Two-Dimensional Thinking

It would serve us well as a society and individuals if we quit seeing the world two-dimensionally.  “There are two sides to every coin”, “Both sides of the political spectrum”, “Both sides of the isle”, are common terms used in an attempt to more easily understand issues or categorize people.  This pattern of thinking, though, severely limits other, often more viable options from being considered in the first place.

For example, take the scam known as the “political spectrum”.  Whether by design or accident we, as a society, have accepted the false notion that there are only two options available to us politically—either you’re a conservative on the right, or a liberal on the left.  If you are a conservative you are a republican.  If you are a liberal you are a democrat.  Deductively a two-dimensionalist would reason that if a person is not a democrat than they are automatically a republican and vise-versa.  Partisans who assume they know what others think based off of this mis-applied reasoning often find themselves puzzled or embarrassed when they discover that the labels they attempted to stick on people don’t always stick.  The reason for this is because, like individuals, possibilities and choices are unique.  When people follow a left to right scale that places big-government fascists and zero-government anarchists next to each other on the far right it is obvious why there is so much confusion and narrow-mindedness.

The monopolistic stranglehold that both major political parties have in the United States contributes to this inconsistent narrow way of thinking.  Perhaps this is why more and more people are considering themselves independents instead of affiliating themselves with one of the major political parties.  Or perhaps people are becoming disfranchised by partisan politicians saying one thing and almost always doing another.  Either way people are beginning to wake up to the failures of the American one-philosophy/two-party system.  Perhaps one day soon, if this trend continues, other parties and independents will receive mainstream attention and credibility.  In reality, a political system which truly reflected the will of the people would have more than just two “viable” options.

Us-vs-Them-syndrome is common amongst sports fans.  People grow up with “their team” not ever questioning why their team is so special or why the rivalry is the enemy. Team dynamics may shift.  Strategies may evolve. Players may change.  None of these seem to sway the loyalty of the sports fanatic though.  While this mostly harmless attitude exists amongst most sports fans this same attitude is detrimental when applied to the field of politics.  When people unquestioningly align themselves with an ever-changing philosophy/group they fall victims to groupthink and are tossed to and fro by the whims of the collective body or controlling bureaucracy.  Political fanatics care more about beating the rivalry than about winning what matters most—moral victories.  Partisan rivalship distracts participants from alternative solutions and perpetuates narrow-mindedness.  Even more common than partisan opposition is when both major political parties adopt the same horrible policy (ie- an aggressive foreign policy) or completely ignore a crucial policy.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught this applicable principle for the best way to prioritize our decision-making:

“As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best.” (Good Better Best)

While most choices made by the party-spirited don’t deserve the label of being “good” the principle still applies that there are better and even best choices to consider above what is “good”.  The idea that there is a best option coincides with the only true two-dimensional reality—that is that there is right and wrong, good and evil.  Considering alternative solutions is not moral relativism.  It’s acknowledging that there are more than two possibilities to a given scenario—especially when those two choices are bad.

Alternative solutions, thinking outside the box, or questioning the status-quo earns people labels such as being extreme or irrational but there are more than two possible solutions to the issues which face society—many of these solutions are better than what is being considered.  Only those who monopolize one of the top two mainstream ideas would have you believe otherwise.  Let us give alternative choices a chance by removing two-dimensionalism from our vernacular and thinking.