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I’m saying that we are naturally inclined to clear positions, it comes easily and most naturally to us. Extremism is easy, you might say. You don’t have to act with vehemence or to hold strong views to me an extremist. Pretty well everything is somewhere on a spectrum.

Spectrum relates to light and colour, of course, but within it – between the two extremes of blue and red – there are many shades. It’s the same with light and darkness.

And that’s the point. It’s much harder to deal with varying shades of things, especially when it comes to choices and opinions. Faced with being asked to choose, we can easily be railroaded (or sidelined) into a particular position, just because it seems to be expected.

Deciding on which of two polar opposites, or extremes, you want to plump for is an efficient way of deciding. It’s easy, but not elegant. And it’s also seductive, because efficiency and simplicity suits the way the mind works. It’s tidy.

It’s much harder to say, for example, “I don’t know”, “Do I have to have an opinion of that?” or “I can’t decide at the moment”. That takes thought and effort, but it suggests some sort of personal inadequacy. Try it in the wrong place and you’ll even draw a raised eyebrow or two. People who can’t make up their mind generally don’t garner the trust and confidence of others.

Expressing a clear opinion – being at one end of the spectrum or the other – might seem unnecessary, yet it’s what is so often expected of us. Most people don’t see themselves as extremists, but that’s what circumstance and expectation force us to become.

 

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