Both Hitler and Churchill

June 15, 2006

Symmetry is beautiful. Part of the mesmerizing effect of seeing a person of stunning beauty is due to the perfect symmetry of face and figure. Much of the beauty perceived in the works of art, architecture and music comes from the symmetry of construction. Asymmetry just jars the eye.

But the lovers and the artists are not the only ones who are enthralled by symmetry. Press, political analysts and government officials are enamored of it, too. Read many an editorial on the Middle East conflict, for example – and the reference to “both sides“ will jump at you, either leaving you satisfied with impartiality of our press in the case you do not follow the events editorialized about, or, in case you do, making you disgusted by the cynicism of equating the right with the wrong.

There are several reasons why it is so very convenient to go the symmetry route.

First of all, it is dismissive, and relieves us from the need to understand the nitty-gritty of underlying issues. Why bother examining the actual claims of the contestants, if they both are at fault? Ignorance is bliss – and claiming symmetry in a remote conflict allows us to stay blissfully aloof.

Secondly, it makes us appear fair-minded, because, when “both sides” are at fault, there is no need to take sides.

And, finally, it allows us to feel like superior creatures who stand above the fray and look down condescendingly, if not contemptuously, at the equally guilty, equally savage parties. Where there is no emotional involvement, there can be no empathy for either side; at best, all we can give “both sides“ is cold, superior detachment of a courtroom judge.

There is a big problem with this “both sides” approach, however. Thought convenient, it does nothing to help resolve conflicts. If anything, denying that one side is right and another is wrong only helps to prolong the warfare, death, and misery.

Of course, other peoples’ problems are no problems. Only in our own quarrels symmetry does not apply, only here is there right and wrong. But unless we are willing to deny the others equal humanity, we should admit that their concerns are as legitimate to them as ours are to us.

“Both Hitler and Churchill” is a good position – unless, of course, the case is indeed that of Hitler and Churchill. And many conflicts which we like to blame on “both sides” are equally one-sided, generated by religious, political, or ideological ambitions that can be clearly shown to be wrong. Perhaps it would be better if, instead of diplomatically sitting on a fence and appealing to “both sides,“ we help end conflicts by taking a clear position, and allowing the side that we perceive to be in the right, to decisively win, and end the bloodbath.

This entry was posted in Transferred from Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>