If you are not living under a rock, you must have heard these terms a lot in the past few months: left-wing or right-wing, conservative or liberal, and the centrist or moderates in the middle. Although you would get a definite answer from an average joe/jane about their political leaning tendencies, most people who subscribe to either side don’t even know where do these words originate from and what, in turn, does it really means to actually be one.
They either hear about it from their friends, or watch some YouTube videos, or worst-case scenarios, they listen to their political party leaders, most of whom explain only a part of the whole meaning and conveniently exclude the repercussions of being associated with either one of these. These days when information is everywhere, and the cancel-culture is prevalent, people have lost all meaning of these and anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their thinking is labeled as stupid and from the other side of the aisle.
So, what does being right-winged, centrist or left-winged actually mean?
Historically speaking, the term left or right-wing came from the French revolution in 1789 when the members of the French National Assembly disagreed while drafting their constitution. The debate raged on, leaving all the loyalists to the King standing on the `right` to the king's chair and the supporters of the revolution towards the rest. According to one deputy, the Baron de Gauville, this was done by the Right winged supporters, or `the conscientious defenders of the constitution in order to avoid the shouts, oaths, and indecencies that enjoyed free rein in the camp of the Left, or the `revolutionists` or `innovators`. Of course, the Centre, Centrists or `Moderates`, gathered in the centre.
How does these affiliations affect a common man?
During the morning assembly every day in school, back when we were kids, there used to be morning prayers, some thoughts of the day, and a pledge of allegiance. That pledge, or oath, was towards our country, that we would uphold the integrity of our nation and would even lay down our lives for the protection of our great nation and its people. Our heroes were not from the Marvel universe but were peaceful Gandhi, angry young man Bhagat Singh, the iconic trio Lal Bal Pal, among others. What’s common between all of them? All of them were nationalists, wanted freedom for our country, and gave their lives trying to achieve their goal.
Step out of the cozy cocoons of your homes and tell someone what you really think about something, what your actual thoughts are, and if turns out that you are nationalist to a fault, so much so that you would give your life to defend it and even take a life as well, you would be ostracised faster than you could blink. Your life, as we know it, would be over, you might lose your friends, ridiculed in society, and can even cost your job or other opportunities. Case in point, Gina Carano(recently fired by Lucasfilm for tweeting how she thinks there was a voter fraud that occurred during the 2020 USA presidential elections) or Rashmi Samant (removed from being the Oxford Student Union President amid racism row).
Not going into the semantics and the detail of either of these example cases, my problem, as a centrist, is that the freedom of speech is taken away from people right of the centre if they express their views and speak their mind. These days the situation is so far gone, that if a liberal speaks their mind, they are applauded, praised, and hailed as a hero and a warrior for social justice. On the other side, god forbid, if a right-winger speaks their mind, they are called a slew of names and shamed in the society as a whole.
The liberal arts and humanities society has made the world believe that the people who subscribe to the right of the centre, are the devil, the root of all evil, and is a bad place to be in. This however has other repercussions, then what seems to be on the surface.
The basis of a good society is public discourse, open, free, and a safe place to say what they want to say and believe. The right has been, at least these days, asking for a true discourse, rather than just asking everyone to subscribe to their views and ideals. We already know from history what happens when one side curbs the other`s freedom of expression, and we don’t want to go through that again, for the sake of humanity.
This not just hurts the public discourse between the right and left, they hurt people like me, the centrists as well. We make up our minds on policies, not parties or ideologies. Centrists tend to see the pros and cons of a particular issue, and how the government in power is tackling it. We could be in agreement with either of them on some issues, irrespective of the side they are from. Do you think people like us would be able to speak our mind?
The demonic step of curbing someone`s freedom of speech is not a safe space for any one of us, no matter which side of the centre we land. What we do need is to have a proper, respectful dialogue and the resolutions of our issues by cooperating with each other, as a society just consisting of just either one of us is bound to fall.