We are sensory creatures and because of this we see things in contrast. Something is hot only because its temperature is more than that of our skin. This fact of nature hides within it a deception. What may be a whisper to us may not be so for a dog. Similarly, our minds can also act as implicit sense organs when the right contrast presents itself.
Consider this – it would be unimaginable for a political party to say that it has a “Pro Air” agenda. That would be absurd. Unless, there were suddenly a party that decided to call itself “Anti Air”. That would suddenly make a party with a “Pro Air” agenda seem very plausible and just like that people with “pro and anti air” ideals will have been created, well, out of thin air.
Where it was once absurd to even think of such a stance, now we will have identities and politics around a topic without any putting in any rigour of thought whatsoever.
This illusion of morals and ideals is the only trick a politician must know how to perform. It takes a lot of introspection to create your own party’s manifesto and stick to it but why put in the effort when you can simply state your manifesto as “Not like that other party”.
By nature we humans are averse to moralising and introspecting but ironically we also crave for strong identities. This trick – The Illusion of Morals – allows us to have our cake and eat it too, as long as we can always keep it about them and not us.
This is why you will seldom find a politician from one party appreciating features of the opposition parties, because this breaks the illusion by creating an overlap instead of the required contrast and that makes a politician deeply insecure.
What is the price that we pay for this hollow illusory layered cake? Since by its very nature this illusion requires contrast, we pay the price of division. We look to strengthen stereotypes instead of demolishing them. We develop complex rhetoric that allows us to dodge uncomfortable questions and employ diversionary tactics and reflexive finger pointing.
How do we break this illusion? The harder and more uncomfortable thing to do is to introspect about our own morals. To define the object for its substance and not by its lack. An easier antidote, however, could be to find more overlap with people you disagree with, instead of relying on contrast.