The polarizing effect of talking bushes

Photo: Not my views but just a sample of how easy it is to brand things

It is all too easy to polarize concepts and perceptions.

Are you to the left politically? If you aren’t you must be to the right?

Do you want David Oddson out of politics? Then you must be for Jon Asgeir Johannesson’s domination of the retail market.

Against whaling? Must be a left-green.

Against high-income tax? Must be an Independent Party member.  

Did you protest? Must be a communist. 

You didn’t protest? Must be a capitalist. 

Do you like Björk? Must be against aluminum production. 

Coffee or tea person? You cannot possibly like both. 

Are you a Liverpool fan? You cannot really appreaciate the genius of Cristiano Ronaldo. 

Somewhere in the last century our world was split in two. For and against. Nothing in between.  Left and right. That was the world that shaped so many of our current political leaders and social commentators. Not just in Iceland but pretty much everywhere. 

I’ve tried to divorce myself from this. On some issues I would traditionally lean right, on others to the traditional left. What it brings me are my own opinions. And the result is that the left-leaning arm of family thinks I am a card-carrying Independent Party member and my friends to the right think I am a downright communist. 

It is just so easy to brand the other side when you confront other ideas than your own. When I expressed my concerns about the business-ethics of Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson and Bjorgolfur Thor in 2007, my then boss told my I was a communist. Cue the end of any meaningful conversation. 

I criticize the Independent Party a lot in this blog. But I have voted for them as recently as 2006 in the local elections. Its just that in my opinion they messed up. And as the ruling party for the last 18 years they have to confront criticism. I voted for the party, but it doesn’t mean I gave up my right to criticize the party and that I cannot change my mind. 

I have been more forgiving towards the new government because I will give it a chance, like I’ve given previous ones. Mess up in my opinion and I will reserve the right to be critical. I hold the power in the way I cast my vote, you are just borrowing it. 

The ability to change one’s mind is one of the best virtues I can imagine in people. It means they are willing to think critically about their preconceptions. One of the worst ways things can go is the way it has in Gaza. It is hard to talk sense into any people who swear by a talking bush or expect a glorious afterlife. 

There are still many talking bushes to the left and right in Iceland. Now is a chance to weed them out.


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