It's an extension of the human condition; we seek to form groups from which to derive comfort and support. The same expression of humanity is
repeated over and over again in many different ways. But when it's used as subterfuge, and as a refuge, for scoundrels we have to step outside the
safety of our own group and deny them their swords and shields. This Op/Ed seeks to shed light on the cause, use and ways to combat political
We all do it
The strongest struggle we will experience will be against our own prejudice
We are all guilty of it to some extent. I label myself as “left leaning”, it helps convey my basic principles quickly. But it doesn’t convey
everything about me. It doesn’t convey my unlikely distain for affirmative action. It doesn’t convey my unlikely support for the Iraq War during
2002. It doesn’t convey a lot of things about me but I still use the label.
Does the fact that I class myself as “left leaning” mean that I think those who are “right leaning” are inherently wrong? Of course not, but
does my innate need to belong to a group cause problems? You bet. Do I want to correct these problems? Absolutely! Herein lays my impetus for writing
this article. It’s my overture to bipartisanship and my reasoning for doing so.
The human condition is prone to creating groups and distinctions between people. The gender, race, nationality and religion of a person has all been
used to prejudge and separate people for millennia. That we would eventually create political groups, and prejudge people based on them, was a
When evil men use our instinct of creating divisions to their advantage it becomes a problem. When political partisanship is used as a sword and
shield for nefarious individuals it becomes a problem. Do we allow our partisanship to continue to take centre stage and allow the spotlight of public
attention to continually miss its mark? Or is it possible to free ourselves from our comfort, convenience and ignorance?
To better understand why partisanship occurs, and why it has to go, our basic need for such human behaviour has to be understood.
Partisanship as a basic human trait
Humans are a social animal. The oldest and most primitive group we recognize is the family group. We all derive comfort and increased power from the
unity our family group provides. The next progression of this grouping was the extended family, which provided increased security and raised our
chances of survival.
The basic trait of banding together comes with requirements. Its no good banding together if everyone pulls in opposite directions. For example, Zog
says the family should stay put for the winter but Zug says we should all go south. Half the family follows him and the other half goes with Zog. Now
your overall familial strength is reduced, the chances of your family unit dying are increased. Consensus and like-mindedness within your group was a
matter of survival.
Over the years, this basic trait of finding groups and the need for consensus expanded to include every aspect of human endeavour. With the advent of
religion those who shared the same belief banded together. After contact between two different races, each race banded together to ensure their
existence. With the creation of nations the same basic human trait applied, nationalism ensures the survival of the nation as a whole.
Not only does this instinct to form groups provide protection, it also expedites our appraisal of individuals. For example, you bump into a stranger
in a foreign country, you are wary, you say "Sorry mate", the stranger replies "Hey are you Australian?", "yes!" you reply. You instantly
recognize some kind of bond and both of you let your guard down somewhat - its human nature.
Democracy is another human creation; as such, the basic human trait of forming groups of likeminded individuals in the interest of combined strength,
is applied to it. To form a democratic government you need to convince a lot of people of your worth. It’s a tall order, and one that would not be
possible if you had to slug it out and argue over every single topic with every citizen.
How do you overcome the hard task of convincing the majority of an entire nation? You form political parties and create manifestos – a set of
beliefs you can point to easily and not have to orate on a regular basis. Why reinvent the wheel and risk preaching to the choir? The creation of
political parties saves time and increases your chances of forming a government. If you have a manifesto you can espouse to by simply labelling
yourself a member of a party, you can draw strength from that group. This is not necessarily a problem.
When partisanship becomes a problem
Partisanship as a shield
Christian solidarity was used to shield those who carried out wholesale murder during the Crusades. The wilier amongst politicians similarly hide
behind their group to deflect personal criticism. They do it knowing they will be protected; to not defend them only weakens the group as a whole.
We instinctively protect our own. If you see an attack on a member of your social unit, you retaliate first and ask questions later. If you didn’t,
the use of groups as a survival mechanism would cease. We all do it, a parent does it for their child, a Pope will do it for his clergy, and political
parties will do it for their members.
When this instinctive protection is cynically exploited, and used as a shield to protect wrongdoing from all criticism, it becomes a major problem. If
you are partisan yourself, you cannot separate your attack on the wrongdoings of an individual from being seen as competing with their whole group
Partisanship as a sword
Partisanship is also used as an excuse to discredit an entire group based on the actions of an individual. The labelling of all members of a political
party as wrong over the actions of an individual also insulates those who do wrong, on both sides.
When you get to the stage where you can dismiss a person by simply hearing where they supposedly sit on a political spectrum, we all suffer from
What to do?
This leaves us in a situation whereby our basic human nature is being exploited by evil men to cover their tracks and to deflect attention from
themselves. An attack on them becomes an attack on the group, and is defended as such. Criticism from a rival group loses all individual merit and
becomes a matter of group survival.
Before complaining how its “other people’s partisanship” that’s the problem we need to realise that OUR partisanship is equally to blame. What
chances do we have of disabusing others of their partisan tendencies if we cling to ours for dear life?
Only when you can step outside the sanctity of your own partisanship can you seek to stop the scoundrels that run wild in our governments. Only when
we start to judge EVERY politician on their individual merits, instead of what political party they ally themselves with, can we appreciate that there
is good and evil every where. Only when individual integrity is the predicate of our support can we remove the scoundrel elements that prey on our
basic human instincts.
When some one asks you whether you are “left, right or centre?” tell them you are “above”. Tell them you are “above” the basic human
necessity to hide behind a label. Tell them you are “above” judging individuals purely on the basis of what group they belong to. Tell them you
are “above” defending scoundrels only because to not do so would weaken your group.
We’ve made racism, sexism, elitism and religious intolerance unacceptable, let’s evolve and do the same with our political inclinations. Beware
EVERY politician that furthers partisanship. Only when we all shun partisanship can we truly deny refuge to these scoundrels.
[edit on 4/7/05 by subz]