The Fallacy of Political Binarism

Created August 26, 2022

Welcome to this week’s Bill Harvey Blog.

Aristotle was among the earlier philosophers to warn us away from binarism in general. Even 25 centuries ago the wisest among us knew that we all apparently have a built-in mental flaw. We tend to see choices where there is the unnoticed opportunity for having both. To Aristotle the key word was balance. Instead of choosing conservativism and giving up on progressivism, one could balance the two.

It was a new thought at the time.

And precocious by at least 25 centuries, as we seem to also still have the built-in ability to dodge good advice.

And from Aristotle’s point of view, the choosing example might not have been between conservatism and progressivism, that was me, he might have winked and asked “apple pie OR ice cream?” channeling Socrates.

The point is that there is a convenient mental mechanism we can all benefit from. We can all catch ourselves when we find ourselves assuming there are two opposing sides to something. When a better handle on it is that there are multiple “Goods” to be integrated. The creative fun challenge of the game is to come up with the optimal balancing act.

When two political parties get down to acting like they would welcome a civil war, it’s time to break the hypnotic control of the binarism fallacy.

Please visualize with me: we all look around, and see the party labels and stuff sloughing off each other, and we are all just people again, with no expectations. Then we can all enjoy making friends all over again.

My guess is that we got this binarism virus as a result of too much of a very Good thing. The very Good thing is intellectual freedom. For all the barbarism of the world, intellectual freedom has been too strong to be suppressed, it is perhaps the core of our being, the uniqueness of the human race.

We love IDEAS. We have so many of them. It is so good to have them and to share them with others with whom we then BELONG. Having so many IDEAS and getting so entranced by them – and the belonging they bring – the whole phenomenon tends to become too powerful. It hypnotizes us by its ubiquity and pervasiveness in every detail of our day. The imagined fences our minds have created which separate us are mere bad dreams but we have enshrined them in reality. Big mistake.

Simple sign: when people argue a lot, fix something.

The Quality of Mercy is Not Strained

Coming back to the subject of balancing ideas together, “mercy” is a very relevant word to this discussion of binarism.

The Jews were a tough lot. They got into a lot of fighting. Slavery for those that survive does toughen people up. Fighting over who owns the land was the way of the world going much further back. When the Kabbalah developed within Judaism it presented a circuit diagram for the Universal Self in which balancing mercy with severity was one of three balancing acts required to operate at a higher state of consciousness. Mercy is a really palpable thing when involved in warfare, it is safer to just kill everybody. The Kabbalah teaches that there needs to be a rebalancing away from what was self-protective, to take the right action instead. (My interpretations entirely.)

As a race, we do seem to have a bias in favor of severity over mercy. This bias may have been obvious to William Shakespeare’s awesome insight when he wrote these lines for Portia in The Merchant of Venice:

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes.
‘Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
The thronèd monarch better than his crown.
His scepter shows the force of temporal power,
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings;
It is an attribute to God Himself;
And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
When mercy seasons justice.

We can have the ice cream on top of the apple pie. The benefits of two seemingly warring good ideas, for example, Justice and Mercy, can be both had together. The lesson is: don’t give up one good thing to get another good thing, find a way to balance them and thus get them both.

The creative integration of all of our good ideas, worked out together in good spirits, is what the USA is all about.

What began as a great friendliness should not be allowed to dissolve in great bitterness. Let’s go back to the good old howdy and handshake.

No one entity has all the answers. We all need each other to optimize the collective opportunity.

We have to stop the runaway train wreck and switch timelines to the alternate universe that awaits us.

Love to all,



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