Over the years, the world has been divided into seven parts of a line—extreme Left, left, centre to left, centre, centre to Right, right, extreme Right—also known as the left-right continuum. From being liberal to being fundamentalist, this spectrum covers an individual’s political compass or ideology.
If you open any dating app, a common profile bio will be to swipe in the opposite direction of your political ideology. In simple terms, if you are right-wing, please excuse yourself. Humans have always been a social species and our need to communicate with our partner is biological.
While a few decades ago, people of different ideologies were able to live together as they were mostly centre to Right or centre to Left or fluid (atleast in the Indian context), today it is impossible to do so. Most people have been moving their compass towards left and right. We can thank the advent of social media triggers for providing us stimulus for the extreme response, or we can blame the promises of the government to feed into hatred towards specific communities. There are plenty of reasons and research available for the same.
This article is not about how we reached there. This is a mere observance over the years while interacting with a few thousand people, thanks to the profession of the education sector. I believe that the political spectrum is not a line rather a circle.
Like Dante’s nine circles of Hell, the political spectrum should be the 10th circle for extremism. While the seven parts live on the circumference of this circle, the majority of people are inside the circle where they are fluid. They change their political identity with time and information. These can be divided into three types:
Fluid by force: those who struggle to make ends meet and will accept any political ideology which fulfils their basic needs.
Fluid by choice: those who keep unlearning and reading to understand themselves better and change it consciously with time.
Fluid by opportunity: basically politicians.
Over the last decade, I have interacted with many people who would place themselves on the Left or Right spot, but I could see they were on extreme ends. I started seeing the similarities between the two ends with more interactions, and I realised it’s not a line; it’s a circle. The Left and the Right meet somewhere and become one, if not on the agreement of policies, on the treatment of politics.
While the sense of superiority of being on the greater side is a psychological trait clearly visible among both, let me illustrate a few common grounds or beliefs they have:
Hatred for Gandhi: Extreme Right needed their own Hindu fundamentalists to gain power as Gandhi was already hijacked by Congress. Hence, the hatred seems obvious. Of course, Gandhi was killed by a person of their own ideological group. The extreme Left hates Gandhi for his remarks and actions on caste and women. Somehow, both blame him for the partition.
Love for Bhagat Singh: Extreme Left loves Bhagat for the belief in Communism and following Marx as well as Lenin. Extreme Right loves Bhagat for being a non-Gandhian non-non-violence freedom fighter. They discount the communism part or might not have read about it.
Beef or Veganism: I have met two sets of people on both extremes. On the Right, there are people who believe beef to be mentioned in Vedas and eaten by Brahmins, so they consume it. The second who love cow so much that they are vegan. Both the groups are okay with lynching. On the extreme Left, there are ones who believe beef to be the indigenous food of tribals and minorities, so constitutionally, they have the freedom to choose their food. The others who love all beings equally and consider veganism to be a part of feminism.
Hatred for Congress and AAP: Kejriwal went against the established rules, so it is obvious AAP gets hatred by both extreme factions. The Right hates them for giving freebies and the Left hates them for practising soft Hindutva. Similarly, Congress gets a chunk of disliking these days owing to their corruption in their second term of last decade. The entire Right hates them for being Left, duh. Extreme Left does not find Congress left enough.
Violence: Both groups are comfortable with the idea of using violence and consider it as a resort for safeguarding the rights of the oppressed. The idea or definition of oppressed differs by a diameter. It is the individual freedom and serving the society they relate to which trumps innocent lives or collateral damage. Thus, both have led to the formation of militant organisations across the world.
Indian Tradition: Yoga and Ayurveda both are a part of the daily routine for them and give them a sense of superiority for living this sustainable life closer to nature compared to others.
Savior Complex: Both sides feel good about themselves for helping others and consider it their job and purpose to save society.
Authoritarianism: Far left and far right have adhered to be against democracy and pro-anarchy while being authoritarian about their views of how society should be. They keep an anti-capitalist, anti-globalisation stance for markets.
Intolerance: While the far-Right might associate dissent with being anti-national, the far left associates the same with not being woke enough to understand the concept. It’s pointless to debate with either of them and if we put both of them in the same room, the nation will win.
While these are just minute observations and there can be a sample bias or confirmation bias, some of the other points will apply in varying degrees. If the darkest places in Hell are reserved for those who maintain neutrality in moral crisis *coughs centrists*, what punishment do these people get for being on the extreme of this circle?
Well, being there itself is enough of a punishment. We should wish them “Get well soon”.
After penning down the observations, I found references of similar studies in West and *pats the back* same outcomes. The most cited one was a paper by Herbert McClosky. Do give it a read.
(An extreme left and an extreme right person went to a bar, gunshots were heard, but everyone got free drinks.)