Left Wing and Right Wing

Uh oh it's another political blog from Seeker!

No, actually it's not. One of the things that's always interested me is how we normally divide politics into a two dimensional plane - "left wing and right wing". It has always seemed to me that politics is multidimensional and should be mapped on at least a Cartesian plane (as one Utne Reader article once argued). I mean, can we really fit libertarians and communitarians, neoconservatives and paleoconservatives, New Left and Old Left, socialists and fascists, anarchists and communists, the Natural Law Party and Alan Keyes all on one spectrum?

Anyway, the historical argument about the origin of the terms "left wing and right wing" is that it comes from the French National Assembly during the Enlightenment era. Aristocrats, nobility, monarchists, and ancien regimists sat to the right of the king. Bourgeouis, democrats, republicans, and sansculottes sat to the left.


I have always said that in essence, you could argue that everybody who supports the goals of the French Revolution (liberty, fraternity, equality) and the Enlightenment is "left wing" or a "liberal" (in the original sense of the term), and everybody who wants to go back to what existed before is "right wing" or "conservative". But then that now makes libertarians and communitarians both left wing. Perhaps the center has shifted at this point.... neo-monarchist/theocratic parties are not exactly making huge headway in the modern world.

However, I have also been fascinated by how the terms for political discourse may relate to the lateralization of the brain and the body. In most cases, I usually see "left wing" associated with the repressed, the underground, the marginalized, and the excluded. This is interesting since the brain appears to be lateralized into two hemispheres, the left and right brain, and each controls the opposite side of the body.

If you look at language, the right is always emphasized over the left. The right is dexter/dextrous, rectitude/rectified, the Right Hand Path. The left is sinister (evil), gauche (awkwards), izquierda (crooked).


See this article -- In almost every Indo-European language, the left is associated with negative qualities, the right with positive ones.

Many cultures say the underclasses or outcastes can only walk on the left side of the street, or that you can only wipe body waste with the left hand, or that the devil or demons crouch over your left shoulder... there is a persistent association of the left side of things with evil, with lunar energies, with femininity (interesting that all three are linked).

Does this relate to the palpable persecution many southpaws claim they receive from this culture (in the form of baseball gloves, water fountains, writing desks, etc, etc.?) I think it's interesting that many schools force children who are left handers to write with their right hand, and then they grow up stutterers!! I saw a study the other day that left handers die sooner than right handers... is this the ultimate proof of persecution.... ? Left handers are a clear minority in the population. Why have we evolved in such a way?

Could it have something to do with the brain?

The left brain tends to focus on logic, analysis, mathematics, and linearization; the right brain on analogy, synthesis, pattern matching, and holism. Seeing as most people today are right handed, does that mean we live in a left brain dominant culture? There appears to be a suggestion that ambidexters are the best at combining rational and analogical thought.

Yet our heart, the center of our life, is on the left side of the chest! Maybe that tells us something! Could this be the real war of head versus heart?

The most interesting argument I've encountered is that it may be the birth of alphabetic writing that brought about this situation.


Last but not least, the Left Hand Path in occultism has always been the one associated with sexuality, Tantrism, and the use of the body rather than asceticism.

I don't think all these things are accidental.

Can we link the repression of left wing politics with the repression of sexuality, femininity, shadow, emotion by reason, mythos by logos, intuition by science?

Did the Indo-Aryan dominator culture of Europe cause this shift by suprressing the Chthonic goddess/partnership societies of the Neolithic, supplanting their cyclical cosmology with a linear march of time?

I've also read that the body is profoundly assymetrical - that if you look at a mirror reflection of the right or left side of your face (forming a whole in the mirror) you'll see a completely different person and set of emotional expressions. In most people, their right and left legs, or arms, or in women, their breasts, and in men, their testicles, may be asymmetrical also, of different sizes... in fact there's a whole folk tradition over which testicle generates boy or girl children!

The whole topic of symmetry and asymmetry is another one that fascinates me -- symmetry is a mathematical and artistic construct but it rarely exists in nature. In fact, one theory in physics right now suggests that slight asymmetries between matter and antimatter may explain exactly why the universe is something rather than nothing... does this give credence to the ancient idea that we were generated out of unity through duality? If you take many "right handed" molecules (such as sugars), and change their heliacal structure to twist "left handed," they pass through the body unrecognized!!

The way in which different types of symmetry have been used in art is a great subject in itself:
I also love the way in which these guys connect symmetry-breaking with chaos theory... almost as if the mathematics of breaking symmetry lie "buried" in symmetrical functions once they become iterative or tesserative...

But I like the Oriental view best of all: yin contains yang, light becomes dark, matter and spirit are always inverting and replacing each other (enantiodrama), and the Two are really the Tao: monism. We pit the right against the left, but they are all ultimately one unity.

So, yes, dailygrailers, politics is philosophy, and philosophy is... directive.

Your from the left, which, Oscar, is always becoming the right... Seeker.


Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.
Cernig's picture
Member since:
11 May 2004
Last activity:
1 year 5 weeks

Hi Stephen,

Bloody excellent! Thank you.

Regards, Cernig

It only takes a liberal 20 years to become a conservative, without changing a single opinion. Robert Anton Wilson

Anonymous's picture

Well I don't know if this is going off topic or not, but this kind of seems to be a topic of perseption. After reading this blog, it got me thinking a bit about how we persieve our world. Why is it that when you look at a map, North is the top and South is the bottom. I mean technically couldn't you put the map either way. Couldn't you even look at our solar system upside down. I guess I am not an astonomy major or anything, so I guess there could be a reason for this, but at the moment I am confused. I mean the reason for a map always being north side up could mearly just be a way of making it easier on everyone that looks at it. But as long as you know the names of each direction couldn't the map be layed out any way. Either the top of the map being North, South, East, or West. Any insight is gladly appreciated.

Seeker1's picture
Member since:
5 May 2004
Last activity:
9 years 10 weeks

I agree with you - there is no particular reason why on a map, North has to be at the top.

In fact, on many ancient maps, it isn't.

Many things in this world are arbitrary - this is one - the interesting thing is the process by which the arbitrary is made to seem natural, as if it couldn't be another way.

Did you know, for example, that the Mercator projection makes Europe look bigger and Africa look smaller? Some maps now try and correct for this.

Steven Mizrach
Academic, Pop Culture Junkie, Grail Recycler