The Nolan Chart

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about left wing and right wing recently. It got me thinking about the terms we are all using. There are people on ”the left” who I utterly agree with. There are people on “the left” who are being unreasonable. There are people on “the right” who I utterly agree with. There are people on “the right” who are being unreasonable. But there’s a lot of self identity and emotion wrapped up in these terms.

They polarise people – left vs right. Rational people feel they can say “I hate whichever-wing people” and mean it. People I respect on both sides have done it on their Facebook recently. We are instinctively tribal because that’s what we come from – we try to identify what’s not our tribe, we protect ourselves from it, and then we show our teeth and throw shit at each other across the boundary.

After the French Revolution, the parliament called for the exponents of the “Ancien Regime” (the old ways/the aristocracy) to sit to the right of the speaker, and the proletariat voices for republicanism etc to sit on the left of the speaker. That’s the origin. One left, one right. Nobody in the middle but the speaker. Two rows of people looking at each other. One versus the other. Baddies Vs Goodies. Everton Vs Liverpool. That’s the model we’ve taken on. We’re forgetting that there’s more than left and right, there’s up and down.

I was talking with my brother about this. I didn’t go and volunteer today. Volunteering was wonderful, fulfilling but draining. I would advise anyone who is not working to get stuck in particularly now when the cameras are moving on. By volunteering, I could use my privilege to help others, and simultaneously make myself feel better. Double privilege and the chance to be virtue signalling like I am here. Yay.

But the news that was coming in, the weight of hope and sadness about the missing people. The human truth of this fire. How many people burnt? For sure it’s a lot more than they’ve been able to identify. And it was extremely upsetting and draining to remain positive in the face of it when people in the team knew that it’s only a matter of time before they hear the death of a loved one.

That building burnt for a long time. It’s down to gold teeth and pacemakers. But being nearby and helping in whatever way is a good use of time, particularly because of how it has caught the imagination. There’s a lot of stuff that has been given that needs sorting.

But as I was saying before I distracted myself, I spoke with my brother about left and right. He reminded me that the political spectrum is 3d, which makes sense of how frequently people I respect on the left and right are on the same page at heart. Because there are two other dimensions. 

In 1969 David Nolan drew up a chart which I find helpful to contemplate.


He identified himself as a libertarian and that word has been co-opted in America and shifted its meaning from his intention. But it’s something to think about. Everyone is placed in a more complicated position than just left and right. Left. Right. Authoritarian. Libertarian. Also nowadays there’s Globalism Vs isolationism. But I’m not even getting into that as that’s a big topic.

So left libertarian is Gandhi, right libertarian is Ayn Rand. Left authoritarian is Stalin. Right authoritarian is Hitler. If you haven’t read The Fountainhead / Atlas Shrugged a workable English example of a right libertarian in my lifetime is John Major.

The examples of authoritarianism I’ve given mirror my lifelong distaste for humans that claim to authority. One of my old teachers reads this blog and will probably second me there. One day I’ll probably share one of his school reports. And there are exceptions. My first boss, Digby, was a beauiful poetic man and an authoritarian. His certainty proved an anchor for a clueless teenager and I will respect his memory my whole life. He taught me a lot. I suspect there are more positive examples to be found of Authoritarians. But the point is, it’s a spectrum. It’s more nuanced than just left and right, and speaking as someone who has shifted and might shift again, you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t embrace the nuance.

I’m just thinking into a phone. And what I’m thinking is that we should be looking for common ground rather than difference.

Ahh politics.

I’ve just written something about politics, regarding this tower fire. It’s what everyone is doing so I’m in good company. And there’s lots of politics to find. But the more we exploit a disaster for points either way the more we polarise and the more petty we appear to be. And In the end we all want the same sort of thing.

That’s my tuppence. I’ll get back to the acting before long. People in my job are frequently speaking their mind in random issues and as frequently being attacked for having no right to do so. But a big part of our job is to speak. And another part is to understand. I will continue to do my best, from my extremely privileged position, to haphazardly make sense of things. And if this blog is nothing else it’s forcing me to speak my thoughts where I might otherwise be silent.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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