It’s easy to believe that if all people held views similar to our own, the world would be a better place. Certainly the extremes and distortions grabbing the headlines are not helpful. But even in a more evolved world, there would still be those who are naturally more conservative and those who are naturally more progressive, not necessarily in a negative way. The range reflects normal variations in human temperament.
The yin/yang symbol (above) illustrates the relationship between any true opposites, such as feminine/masculine. The black dot in the white portion shows the feminine at the core of the masculine, and the white dot, the masculine at the core of the feminine.
The site Personal Tao defines yin/yang as “two halves that together complete wholeness. Yin and yang are also the starting point for change. When something is whole, by definition it is unchanging and complete. So when you split something into two halves — yin/yang — it upsets the equilibrium of wholeness. This starts both halves chasing after each other as they seek a new balance with each other.”
The political left and right are not separate entities but two aspects of one whole seeking a new balance to bring change. Seeing them in a circle demonstrates their interdependent relationship, how they swirl into and anchor one another, and how one cannot exist without the other. Progressivism can be expansive without flying away because conservatism anchors it; conservatism can be stable without stagnating because progressivism challenges it to grow. Each is relative to the other. Conservatism is like the roots of a plant; progressivism is like the foliage.
As humanity has evolved, many views once embraced by conservatives (such as the validity of slavery and monarchy) have mostly fallen by the wayside, and once-liberal views are now mainstream or conservative (such as support for representative government). Progressives are the gas pedal and conservatives are the brakes. To take a journey, we need the gas pedal far more often than the brakes, but without brakes, we’d be in trouble.
As progressives and conservatives seek balance with each other, a new order is formed. When they conflict, working against each other, it is like using the gas and brake pedals at the same time, making for a jerky ride. Another analogy is our right and left legs working against one other — how much better it is when they complement; then we can move forward.
We can also see yin/yang in the brain’s left and right hemispheres. Some people are more right-brained, some are more left-brained, and some are balanced. However, all people can benefit from better integrating their right and left brains, allowing for a free exchange of information between them so that the brain as a whole can function more effectively. The political left and right can also benefit from integration. Extremes result when one side tries to function without being balanced by the other; they exclude a large part of reality. Extremes distort; the path of evolution is one of integrating opposites, which reduces extremes.
Paradoxically, opposite extremes are similar to each other, and the yin/yang symbol shows why. In politics, fascism is the extreme right and communism is the extreme left. They are archenemies, but both are oppressive in their totalitarianism. As the yin/yang diagram illustrates, the extreme left moves toward the right, and vice versa, so that far-left radicals sometimes adopt the tactics of the far right, and vice versa.
Similarly, the extreme masculine (the “tail” of the white half of the yin/yang symbol) moves into the feminine (the black half). If a person tries to move away from the feminine by becoming hypermasculine, he tends to meet the feminine again on the other side. For instance, highly aggressive men sometimes become highly submissive in the bedroom in an effort to balance themselves and find relief from their extremity. A majority of male crossdressers are heterosexual, and many are macho in their usual persona. Extreme feminists sometimes adopt a masculine persona. People into BDSM (bondage and discipline, sadomasochism) often switch roles. Bullies sometimes become crybabies when they go off the deep end, and victims sometimes commit violence when they can’t take it anymore.
The yin/yang symbol represents the whole. To be whole individually, we need to honor both sides within us. Collectively, we need the best of both the right and left to be whole and to move forward constructively. The truth is a collection of all individual truths, assembled in proper proportion; we need everyone’s truths to make up the truth.
In our house-divided state, both right and left, especially toward the extremes, tend to paper over or leave out important facts that don’t support their arguments — neither side is whole. There’s often an unwillingness to grant the other any points, to give credit where it is due. If we’re open-minded and value truth and fact over doctrine and partisanship, we can find genuine points of agreement with those in other camps and come closer to assembling a true and complete picture.
Although many people identify as being progressive, moderate, or conservative, when you question them about specific policies, their views often aren’t what you’d expect. People are complicated, and it can be simplistic to classify people’s political perspectives as being either right or left. Like other stereotypes, the generality of progressive/conservative works part of the time, but especially those who think expansively aren’t likely to have such easily classified views. Left/right seen in a linear way looks like either/or, differing only by extremity, but as a yin/yang relationship, it looks less cut-and-dried — every point within the circle has a different, complex view and relationship to the whole. Much “us vs. them” conflict could be neutralized if we switched from a linear to a holistic paradigm.