Are you an absolutist? A wise man in a comedy sketch once claimed “only a Sith deals in absolutes”. For those of you that are unaware, the Sith were both a race and philosophy in the Star Wars franchise that were diametrically opposed to the Jedi. As these films portrayed, being a Sith and therefore an absolutist made you a bad guy. But what of the Jedi? Their code was equally absolutist, just on the other end of the scale. So that wise man must have been full of shit. He was also a Jedi.
Our society seems determined to deal in absolutes on a daily basis. If you criticise the Black Lives Matter campaign you are racist (regardless of some of the questionable actions of that organisation), if you complain about people not using the right gender pronouns you are too sensitive. Support any political party and you’re mired in the shit of absolutism.
There is another way. In both Buddhist and Taoist teachings, the middle path is the best way. An absolutist view or practice in anything is damaging. We are regularly told that too much of anything is bad and it is truly the case, such as eating too many deep fried oreos or running 20 kilometers every day. Liberal ideological ranting is as potentially damaging as conservative, so why follow either?
The ancient Greeks had a whole philosophical industry based on rational and logical discourse. There was no room for demagogues or ideological pedantry when discussing matters of import. It makes no sense in the modern age that we are stuck in such a pitiful state that leaders are pandering to the arsehole Siths and Jedis of the world and never attempting to find a healthy middle ground.
We have all the ability and none of the follow through. Our system allows us to learn and understand the world and our society but so many of us choose not to. As a group, humanity constantly and endlessly fundamentally fails to grasp the basic tenets that would assist us in fostering a better future.
The democratic system is a victim of this failure. Parties drowning in populist arguments at opposite ends of the spectrum fight over perceived power whilst no longer benefitting the masses. This year alone two campaign successes have shocked the world. That of Brexit and Trump. Something political pundits thought would never happen. What is the public’s response? An occasional ineffective protest that no one really pays much attention to. In no case over the past two years has a protest caused any substantial change.
What, then, is the answer? If we took the middle path and placed rational discourse above extremist demagoguery, we would be unable to be so easily manipulated. Individuals would be able to look at a situation and make a logical decision based on the facts as they are presented. We could finally abandon ridiculous notions that drive us apart and embrace concepts that would bring us together.
I know this is a departure from the usual topics contained within these Reality Checks, but it is no less important. Personal development is as much about how we deal with external factors as internal, as our actions and views are what others use to make a judgement of us as individuals.
Don’t be a Sith or a Jedi. Those arseholes started a millennia long galactic war that destroyed whole planets.