“When one body exerts a force on a second body, the second body simultaneously exerts a force equal in magnitude and opposite in direction on the first body.” Or, as sometimes stated, “To every action there is always an opposite and equal reaction.” This is the third of the respected physicist Sir Isaac Newton’s Laws of Motion. Now, I am not a scientist, in fact hard science is and has always been my nemesis, but I admit that sometimes it comes in handy even for a layperson. So, note that whatever I say will be in laymen’s terms , and I hope those of you who are science geeks can overlook my simplicity. To understand this third law of Newton’s, we need only consider that age-old executive desk toy, Newton’s cradle shown here:
The concept is there are 5 steel balls suspended on nylon strings from a cradle-like structure. If you pull a ball on either end back then let it go, when it swings back down, the ball on the opposite end will swing out precisely as far as you pulled the first ball. If you pull two balls out on either end, the two balls on the opposite end will swing out the same distance once the initial two balls return to their starting point. You have all seen them in action, but in case anybody has not, visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton’s_cradle for some cool animated samples and a more scientific, though still user-friendly explanation.
Now if you have followed this blog for any length of time, you are scratching your head and asking yourself if I have gone and lost my marbles (pun intended). Filosofa writes about politics, rants about social injustices, sometimes goes for a chuckle or two, but Filosofa does not write about scientific things, so where is she headed? Ah yes, my loyal followers, I am headed somewhere. Since I rarely sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time, I have lots of time to think. So a few nights ago I was pondering how the rift between conservative and liberal thinkers has gotten wider than I can ever remember, how Democrats and Republicans are almost completely incapable of forming working coalitions these days, and I was trying to figure out the reason for this. Thinking of myself, I realized that 10 years ago I followed a more moderate ideology, but today I must admit that I am about 95% a liberal thinker. Why is that, I asked myself. What changed? And then, like a bolt of lightning illuminating the grey matter within my skull, I envisioned Newton’s Cradle. As long as the right-most ball is only pulled out, say an inch, the left ball will also only move an inch. But, pull that right ball out six inches, and the left ball will swing six inches to the left! Enlightenment!!! A “Light Bulb” moment, as it were! The more radical either side swings, the more radical the other side will swing in the opposite direction!!! I don’t know which came first, the chicken or the egg, and I don’t know which side started swinging wide first, those to the left or right of center. The bottom line is that it doesn’t matter, the momentum is already set and the balls are swinging wildly out of control. Ten years ago, knowing what I know today, I think I would have argued for gun regulation that restricted certain types of weapons and ammunition, but today I argue that the Second Amendment should be repealed and guns should be taken out of the hands of citizens. Ten years ago, knowing what I know today, I might have argued that in light of recent terrorist activity, we ought to more carefully screen immigrants, but today, since the other side is screaming hatred and calling for a ban on any and all Muslims, I push back with opposite and equal reaction and argue that we must accept all who seek asylum in this nation.
Okay, all of the above is helpful (maybe) in understanding how the right and left have become so ideologically divided, how we can no longer find a middle ground on which to meet, but is it helpful in finding a solution to the problem? I don’t have the answer to that. Well, actually I do, but it isn’t a solution that seems likely to transpire anytime soon, as both right and left are talking too loudly to hear any but their own views. Too busy patting themselves on the back and declaring that their viewpoints are the only righteous ones to even consider that they may be part of the problem and as such will need to be willing to seek compromise in order to be part of the solution. There can be no compromise as long as both sides have managed to convince themselves that they are 100% right and everybody who doesn’t agree with them are wrong. Make no mistake … if we do not ALL start moving toward a common ground, toward the middle, toward compromise, the result will be catastrophic, and probably sooner than we think. A couple of examples:
- Gun regulation – the conservative right calls for every citizen to arm themselves, while the liberal left would repeal the 2nd Amendment. Meanwhile, while we argue and fight among ourselves, crime rates, mass shootings, school shootings, suicide rates all are on the rise in exponential rates. Check the facts and stats, then extrapolate the date forward ten years. See what I mean? Some solution must be forthcoming or we will self-destruct before our very eyes.
- Climate change – the conservative right claim that climate change is being blown out of proportion and there is no imminent threat to the planet, thus we should build the Keystone pipeline and continue burning massive amounts of fossil fuels in order that corporations can continue polluting and people can continue living their extravagant lifestyles, while the liberal left see the total destruction of the planet earth as only a few years away.
Yes, these are extremes, but that is what I am talking about. Start with one extreme on either side, and it is inevitably met with an equal extreme on the other side. There are hundreds more examples I could cite … social welfare, social security, nuclear proliferation, education, immigration policies all are subject to extreme partisan swings, while the truth, the solutions, lie somewhere in the grey area in the middle, an area that has been largely abandoned. There may be no single “correct” solution to the problems facing the nation, the world, today, but there are certainly a number of absolutely “wrong” answers. I am calling for a toning-down of vitriol in any direction, and let us all put our heads together and find ways to once again meet each other halfway. It is the only chance this nation stands of remaining a democratic secular nation, a world leader, a decade from now.
There was a cartoon in a newspaper the other day that described the point you are making: People sliding away from the middle in opposite direction…. – I guess it would already be a good start if our world’s leaders (and actually the whole lot of us “normal citizens” too), would memorise and take to their hearts the simple phrase “I can be wrong.” 🙂
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Yes, I have to wonder, and with a large degree of trepidation, what it will take to bring people back toward the center. It needs to happen soon, in the U.S. for certain, but worldwide, I believe. Sadly, at this point, those who speak loudest are incapable of saying that phrase “I can be wrong”, as they really seem not to believe in the possibility that they are, indeed, wrong. Until we are all willing to listen … and I mean truly listen … to opinions other than our own, we are unlikely to question the sanity of our own views. Sigh.