Friday, March 04, 2005

Diversity Of Opinion

It never ceases to amaze me what the human mind is capable of coming up with in its quest for discerning order in the world. The world is so full of diverse opinions! Human thought can produce everything from science to conspiracy theories.

We may laugh at some people's opinions, because we just know they're wrong. We may think the world would be better off without certain opinions being in it. But all of these have a role to play, and it often is not obvious except in centuries of hindsight what role it was.

Specifically, I've been thinking about the role that the extreme left- and right-wing opinions play. I know some people would rather do without one or the other (or both), but I think they are more important than they're given credit for. They serve as bumpers that keep the bowling ball of politics from rolling into either gutter.

Righties ridicule environmentalists as effete NIMBYs with more concern for spotted owls than for other people, but the environmentalists' counterarguments add to the much-needed conversation about the proper stewardship of the land. Likewise, citified lefties may be disparaging of Wal-Mart as lowbrow culture schlock; like the kids on the schoolyard making fun of the fat kid, they would only find something else to make fun of if there were no Wal-Mart, because those they consider "lowbrow" continue to need to buy their stuff somewhere, and still have the culture that is being considered "schlocky." The counterarguments to this position point this out-- but would not be entered into discourse if it weren't for the criticisms of the left.

We can only engage in meaningful dialogue when our positions are challenged. We need dissent. We need a diversity of opinion. We need people who think the PATRIOT act makes model rocketry illegal, and we need people who think that a background check is taking away their Second Amendment rights. All of these people, along with those of us with more moderate political opinions, make up the American nation, and we can't do without a single one.