Them and Us… and me

“All good people agree,

And all good people say,

All nice people, like Us, are We

And every one else is They”

/Rudyard Kipling/

We live in an era of extremes. The middle ground has disappeared. Actually, it did not disappear but it became invisible to all but the very few who still choose the middle ground. For everyone else it is perceived as being part of the opposite ground. The other tribe. The enemy.

Today, humanity, in all its complexity has been reduced to two pronouns: ‘Them and Us’. ‘If you’re not us, you’re them’, an antagonist. If you do not fully reject everything Jeremy Corbyn says, you’re a commie. If you entertain an idea heralded by the Tories, you’re a fascist. It became impossible to point out the futility of leaving the EU without being called a luvvie remoaner. Similarly, one cannot now criticise the EU without being branded a boneheaded brexiter. Not happy with the way things are run in Hungary? Only unconditional rejection can join the opposition. Agree, with something the opposition said? Say no more, you’re a Soros-financed agitator.

The most important skill I gained as an academic is the ability to look for the value in all opinions. It’s a precious skill to possess. It allows me to synergise two starkly contrasting viewpoints. It’s the ability to rise to synthesis from a thesis and antithesis. Today the social value of this skill is virtually zero. Probably, even negative. If i join the blind and unconditional extremes of one side, then at least I get the support of ‘my kind’. If I’m in the middle ground, I’m showered with hatred from both sides. And it has to be hatred. Unconditional and unqualified. This is not a time or place for empathy or compassion, only for fundamentalism.

What does a social scientist do in these times? I really struggle to see. Walk away? Shut up? Research something that nobody cares about anyway? Is there any hope for the middle to regain some of its lost ground? What can I do to help? Help?