Twentieth century history demonstrates, over and over, that the exacerbation of the contentious spirit between left and right wings result end in polarized atmospheres that make negotiation and the articulation of functional agreements difficult. The aceptance cof the anti-liberal notion that it is not possible to reach agreements with the enemy, and that only the use of force is worthwhich has led civil wars, invasions, revolutions, coups d”etat, repressive policies and fundamentalist regimes.
To recognize polarities, however, does not necessarily exacerbate polarization. Experience tells us that if we keep in mind the real antagonisms of the current world, we can overcome the temptation of adopting polarization strategies. Ridding the political field of violence, which is crucial for democratic ethics, becomes more imperative if we are to maintain hope of negotiating with opponents, and do not excluding the possibility of identifying common ground. It has cost a great deal of misery to learn that in polarized atmospheres the most dark and violent forces of the authoritarian reactionary mentality usually prevail. Augusto Pinochet ”s recent death reminds us of one of those terrible episodes of the 20th century which was later overcome in Chile thanks to the determination to abandon discursive extremes and to trust democratic institutions.
Ignoring real antagonisms in the political field does not contribute to moderation; on the contrary, it tends to polarize the field by inserting radical postures: xenophobia, nationalism and paranoid mentalities. The concept of “clash of civilizations” that Samuel Huntington recently introduced is an example of a binary interpretation with a clearly aggressive xenophobic content, where the “other”, the immigrant from Asia and Latin America (including Puerto Rico), is identified as an enemy that threatens the national Anglo protestant cultural integrity. As spokesman of a right-wing not declared as such, Huntington rejects the cultural pluralism of cosmopolitan and trans-national identities, pleading for “a revitalized United States that reaffirms its particular historical Anglo-protestant culture, its religious convictions, and its values.”
The polarization that Huntington proposes has found echo in the so-called “war against terrorism;” another “holy war” that identifies a new enemy that must be destroyed by means of force, contravening the cosmopolitan ethics of modern democratic politics.
Roberto Gándara Sánchez
Centro de Investigación y Política Pública
Author: Proyectos FPH
Published: January 22, 2008.
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