Earlier, I proposed a different way to view the political spectrum, placing political ideology on a left-to-right axis and willingness to criticize one’s own side on a vertical axis. I argued that, in order to improve the discourse, and eventually improve policy, the conversation needs to shift from the bottom of the diagram to the middle and top, wherein individuals with opposing views actually engage each others’ ideas.
The same improvements to political discourse, I believe, could yield vastly improved policies and results in the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This conflict can be resolved only when individuals on each side actively engage people with whom they disagree, and criticize their own side at appropriate times.
Consider the diagram below:
Contrasting this diagram with the one from last week, you’ll notice it’s missing the center column, as there really are no moderates or centrists involved this debate. Based on place of birth, skin tone, and religion, everyone involved in this debate is automatically cast onto to side or the other. The bottom third of the diagram includes only the Hard-Liners, those refusing to compromise on any issue, and shows them to be incapable of engaging each other. The path towards communication between opposing sides lies through the higher levels of the diagram, wherein Thinking and Contrarian types attempt to engage each other.
There are two issues to address in improving this dialog: first, shift the discussion upwards. Individuals on both sides need to be willing to criticize their own side when appropriate. These discussions between dissenting members of the same “side”, need to be made public, and those making contrarian arguments need to be engaged rather than ostracized. Hard-liners need to recognize the importance of shifting away from an “Us vs them” mentality, and work towards real solutions that are acceptable to thinking members of both sides. Second, thinkers need to identify and engage in discussion with intelligent people on the other “side” of the issue, of different religion, ethnicity, and skin tone.
By marginalizing the hard-liners, by communicating actively and openly, and by reaching out to the other side, policy compromises can emerge that address the region’s difficulties. To do so requires a certain disconnect, an awareness and objectivity that may not be available to those entrenched in the current back-and-forth. I don’t expect this shift in discourse to happen soon, but there are, perhaps, positive signs for the long term.