Thursday, 1 May 2014

Where is the Centre?

Recently I joined an online dating site.

A special "Hi" to those of you who are joining us via that link :)

After dutifully filling out the profile so I could join in the fun, I found the optional Questions part of the site. Basically it's a tool that allows you to gauge other peoples opinions and beliefs before you get to the stage of having an all out blue at the bar with SurferGuy83 over abortion or religion. Not that I'm suggesting that either of those two subjects are great first date conversation starters, but you get the idea.

Within the millions of questions you can choose to answer about yourself, I found this one:
How would you describe your politics: Conservative/ Right-Wing, Liberal/Left-Wing, Centrist or Other.

Naturally I chose Liberal/Left-Wing, but it left me wondering, who is a Centrist in 2014, and what kind of views do Centrists have? Do they just pick exactly the same number of policies they like from each side, a kind of Political Pick and Mix? Surely if that's the case, then all the Centrists would be all at sea. It would be a rather individual position to hold too, because someone might really like black jelly beans and someone might hate them, but they could both be Centrists because the ratio of lollies in each of their lolly bags is still exactly 50 from the left and 50 from the right (for the potential dates in the audience, please note that I detest black jelly beans).

Black Jelly Beans - possibly the most detested foodstuff on the planet

Type Centrist Political in to Google and the US Centrist Party site is one of the top results.
Having been so focussed on the tennis match playing out between the Red and Blue parties in the US, I was surprised to learn that there is a Centrist Party in existence at all. Curious, I read further, and then I think I fell in love.

From What is a Centrist:

Centrists are independent thinkers. They gauge situations based on context and reason, consideration and probability. They are open minded and exercise conviction. Willing to fight for reason as opposed to ideology.
  1. Ideology limits the capacity of reasoning
  2. Centrist conviction is not limited by ideology
  3. Reasoning is based on pragmatic reality and circumstance.


Of course I had to devour the whole site after such a wonderful introduction. After a few minutes, I found the next gem that helped me reason out the answer to the question I posed as the title of this post.

By now we know that real Centrists do not just pick and mix an equal amount of lollies from the red and blue teams. They actually have to reason out which lollies are the best and decide if they are really worth $19.99 a kilo. Not that easy. Also a lot more time consuming. Centrists don't get an easy rule to follow like the kids on the Right or Left. Those kids choose what their ideology says they can - kind of like your mum saying "Only pick the lollies that are less than $9.99 a kilo" or "No chocolate lollies, you will make a mess." Towing the political line is taught young y'all.

So let's say our smart little Centrist kid is, by this stage, all by herself at the Political Pick and Mix bar because the other kids chose their lollies in 5 minutes flat. Less choice equals easier decision making my friends, and easier decision making means more expedient satisfaction. Tell me politicians don't use this tactic on voters all the time and I will happily slap you.


Centrist kid is in there, and she's been weighing up what to spend her $5 on. She's looked at all the prices per kilo, and worked out which ones represent the best value for money. She's also realised that gobstoppers are a bit pricey, but they last aaaaaaages and will be valuable trades later on because they don't melt (I was once a child, this reasoning really happens).

Good choice kid

Let's say that all the kids meet up afterwards and Righty and Lefty want to know what Centrist bought so they can trade. Centrist wasn't influenced by hard and fast rules, but as it turns out, Lefty also bought some gobstoppers while Righty is eating his like mad because he bought mostly cheap chocolate and it's going to melt - soon. Does this mean that gobstoppers were the best choice in this situation? Probably. Does is matter how the kids that bought gobstoppers came to that conclusion? You bet your left arm it does.

If being a Centralist means that you just consider facts when making decisions (and maybe not just facts presented by the two political voices we are so accustomed to hearing from), but use reason to decide on the right course of action, then let's make that policy viewpoint the centre. Yay, we've found it! The centre doesn't really mean much though if you have no other bearings, so let's continue.

If Lefty came to the same conclusion as Centrist because his mum told him not to pick chocolate, does that automatically mean that Centrist's conclusion is now a Left biased conclusion? Of course not. It means that there were two ways of reaching the same conclusion, one through reason and one through ideology.

Putting my far too drawn out analogy back in to grown up political speak, the point is that the Centre will usually be found by following the facts surrounding any given topic to their logical conclusion using reason. If that conclusion happens to be one that a Left or Right leaning party is already passionate about, that does not necessarily mean that the Centre has been influenced by anyone else, it just means that more people agree with the same outcome for different reasons. And just quietly, whoever can please the most people in politics usually wins.

What does this mean for Australian politics?

Well, on a lot of issues, policies that in the past have been seen as extremely Left leaning, such as renewable energy targets and environmental protection laws, are now looking far more Centrist. People who thought the Greens were a bunch of tree hugging hippies who wanted to turn Australia in to a National Park are now seeing merit in their ideas. Not just Left leaning people, but industry and business groups, communities and welfare groups. Turns out sustainability and renewably energy are pretty cost effective too. Who knew?

But wait, you say, no one has moved! I just proved that no party has moved from their ideology to become closer to the Centre, yet the Greens are now almost Centrist? What is going on?!

Ideology hasn't changed, dear readers, circumstances have. Facts that prove climate change is going to devastate our way of life without significant action have been available for a while now. Attitudes towards marriage and homosexuality have transformed dramatically in the last 20 years and family structures have changed.

Centrists are drawing conclusions from facts that are applicable in 2014. The Greens are drawing conclusions from beliefs they have held for years. While it might seem like a case of "I told you so" to some degree, the fact is (ha) that if the evidence weren't there to support the logic of their policies in 2014, their policies wouldn't be worth the paper they are written on.

Now that I have found the Centre of the Australian political ideology spectrum, I am going to have to change my online dating profile.

Excuse me.

Ps. Bonus points homework.
This is by far the best list of intentionally misused words in politics I have ever seen.
Read and refresh your understanding, or learn the true meaning or a term you've heard of but never fully understood. Oh gosh, these guys!! *swoon again*

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