Every now and then I like to remind people of what’s really important.
The other day at a local high school meet-and-greet, a young student bopped her head and asked if I was left or right wing. She looked nice and all, but I was struck by the superficiality and, dare I say, the pedestrian nature of the question.
You see, for me, the labels of left-wing and right-wing are crude abstractions that do little to capture the complexity of the human experience. I eschew these labels and embrace a more nuanced view of the world. I am, first and foremost, a proponent of human dignity, an advocate for universal empathy, and a champion of the human condition.
“Neither, I am a humanist” I declared to the student, who’s attention then drifted off to whatever her giggling nearby friends had noticed (It’s a pity: when I was her age, I ran the school newsletter and spoke about Proust!)
Of course, my detractors who still cling to the outdated notions of left and right, may accuse me of equivocation. They may charge that my humanism is merely a thinly veiled attempt to avoid taking a stand on important political issues.
But such charges only betray their own lack of understanding. You see, as a humanist, I believe in the worth of every single human being. Whether you’re a billionaire CEO, surviving public schools, or an ignorant giggling teenager, you deserve to be treated with respect and compassion.
And while some may see this as a naive or idealistic view of the world, I see it as a vital counterweight to the cynicism and divisiveness that pervades so much of our public discourse.
If you’re a certain “wing”, you might feel compelled to reject certain ideas or proposals simply because they’re associated with the other side, even if they have merit or could benefit society as a whole.
Are you listening kids?
But if you’re a humanist, you can approach each issue on its own terms, without being beholden to any party line or ideological litmus test. You can embrace evidence-based solutions, nuanced perspectives, and creative approaches that don’t fit neatly into any preconceived notion of what a certain “winger” should believe. You can be guided by a set of universal principles that transcend partisan politics and reflect the best aspirations of our shared humanity.
So let us reject the labels of left and right, and instead embrace the humanist vision of a better world. As Proust wrote on a T-shirt I once wore, “We don’t receive Wisdom, we must discover it”. Although, for that snide teenager, it wouldn’t hurt to listen.