Instead of extreme right or extreme left, how about normalcy?

Instead of extreme right or extreme left, how about normalcy?

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US President Warren G. Harding famously coined the term “return to normalcy” during his presidential campaign of 1920. On the heels of a grueling decade marked by the First World War and the Spanish flu pandemic, Americans wanted nothing more than to feel that they could return to the easier life they knew before. They duly elected Harding president with more than 60 percent of the vote. Although it became a theme of his presidency, Harding could not know how much impact this concept would have in the century to come.

Global politics today is more defined by the terms “extreme right” and “extreme left” than at any time since perhaps the 1930s. We seem to have lost hold of the space that exists in between: The space occupied by normalcy. And after two years locked up due to another deadly global virus and a flare-up of conflict in Europe, normalcy is what we all long for.

Normalcy does not refer to a specific ideology or political baggage, it simply connotes a behavioristic concept of practicality and rationality. Whereas politics in the West remains largely defined by ideologies and, increasingly, by extremes, the politics of Africa, Asia and the Middle East do not fit into such neat categories, but are rather a practical adaptation to a context in order to provide a form of normalcy to citizens.

Normalcy is simply doing what needs to be done to help the people. It is a better word than compromise because it implies a more confident approach to maximizing positives rather than reducing negatives, and thereby makes more sense to people.

Today, we hear that the far right came out on top in Sweden’s elections, but what does this mean in the context of Sweden and a welfare state it has championed and which does not belong to one system or another? The rigid frameworks developed by great thinkers are ultimately less important than the practical, meaningful management of a country.

It is time politicians and politics as a whole became more honest with citizens and voters

Hassan bin Youssef Yassin

We cannot constantly allow new events and unanticipated crises to interrupt the functioning of our countries. A political system of normalcy applies the same framework of common sense, rationality and practicality to day-to-day events as well as to unexpected crises and long-term challenges requiring more urgent management, such as, say, the environment.

By any logic, the environment should be occupying most of our attention today. It should not be the politics of just one small “green” party. The environment is a part of our daily reality; it should not be attributable to any particular political system or ideology. What matters is that we offer it the necessary attention by developing smart and forward-looking policies that make sense for our future well-being, and that this is explained clearly and carefully to the public.

Citizens must be participants in facing the important challenges that can be addressed daily by each and every one of us. It is time politicians and politics as a whole became more honest with citizens and voters. There is no sense in categorizing political actions — it should be a more straightforward matter of priorities, practical thinking and common sense.

To be sure, there are still choices to be made and balances to be struck, but the West should not be so anachronistically locked into ideologies or dogma. In Sweden, the government decided to choose a different approach to coronavirus than most; it did not work but, importantly, we are able to correct course when we make the wrong call initially.

The environmental and climate crises we are facing today have run far beyond our control, yet there are still meaningful policies that we can implement to tackle the issues we face. Politicians should be defined by dealing smartly and rationally with situations as they come up, not by a label of political color or ideology.

I am proud to say that this is a step we have already taken in Saudi Arabia. Our country is managed expertly and efficiently by our leaders. New events and crises do not interrupt that competent functioning, they simply call on us to apply the same practical, common-sense thinking and flexibility we would to all other events and issues we face on a daily basis.

Today’s world should no longer be tied down by old concepts and extremes of the right or the left. Dogma and ideology are no longer relevant — they only serve to dictate a poetry of nonsense.

Hassan bin Youssef Yassin worked closely with Saudi petroleum ministers Abdullah Tariki and Ahmed Zaki Yamani from 1959 to 1967. He headed the Saudi Information Office in Washington from 1972 to 1981 and served with the Arab League observer delegation to the UN from 1981 to 1983.

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