Adapted from Cultural Maturity—A Guidebook for the Future
The goal of getting beyond partisan pettiness in the political arena would strike many people as impossible to achieve. Most people would find even more surprising the fact that the relationship between Left and Right has always been “conspiratorial.” The new ingredient today, courtesy of Cultural Maturity, is not the complementary relationship between polar positions, but the need for us to bring consciously integrative solutions to our political discourse.
It is very hard to explain what we see historically if the interplay of partisan opposites has not been an ultimately collaborative sort of relationship. We’ve witnessed cycles of influence, but never has one polar extreme won out once and for all. Over time, influence has been pretty close to balanced, and with remarkable frequency elections are won by a few percentage points or less. If competing sides represented only differing beliefs, the most useful belief would ultimately prove victorious. What we have seen instead is much more consistent with unwitting cooperation. A back and forth cycle like the one in politics reflects a larger relationship, and not just a static relationship, but one that serves to drive creative change. With today’s new questions demanding more consciously encompassing perspective, simple back and forth these days works less and less well, producing gridlock and cynicism more than creativity. But in time, our growing, if not always obvious, new ability to step back and see the larger systemic picture, should again let us apply difference to reach creative ends.
We can use the recognition that what we see reflects not just contrasting beliefs, but also underlying polar relationships, to in turn help us better understand what we might expect to witness with greater maturity in the political sphere. Right away, it supports the conclusion that getting beyond political pettiness demands more than some moderate or middle-of-the-road position. If our task is culturally mature decision-making, falling off either side of the road or walking down the white line in the middle leaves us equally at risk—whatever the question and whatever that question’s particular polarities. The needed perspective requires that we step over Cultual Maturity’s threshold and into a fundamentally new territory of discourse.
Appreciating the workings of polarity also affirms the recognition that getting beyond such pettiness is not at all about political discourse becoming less animated or even less contentious. (Often the result is quite the opposite.) What it is specifically about is the political process becoming more consciously systemic, and through this, more overtly creative. Political discourse will get more capable of whole-ball-of-wax perspective, or it will simply stop working.
(We can simplistically but usefully understand Right and Left in the political arena in terms of the juxtaposition of more archetypally masculine and feminine tendencies. On the Right we find “harder,” more difference-biased values—competition in the marketplace, a strong military, the integrity of national borders, and rugged individualism. On the Left we find values of a “softer,” more relationship-biased sort—identification with the disadvantaged, government as advocate for the common good, environmentalism, and equal rights. This recognition supports the conclusion that each side contributes to the needed larger understanding. It also makes clear how either side, if we make it the last word, becomes very much a problem. To be precise when using such language in this context, we need to add that the reference is to this underlying polarity as it manifests specifically at our time in culture’s story.)