Friday, January 22, 2010

Defining the Centre

When I was in University, I remember in one of my English classes discussing literature in relation to the mainstream. Much of what we studied veered from this place marker, towards directions that were described as post-modern or alternative. Queries sometimes came up as to what exactly this "mainstream" was.

Today, in Alberta's political scene, we tend to look at things from either right or left perspectives, the depth of which is measured by how far one veers from the "centre." Whether someone is a right-wing extremist, a left-wing liberal, or simply middle of the road, all depends on the relationship of that person with the almighty centre.

I've been involved in the discussion of defining a progressive, in terms of trying to effect change in this province. I am starting to believe that the more relevant question might be: what is the centre?

If we do not have a fixed vantage point for the middle ground, then we're all going to have different views on where someone stands on the issues. In that case, any arguments over what defines a progressive or how one can be socially liberal versus economically conservative (and vice versa) becomes simply a matter of perspective without any sort of grounding.

I have been told that my definition of the centre may be off somewhat, mainly due to my involvement in left-wing politics and the activist scene. I disagree,and not for any political reason. I simply do not know what the centre is anymore.

I used to view the centre as exactly that: halfway between the right and left wings. Middle of the road on all things social and economic. Yet to me now, this definition sounds more like that of a fence sitter than political perspective.

Today, "centre" could be something which no longer exists, like the old Progressive Conservative point of view, back when the party actually took heed of the first part of its name. Or maybe it is the Liberals, who tend to do a lot of flip flopping of their own. Maybe the centre is no longer defined by any specific political party.

One of my activist friends said that the centre is whatever the dominant group in power says it is, with everyone else being marginalized. With the Conservatives still in power, and a new party emerging that is even further to the right (Wild Rose Alliance), the centre itself might be something that can shift.

That being said, does any political perspective stay as it is, or change based upon the party in power and culture of society? I think the culture is very important in answering these questions. I know people from the southern United States where conservative people there make conservative people up here look like hippies.

Alberta has been known as being quite conservative for a number of decades. As a result, people who wave peace signs and demonstrate for change can look a bit wild. Never mind the way we are in our personal lives - we're subversive.

We need a clearly defined middle ground if there is any hope of successful dialogue leading to a better future. Otherwise, we will always be in a battle between the vague "mainstream" and the misunderstood "extremists."

No comments: