Polarization (in the political sense) is a term often used to describe the isolation or radicalisation of a position to the point of absurd, blind tunnel thinking. It was a buzzword during the US elections and now seems to skulk in the background, feeding off the uncertainty of the youth, and my generation. In the usual rambling sense, I came to an awful conclusion, something that appeared to tie into the political climate amongst my generation, and those before it. Could it be possible that groups such as the ‘Alt-right’ and ‘Antifa’ exist as products of polarization? I thought not, but the deeper I ran with the idea, the more presentable it became. Not only could it be the result of polarization, but also the mere disgust of mainstream political thinking. More often than not, the ideologies presented at these extremities is clear, cleared often to the point of which it can be accessible to a younger generation. In fact, I would argue now more than ever, figures behind these ideologies directly try to appeal to a youth, so that they can source an easily malleable supporter base.
Let me try to clarify, it appears to me that the general opinion of mainstream politics from a youth’s point of view is that it is an often very mature and intricate affair. But while this depth may deter many, it may also provide such an appeal that the individual is inspired to dig deeper. Upon doing so, they will come across notable figures from both the left and right. At which point they face a crossroads. Left? Or Right? Now, this choice may be taken for a plethora of reasons, be it the individual’s background, or the influence of those around them. However, the result will always be the same. A stumble down the rabbit hole, and the progressive indoctrination of the individual. Whether it be Stalin, Lenin, Mussolini, Mao, Hitler, or even slightly more obscure figures, the result will be the same. The individual will become generalized, and indoctrinated. It is at this point that they are fully polarized. They will latch onto key beliefs of the figure they idolize, without understanding the deep intricacy behind policy and attitude. The key slogan will circulate without any fact to support it, one of the most notable being to ‘Seize the means of production’. Now, you go ahead and ask them what it truly means, and I assure you, you will uncover the process of polarization.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that these people’s beliefs are faulty, or even false. After all, something within them had forced them at those crossroads, either Left or Right. However, it seems more and more these days that this phenomenon is commonplace, and I think this is down to a few reasons, some specific to the time period. With the rise of social media and internet, echo chambers become easier to access, often closing those within into a cycle of repeated false facts, or straight up propaganda. This highhandedly creates a blind faith within the individual for whichever ideology is chosen and leads to the undesirable arguments we see across the spectrum. Arguments in which we see little to no factual evidence used, or even if it is, it’s simply cast aside or deemed irrelevant, when in most cases it probably has everything to do with the point being made.
Another factor I believe is that like all young generations that have come before us, we are susceptible to trends. Unfortunately, nowadays it seems to me the ‘cool n’ hip’ thing to do is follow despicable figures from both sides. Now, I would have little issue with this, if they could defend their beliefs articulately. However, like most trends, they don’t really understand why they are following it, except for the fact that maybe their friend or a group (such as ‘Antifa’ or the ‘Alt-right’) exists to support it as well. The logic being, if a group exists to support it, it can’t be that bad surely. Again, I would have no problem with these people supporting these figures, after all, it is the basis of freedom of speech, something that is extremely important to me. However it saddens me to see that they do so with little knowledge to support their beliefs, and I am confident that if they knew how many million had died at the hands of communism and fascism in the last 100 years, they may change their mind. It is as if they are desensitized to the deaths of the past. To many, they are simply numbers on a page, a fact in a book written by an expert, and why should we listen to experts?
If there was just some way to make mainstream politics more appealing to the youth, we would not have to resort to these extremities. If we could just educate people on the policy and detail, then maybe we might stand a chance. I certainly do not want to see another holocaust in my lifetime, let alone a war.