons and returns us to our animalistic instincts of fight or flight – of insecurity and fear. You’re different from me, I fear you, I’m angry at you, I hate you. As Yoda would say!
The way forward lies in seeing beliefs and opinions as just that: beliefs and opinions, not as weapons which pose a threat to our security. Because when we take emotion out of the equation, the fear goes, the anger goes, and we feel much closer to those around us – even those who disagree with us on many topics. Then, we can escape the nightmare of partisanship, and all its associated negative consequences.
So, as a suggestion, next time you find yourself confronted with an idea which seems completely alien to you: ask yourself, am I rejecting this out of fact, because I wholly disagree with it, or I am I being emotionally swept along by the tug of partisanship?
There really is nothing to fear from those who are different to us.