Friday, May 30, 2014

Political Compass

I recently took this political compass test to see where I'd end up:  Basically, there are four sides, and the test places you somewhere in the square. Taking this test and thinking about where I am in relation to my closest friends, my social circle, and the general population made me realize something important. Something about the problem with places like Colby.

I've said this a million times already, but my priority is being someplace where it's okay to be yourself and you don't have to live up to anyone else's standards. Colby was a politically liberal place. I didn't think I'd mind this when I applied to the school, but I soon realized that the lack of political diversity put a lot of pressure on you to uphold certain beliefs, and I had a huge problem with the fact that so many points of view were taboo subjects at Colby. And when I look at that square grid on the political compass site, it's clear what's going on. I know that this grid doesn't cover everything, and that there are probably some people who don't belong on the grid at all. But let's assume that this grid does cover all beliefs, that everyone has to fall somewhere within this square. So, when you look at the whole square, the general population, you have some people who are really close to you and some people who are far away from you. Now let's look at this more realistically: most of the time, you *aren't* surrounded by people all over that square. Some geographic regions are more liberal/conservative, and the same goes for schools and workplaces. So let's say that, like me, you live in a liberal area. If just the people who live in my state all took this political survey, the results wouldn't cover the whole square evenly - they'd be more clustered in a certain area. Now, let's go a step further and say that you're a small liberal arts college (less than 2,000 students) where people assume that you're politically liberal simply because you go there. Most people's scores would be clustered in a particular area of the square. Now, when you're out in the real world, surrounded by people all over the spectrum, it's kind of cool when you find someone who's really close to you. You can have a special bond with that person. But when you're not in the real world, when you're in a world where everyone is clustered in the same space, people stop seeing the rest of the spectrum. Rather than bonding over how alike we are compared to the whole population, we start to zoom in on the little area where we're clustered and see that area as the entire square. People who fall outside that square get harassed and shunned, and people who fall within that square get pushed towards the center, get pressured to engage in holier than thou competitions. Because when you zoom in that far, not only do people outside the square fall off the chart, but people within the square become farther apart. The distance between the dots gets so much bigger when you're only looking at your cluster.

That's why I like it better when we aren't trapped in that cluster, when we are part of a world where people can exist anywhere on the chart. It's easier to bond that way. It's easier to find friends who share your beliefs when the standards of those beliefs aren't so exact. On the political compass scale, I came out really extreme on one spectrum and more in the middle on the other. In my college group of friends, I wouldn't have been close enough to most people to actually bond over shared beliefs. But in the real world, I'm plenty close enough. And funnily enough, the distance is about the same.

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