In a Unbalanced Polarity the Losers Lose; the Winners Lose Too

One way of thinking about Polarity is in terms of  a tug of war. Each side (each pole) has natural advocates pulling for their side. The purpose of this essay is to talk about why this happens and the result if either side “wins”.

The example I’m going to use here is the Security and Freedom Polarity. As with any Polarity, both poles have benefits and also bring negative consequences if the pole is over emphasized.

  • A Secure environment is: safe, planned, predictable, fair and provides a context to work and think in. On the other hand when security is over emphasized, the environment becomes rigid and bureaucratic.  People feel locked in, they have no privacy and constantly fear those in power.
  • A Free environment on the other hand, provides privacy, the right to pursue one’s own individual thoughts and desires. It is more spontaneous and open to change. Carried to an extreme however freedom leads to anarchy where everything is up for grabs and violence is always possible.

Both poles have natural advocates.  The surprising thing is that they uniformly recognize the benefits associated with the side they oppose. That is, the advocates of Freedom recognize the benefits of Security and the advocates of Security recognize the benefits of Freedom. What makes a person and advocate for a given pole is their fear of the negative consequences that come with over emphasis of the opposite pole. They are willing to accept the negatives of their own pole (which they also recognize) rather that permit the slightest hint of the negatives of the other pole. It’s almost like an allergic reaction. In this case:

  • The advocates of Security are terrified of violent anarchy they see potential terrorists everywhere.
  • The advocates of Freedom are terrified of capricious and abusive government they see the Gestapo everywhere.

Notice the similarity between these fears, both sides fear chaos where everything can be taken away in a moment, where neither skill intelligence, nor appropriate behavior offer any protection. They merely disagree about the most likely source of this chaos.
This disagreement is the reason behind the tug of war. It is the puddle of mud between them with both sides ignoring the mud behind them. The problem is that both sides are correct to the extent that complete victory by the opposition will lead to chaos. The source of the chaos will change depending on which side wins. If Security wins, we will have the Gestapo; if Freedom wins, we will have anarchy. In either case, the result is chaos with both sides in the mud and there will be neither freedom nor security.

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