Since I’m making insomniac posts that technically breach my resolution to have a holiday from blogging while finding and re-inserting my dummy, I thought it might be a good idea to explain the origin of the blog title “Troppo Armadillo” to readers. The “Troppo” bit is easy enough. Several of the TA bloggers (myself, Jen and Wayne Wood) live in Darwin in Australia’s tropical north.
The “Armadillo” bit is a cryptic reference to a saying that once emblazoned the website of US left-ish pundit Jim Hightower (not to mention a book he wrote):
“The middle of the road is for yellow lines and dead armadillos.“
Its inclusion in the title involves a double irony, in that I label myself a political centrist, but haven’t yet been squashed flat (not quite anyway).
I wouldn’t want to arbitrarily categorise my co-bloggers, but I think it’s fair to suggest that they’re all centrists too, at least in the sense that they’re not partisan adherents of either major political party.
In my case, laying claim to a centrist label also involves an assertion that I’m neither strongly left nor right-leaning in an overall sense. Some of my views are ones that most people would associate with the left while some are more commonly found in Right Wing Death Beasts. To the extent it’s possible to measure such things objectively, my results on political quizzes like The Political Compass are always in the dead centre, so I feel pretty comfortable that the label is a reasonable one.
But you pay a high price for being a centrist in this sense. Humans are tribal creatures, and most of us badly need our fellow creatures to stay in their tribal groups, and in the political sphere the basic tribes (however unsatisfactorily) are those of left and right. Anyone who hops about and refuses to stay in one or other of those tribes consistently makes people feel intensely uncomfortable, and some of those people get angry and abusive when they’re feeling uncomfortable.
I’ve noticed that the anger is most acute when I post consistently for a week or two in a vein that makes them think they’ve got me ideologically pigeon-holed, and then I post something that has a strong slant towards the other tribe. Polite tribalists then start calling me a “faux centrist”, while the less intelligent ones accuse me of “peddling hate” or worse.
When I’m feeling positive, causing discomfort to ideologically-constipated readers doesn’t worry me at all. It’s a mildly amusing game. But sometimes it does get tiresome being accused of lacking good faith merely because I won’t stay in the little box to which they want to consign me.
Jim Hightower is correct to that extent. Sticking to one or other side of the road is a lot more comfortable, but it’s something I just can’t do. I don’t hold my opinions arbitrarily or just for fun; they’re usually arrived at after at least a little bit of thought and reflection (and often quite a lot). It’s just that they’re not consistently on one side of that ideological yellow line people carry in their heads when they’re evaluating political material. If I was controlling the yellow line-painting machine, it’d end up wiggling wildly all over the road.