Those are my homies, in case you were wondering. My peeps. We hang out together … on the Political Compass.
Let me explain.
Every year about this time I have to introduce my World History students to the concepts of “left” and “right” on the political spectrum, using a handy little graphic in our textbook. Then I do the obligatory disclaimer explaining how a simple “left-right” spectrum grossly oversimplifies complex political issues, and that a somewhat broader perspective might be gained by using a tool like the Political Compass, which at least plots people’s views on two axes. I then suggest that for those really interested in this sort of thing, they might try taking the online test themselves to see where they fall.
Just for laughs, I put an X in the lower left quadrant (left-leaning political and economic views with high emphasis on individual freedoms and minimal government control) to show where I fall. When I did this the other day I asked, “And do you know who is the only major twentieth-century historical figure down there with me?”
They all stared blankly, until the one student who took the class from me last year yelled, “GANDHI!!!!”
That’s right, me and Gandhi, kickin’ it together down in the lower left quadrant. Like so (you can’t see me, but I’m right next to the Mahatma):
“And do you know why Gandhi and are down there together?” I ask them all. “Because we are both idealists. We believe in all those socialist ideals — the rich sharing their wealth with the poor, everyone having enough to meet their needs — but we believe there’s enough goodness in human nature to achieve those things by free will, without the use of force. Gandhi and I believe in a world where everyone freely shares with everyone else, and the unicorns and bunnies dance around happily under the rainbow….”
To be fair to Gandhi, he’s achieved a lot more with his idealism than I have with mine. On the other hand, he got shot, and so far, that hasn’t happened to me.
Later I looked further down the page and saw another version of the compass with a whole lot more famous names on it. Now Gandhi and I are joined by Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama! What cool company!
The thing is, this got me thinking. Obviously all the coolest people of the twentieth century are down in the lower-left quadrant. Does that really reflect their political views accurately, or does it reflect the views of the people who made up the test? Maybe the test-makers are lower-lefters themselves and stacked the deck with all the coolest people they could find!
Which led me to another reflection: I truly and honestly believe if Jesus were to take the test, He would be in the lower left quadrant. Gandhi, Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Jesus, and me. And I believe that the reason I hold those lower-leftie beliefs and try (albeit weakly, not like the big names on the list) to live by those standards, is because Jesus believed and lived those things, and I want to be like Him.
But what if I’ve got it backwards? The human capacity for creating God in our own image is endless. Maybe those political leanings are my natural inclination, and I’ve just managed to convince myself that Jesus is just like me. Maybe I’ve made myself a God I’m comfortable worshiping. Maybe any sincere Christian who took the test, whichever quadrant he or she came out in, would just as sincerely believe Jesus was in that same segment of the map.
What do you think? And if you’ve taken this test, where do you find yourself on the spectrum?