Ideology in the Local Community

By Nikhil Rao

At the University of Massachusetts, I’ve observed a large degree of diversity; after all, it’s teeming with people. There are people of all races, backgrounds, ambitions and thought processes. One can have an intelligent conversation with a fellow student on almost any topic.

But I have noticed that there seems to be a lack of ideological diversity. There are just so many staunch liberals dwarfing right-wing ideologues and centrist factions.

I’m not convinced that this is a good thing. When in discussion with general students, I am greeted with the same, similarly constructed arguments. These arguments are not challenged on a regular basis because who exists to challenge them?

Some leftist ideas may be spot on and I agree with quite a few of them but there are always some stances that aren’t as warranted. These stances need to be challenged and a good argument with someone who doesn’t think like you is an engaging experience. This would lead to greater introspection into one’s own beliefs.

I’m not saying this merely from my centrist perspective; I believe that everyone has a lot to learn. As someone who doesn’t find his disposition on any extreme of the Nolan Chart, I have engaged in discussion with Marxists, socialists and libertarians. Each of these discussions gives me more conviction in some of my beliefs and requires me to rethink others.

Moreover, I opine that a lot of liberal posturing can be attributed to the bandwagon effect. It’s known that peers have a strong influence on our lives and ideology is not an exception to that rule. I believe it is of paramount importance to think opinions through before categorically declaring oneself a liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican.

It is my view that students interested in politics, economics or current affairs at UMass may miss out if they don’t seek differing views to challenge. The Economist notes a trend in people gravitating toward like minds, creating little bubbles. I’m of the view that things like these contribute to political polarization at a local level; however trivial it may seem, it cannot be good.

Students by the truckload despise channels like CNN and FOX News and distance themselves from publications like the Wall Street Journal. What they don’t realize is that not all views put forth in such outlets are necessarily ‘crazy.’ Some are calculated and intelligent ideas and these forms of media allow people to pick and choose what they consider sensible.

In this day and age of partisan and political polarization, people need to step out of the shell of ideology and cross the barrier into a world of reasoning and rationalization. Why is it that diversity in every other aspect is celebrated with pomp while ideological heterogeneity is cast aside? Why is it that ideologues cannot stand voices from across the divide?

True, there are polarizing extremists begging for attention but shun them; listen to the voices in between. As a student at UMass Amherst I feel that it is my responsibility to describe my take on the immediate community and my thusly derived opinion. We need more centrists and independents, not necessarily in terms of party ties but in terms of ideology.

Nikhil Rao is a Collegian columnist and can be reached at [email protected]