Polarization and its Detrimental Affects

[28-09-2013 10:28 AM]

By Abdulillah

Being that we in Jordan are trending towards a more democratic form of parliamentary government, I find it compelling to highlight a detrimental affect that we must consider as we move along this path; and that is the effects of Polarization.

Polarization is basically “the divergence of political attitudes to ideological extremes”, more precisely it occurs when one, two, or more parties start to diverge away from each other to the left or right of center in public opinion. Polarization in most scholarly studies is always in context to a party system of democratic form of government.

There are a few characteristics or types of polarization as follows:

• Elite – where one party or group elected to run the government or not, grow more internally homogeneous on specific issues and as such are more divergent relative to other opposing party’s views. There is little or no ideological overlap between members in opinion with opposing parties.

• Popular polarization- is basically a difference of opinion between the peoples; referred to as the electorate or general public at large. Where certain types or areas of the demographic believe in one political position or ideology over another.

It should be noted that although there is a link between popular and elite polarization, and that, it is typically considered a movement from elite towards the popular, that is to say one precedes the other; it does not mean that it cannot be reverse, nor does it mean that elite polarization must affect popular opinion leading to polarization of the popular masses.

It is clear however from many scholarly papers that polarization in any form can lead to consequences that can lead to detrimental effects amongst peoples of a country, or parties in a democratically elected government. These affects can bring on changes (good or bad depending on one’s opinion) as to how the public and media organization observes and reports government offices work, such as its legislature, executive, and judicial branches. These changes can bring on changes in public opinions that can move towards popular polarization amongst the masses, as well as those that will also affect its outward behavior towards other countries as well.

One can imagine that when one's political views become polarized such that he stops to listen to the others view, or a way to find a compromise, this can hamper the policymaking process, an increase in partisan animosity, that could overtime, spell collapse of a regime, and possible civil war amongst the people.

We need not look far for the effects of political and religious polarization in the Levant region, or as far as the halls of the US government and other Western democracies. However I am writing here to let you know that we in Jordan can be different as we already have from time to time experienced such spells of polarization and at each time have risen above them quickly with minor or little impact on our society. The question is why have we been able to do this, and how can we identify beforehand when such polarization starts to occur, and what methods we used to quell this from spreading?

Here are some of my observations of our society that we can use to aide us against polarization’s effects upon our society as we undergo this political change towards a democratic process:

• We as a people although from differing regions and have differing faiths (mostly Muslim and Christian and are from the Badia and cities), we have one thing in common; we have been able to see ourselves as one people, fighting to scrape a living off a land of few natural resources. This makes us more resilient to change. We tend to share more of our resources because we know that at any time anyone or group of us can find himself/themselves in need of the other.

• We have seen at times our country being used by other powers to usurp land and water rights from our territories and to attempt to defile our holy places.

• We do not like being told by others what we must or must not do in our country and mostly we see ourselves as having a common ancestral belonging to the Arab peoples as a whole. As such we feel what our brothers feel in other areas of the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula and north and east Africa.

• We have known and felt the effects of civil war between each other and dislike and reject it universally and do not want to repeat it ever again.

• We are the people of a common ancestral Abrahamic Faiths, and although at times we can behave in a negative way towards each other the majority of us dislikes this behavior and rejects it outright.

My brothers and sisters as long as we remember the above, we will know what to do when and if we come to a point where one party or peoples of us starts to behave in a polarized manner. We have always been the people of the middle. When we stray we find it abhorrent and not in line with our traditional and religious ways. We can be a beacon of light to others, and we can be the strongest because of our unity with each other, where we will not be used or abused by others.

God Bless Jordan and it People

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