I don't know if anyone else has noticed, but politics in the west is kind of a mess. And I'm not just talking about the US and the UK here, although these are two prime examples. No, but this is happening all across Europe too. It has become a worn-out cliche to say it, but I'm going to anyways: it seems that we're more polarized than ever. Or maybe the people aren't, but politics is. And it seems to me that people have stopped seeing the people with whom they disagree as simply people with different opinions. We now see these people as enemies, as people with fundamentally rotten goals for society. And excuse my French, but when and how the fuck did this happen? When you're on the left, you're almost obliged to see people on the right as racists, transphobes, and free-market fundamentalists. When you're on the right, you have no choice but to see people on the left as totalitarians, communists, and haters of free speech.
I think that the internet has played a big role in this process. The internet is full of places where people of a certain political orientation come together to make fun of others. But it's not just others, no, it's usually the extremists on the other side. All leftist platforms talk about is white nationalism, neo-nazism and Donald Trump. All right-wing platforms talk about are the extreme manifestations of socialism, feminism, marxism and other scary -isms. Clearly both of these form a tiny minority of the side they supposedly represent. Yet when you're on the internet, it seems like it's nazis versus marxists, and you have to pick a side.
What if we would acknowledge that most people actually have similar goals when it comes to politics? What we disagree about, is the way to get there. All except the most hardened extremists agree that freedom and equality are important, and that our politics should be designed to increase our indivudual and collective well-being. We need to rediscover that we're all humans and that, therefore, the things we want for are surprisingly similar. Our differences are relatively small and artificially exaggerated through the internet, and by parties who benefit from extreme division.
In a way, politicians themselves also benefit from sowing division. After all, it's easier to advertise yourself if you sharply distinguish yourself from your opponents. And if your opponents are literal nazis, you don't even have to be a great politician. You just have to be not a nazi. This is the lazy way out that, unfortunately, too many politicians are taking. We have to be bigger than that and stop rewarding the politicians who try to score cheap points by throwing mud on their opponents.
There is something to be said for progressive politics, but there is also something to be said for conservative politics. There is merit in emphasizing the individual over the collective, but also in emphasizing the collective over the individual. I don't mean to say that the truth is necessarily in the middle; I'm no enlightened centrist. What I mean is that we have to start our every thought and discussion about politics from the idea that our opponent might just have a point. That they're not automatically 100% wrong for disagreeing with you. This sounds so stupidly simple that it shouldn't even be worth pointing out, yet this exact assumption has been all but lost on the internet for some time now.
It's time that we set aside our tribal instincts and transform our politics into something that crosses boundaries instead of strengthening them. We have to start talking with each other if we want to stand a chance at building a better world.