by Jeff Thomas, International Man:
Over the years, I’ve often been asked to explain the political party system in a simple, easy-to-grasp way. Several years ago, I came up with the following explanation, and, for some people, it’s helped to remove the complexity and smoke and mirrors created by the political world. Let’s see if you agree.
Picture this: You live in a relatively small town. It’s a good place to live, with most townspeople being mutually supportive and often quite helpful. There are just a few local restaurants, each owned and operated by your fellow townsmen. You go out to eat often, to support your community.
Then, one day, in an old brick commercial building in the centre of town, with two vacant storefronts, you see signs announcing the opening of a new pizza shop in one of the vacant spaces. It will be called “Blue Pizza.”
When it opens, the manager advises customers that the owner is a staunch blue party supporter, and, each month, the owner plans to dedicate much of the profits from the shop to blue candidates. You vote blue in each election, so, you make a point of frequenting the shop and feel good that your meals are benefitting the blue party.
Soon, many of the other blue supporters in town flock to the shop, regularly buying pizza. Red supporters, however, are a bit disgruntled and rarely go in for a pizza.
Then, one day, signs appear in the other vacant storefront, announcing the opening of “Red Pizza.” It’s immediately popular with red party voters, as the manager advises customers that the owner intends to donate a major portion of the profits to red party candidates.
Although the owners never seem to be present, the two managers are quite vocal regarding the political support by their respective shops. Soon, business increases dramatically for both pizza shops. Half the town frequents Blue Pizza; the other half frequents Red Pizza. Townspeople go as often as possible, wanting to lend as much support as they can.
Over time, the pre-existing local restaurants are having a hard time making ends meet, as they’re seeing far fewer customers. One by one, they fold. Townspeople regret the closures, but, with each closure, they increase their commitment to their chosen pizza shop.
Each group of patrons insists that its shop’s pizza is better pizza, and rumours begin to circulate that the other shop serves pizza with substandard ingredients that are unhealthy. The other pizza is not only less desirable, but a danger to the community.
As each election time approaches, townspeople go all out, ordering pizza as often as they can, in order to help their chosen candidates to get elected. Altercations often break out between younger customers, on the street in front of the shops.
The townspeople become divided like never before. A resident, who once got on fairly well with his neighbour, now looks at him with resentment and even anger, when he sees him enter the opposing shop. The townspeople become highly polarized and begin to see each other as the enemy. Although actual violence is minimal, the former sense of community, in which neighbours looked after one another, deteriorates.
People in the workplace find that they’re taking up sides far more than they once did, and, in the same place of work, blue and red groupings often define whether co-workers can work together effectively.
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