Saturday, July 23, 2011

Pathological parallax

kw: politics, dissension, geometry

You may not know the word parallax, but you know the principle: your left and right eyes work together to produce a 3D view. One eye alone cannot reliably determine depth. Each eye sees the world a little differently, but the combination of their views is more accurate. As a political principle, it is a good metaphor of the way diverse political views can work together to guide national policy. This is better than if only one view prevails; that is like trying to drive with one eye closed. It is risky.

There is a second danger. In metaphor it is like this: my brother likes doing stereo photography, and he does it by taking pictures of a static scene from two places, usually a few inches apart. But if the scene is larger or farther away, he will use wider spacing. There is a knack to this, and sometimes the results can be rather odd. A recent stereo pair he sent me, of a cave in Mexico, is an example of taking the two pictures from points that were too far apart. It is nearly impossible to "fuse" them to one image with 3D depth visible. It usually just looks like a confused mess. It is like looking at the tip of your nose with crossed eyes; it just isn't a clear view.

This kind of cross-eyed view has become the norm in modern politics. One side tries to close the other side's eye, because they have become so polarized that no combined view is possible. Many conservatives almost deify Ronald Reagan, who is famous for saying, "When the car of State has gone off the road into the ditch on the left side, it takes a truck on the right side to pull it back onto the road." I, too, prefer Reagan politics to the kind we have had under Obama. Most forget that, as much as Reagan and Tip O'Neill scrapped in public about policy, they worked together to accomplish almost all the facets of "Reaganomics" that led to the prosperity of the 1990s.

Can common ground be found now? I think it will take a sweeping "vote-em-all-out" election next November, to bring in a Congress that can take proper account of the fused vision of all the "eyes" along the political spectrum. Political eyes-crossed posturing simply damages the country.

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