I saw something unusual the other day. Prophecy come to life. There is a stretch of road that I drive almost every day, now under construction. I guess there must have been some accidents, and the grading of the road made speed and visibility a problem. It was too hilly. So… as only a construction crew can do, with the aid of all those earth movers, they raised the low parts, and lowered the high parts. In Isaiah’s words, “Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain”. (Isaiah 40:4). They had found the middle ground, literally.
Middle ground can be a good thing. Aristotle extolled the virtues of finding the mean between extremes. It is part of his Nicomachean Ethics, his examination for what makes for the good life. Think about some of those extremes and you will see that he has a point. Courage. Too little is cowardice, too much is rashness. Temperence. Too little is to be a prude. Too much is to be prodigal. Liberality… too little is to be stingy. Too much is to be profligate. Pride. Lack of it is an inferiority complex. Too much will turn you into a buffoon. And so it goes. The mean finds a good balance.
You also know from dealing with people, that the ones you like generally are reasonable. They can see your point of view even if they do not agree with it. They can weigh why they think the way they do without getting into a huff or calling names. Another name for it, is to be called a grownup.
If being grown up and reasonable is a virtue, you would not know it if you examined the public forum these days. Decorum seems to have been lost. There is a lot of shouting, and name calling, particularly on the internet, where people dismiss others in a manner they might be ashamed of up close. There is a thin-skinned president who spends an inordinate amount of time on Twitter, going after people in ad hominem attacks. It does not look very stately, and it lacks grace.
Civility is up for grabs right now. In Canada we are approaching a federal election which we are told will be nasty. They are blaming populism as suspect, even dangerous. What is most interesting, is that advisors for politicians are warning them to forego the usual emphasis on ‘diversity issues’ and focus on the majority, the things which tie us together and make us a cohesive society. It is good advice, but it might be too little too late.
I am glad if the ‘experts’ are finally going this route, because it is long overdue. Polarized opinions are not a good thing. They can lead to unrest and violence in a society. Identity politics have pitted one group against the other for a long time, and politicians have pandered to this in a bid for votes. If you fear your neighbour, your thinking will be easily swayed by such antics.
Find someone you may consider to be threatening, a stranger or a foreigner, and sit with them for an hour discussing the raising of kids or what they like to do in their spare time, and you will know what I mean. The human face of all those common and everyday things ties us together, sometimes called the public weal.
Those who push public policy agendas are very much to blame for the mess we have found ourselves in. They have listened to activists and called it kindness. They have strayed so far to the left that there is no room for reason. They dismiss wholesale, viewpoints which are commonly held. Those common people are afraid to speak up lest they be called names. Hillary Clinton can write an entire book about “How I Lost”, and yet not entertain the word ‘deplorable’ as part and parcel of how that came about.
In Canada, tolerance has also ventured into strange territory. Trudeau’s Bill C-16 enshrined special rights to all issues of gender, though we have strayed from simple binary science in this matter. This bill failed to predict where we have landed up this past year. A rather unsavoury transgender activist has made it a cottage industry to approach estheticians with the request that they wax his manhood in order to validate his womanhood. Most people would not find this reasonable, and yet his litigious behaviour has been rewarded via the BC Human Rights Tribunal which has awarded cash damages from those unwilling to offer the service. It has become international news, how far Canadian human rights policy has strayed from sanity. It puts me in mind of the scripture from Romans, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools”.
It would seem that tolerance has become an oxymoron in terms. Common sense, has become uncommon. It might be some time for reflection, hopefully in time to salvage those things that hold us together. It is as good advice for nations as for human beings.
Somewhere out there we have made a left turn on the road and it was a mistake. We have lost the middle ground. It can make for some dangerous driving. Construction ahead. Let us hope that the valleys are raised up, the mountains laid low, and the crooked places made plain, just as Isaiah predicted.