Beyond Left and Right: 6 Polarities that are more meaningful

Michael Nabert
15 min readJul 17, 2021

Simplistic binary thinking can’t navigate our complex world.

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

No one is impartial. Confirmation bias leads us to prioritize information that appears to confirm our pre-existing presumptions. Optimism bias leads us to assume that no matter how bad things get, we will personally be one of the lucky ones. In-Group bias leads us to trust or support people we know more than strangers, even when the strangers are more qualified. The lenses through which we interpret the world around us determine much. Sometimes, the solution to a problem begins with taking a step back to look at it from a new angle. This may be especially true when one way of framing information, such as the tribalism of political loyalty, seeps into and colours our perceptions of every other aspect of our lives.

The political divide has widened to a chasm. No place is safe. Go online to talk about anything mundane from gardening to comic books and vicious partisan brawls can break out at a moment’s notice. The (only theoretically) demilitarized zone between political factions is as strained as it has ever been. The other side has increasingly ceased to be recognized as fellow citizens with slightly different ideas about how best to move forward together. Bipartisanship, the idea that different approaches may have value and that a balanced compromise serves a useful purpose, has not only become impossible, but meaningless. You can compromise on how you’re going to respond to a shared understanding of reality, but any balance with someone who denies straightforward evidence while howling for your blood is a guaranteed disaster. Extreme voices instead declare any victory by their opponents will be a literal apocalypse and deny even their opponents’ basic humanity. Absolutely nothing can be reasonably discussed in a context like that. We need to take a step back and reframe our thinking. Since it’s in human nature to reduce shades of grey to black and white, simple polarities weigh heavily in our thinking. So if we step away from left and right for just a bit, let’s see how different the world looks when we try looking through a few different lenses.

Good and Evil

Michael Nabert

Researching a road map from our imperilled world into one with a livable future with as much good humour as I can muster along the way.