How do we diminish the gap between us? Polarization seems to conquer lands that traditionally were known for their consensual approach to solving political and societal issues.
In the European Union, not only domestic actors, but also foreign actors are trying to obtain dividends by encouraging difference and divergence. The European political order is disrupted by polarization. In the United States, polarization is a curse by design. In emerging democracies, polarization challenges the stability of up-to-date achievements and creates opportunities for authoritarian leaders, neopatrimonialism and state capture, undemocratic populists and „bad” political entrepreneurs.
Yet, polarization has been recognized as a challenge in international politics recently. As political phenomenon, it was marginalised until events such as the election of Donald Trump, Brexit or rising populist forces across the Globe. However, it is not something new. Cleavages have existed since the beginning of the polity and generated or influenced political developments, most recently as political parties, different alliances and coalitions of political groups and interests groups.
For elements of Polarization
Few characteristics of the current problem of polarization are important to be mentioned, among others: massification, social media, distrust in democratic politics and the fall of authoritativeness. Last time when we had those four elements conjointly was in the interwar period. Its further developments led to one of the most terrible atrocities in human history. Polarization, coupled with indifference, stereotypes and prejudices, led to a disaster.
Today, we face again the challenge of polarization. Despite being more aware of emerging challenges and risks towards our polity, it seems unavoidable. Despite being more mobile, the space between us seems to be wider, not physically, but in the land of ideas. Adding the rising inequality, the distrust in political institutions, the crisis of traditional political parties and the political entrepreneurs willing to gain by enhancing these challenges. The question how do we diminish the gap between us should be at the forefront of strategies aiming to address the questions of sustainability (of the political system, order, societal and technological advancements, peace and development).
No Solution at sight?
There is no magical answer to the above question.
It depends how we act, how we communicate, how we contribute to the society, taking into account the long-term impact. Some guidance can check if our daily practices (as individuals or as organizations) firstly do not harm. There are also good compromises that should not be avoided, maintaining our common values on the first place. Think twice before endorsing initiatives that create divisions, share hate and amplify disunity. Can we overcome our biases and, at least, try the art of dialogue? Can we show restraint when we enforce our reasoning and limit the dialogue with the `others’?
In the end, we should not forget that the dialogue between us, in which ‘us’ represents different groups with different geographic and ideal spaces, is constructed, it is maintained. Peace and developments were built starting with dialogue and cooperation. If we project peace and act for peace, we will have peace. If we project division and act for division, we will have division.