STANDPOINTS

 

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Political space welcomes, embraces and protects diversity.

Different opinions make debates interesting. If all participants share the same views and hold the same opinions, a debate becomes pointless. Those who agree, in other words, have nothing left to discuss.

Our opinions, even though not determined by them, are rooted in our personal standpoints. Every standpoint is first of all quite literally a physical location from which we look at the world itself and at everything that goes on inside it. By birth we are given a certain perspective onto the world. Later we can learn to put ourselves in the position of others and we can broaden our horizon, for instance through travelling, but only in exceptional cases will people either rid themselves entirely from their original standpoint, or never have the chance to strike roots, as it were, in the first place. What is more, we usually occupy different standpoints simultaneously when we grow up: We are not only the natural member of a family but also chose to become members in clubs and societies, we work for companies etc. Henceforth we look at the world from different positions, which may even lead into inner discrepancies.

At any event, the world is full of people with different standpoints and a debate is interesting for participants and spectators alike, above all, because it gathers these differences in one place with absolutely no intention to resolve them once and for all. This simple example shows that plurality is not merely a troublesome and unfortunately unavoidable condition of politics. While things would obviously be simpler, clearer and more straight-forward if there was only one perspective onto the world of human affairs, this situation would also be unbearably boring for us. We may thus follow Hannah Arendt and look at plurality in the field of politics primarily as a spring of delight, astonishment and wonder, as the origin of the world which, since it always lies between us, cannot exist where everybody holds the exact same views and opinions.

“To put it another way, the more peoples there are in the world who stand in some particular relationship with one another, the more world there is to form between them, and the larger and richer that world will be. The more standpoints there are within any given nation from which to view the same world that shelters and presents itself equally to all, the more significant and open to the world that nation will be. […] In other words, human beings in the true sense of the term can exist only where there is a world, and there can be a world in the true sense of the term only where the plurality of the human race is more than a simple multiplication of a single species.” (PP: 175f)

Those who see in plurality merely the root of all political struggle pay attention to only one side of the coin. It is like complaining that survival, the mastering of life’s necessities, is a neverending struggle – and forgetting that at the same time it is “the human way to experience the sheer bliss of being alive which we share with all living creatures” (HC: 106). It is like bemoaning that writing books or building houses is a very demanding and sometimes desperate endeavour – and ignoring that it is also the spring of “self-assurance and satisfaction [which] can even become a source of selfconfidence throughout life” (HC: 140).

To act politically means to relate differences. Conflicts or agreements are possible but by no means necessary or even desirable results. Political space welcomes, embraces and protects diversity.

 

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