Middle ground?

中国日报网 2015-08-25 13:45



Reader question:

Middle ground?

In the following paragraph (Clinton distances herself from Obama on trade, Associated Press, June 15, 2015), please explain “middle ground”:

In Iowa, Clinton appeared to seek middle ground, saying while some support the deal and others vehemently oppose it, “I kind of fall in the group that says ‘what's in it?' And ‘let's make it as good as it can be, and then let's make a decision'”.

My comments:

Hillary Clinton doesn't say whether she supports a trade deal proposed by President Barack Obama. Nor does she say whether she is against it.

Instead, she kind of chooses to walk in the middle of the road.

That's what seeking middle ground means – trying to take a neutral position, in order not to offend either of the two parties who have taken an extreme position, one on the left, the other on the right.

The middle ground is the area in between. In our example, Clinton doesn't even seem to have a clear position. So she refuses to lend her support to either side of the dispute. Instead she takes a moderate position, saying effectively she wants to wait and see – to take a closer look at the deal and see exactly what the fuss is about.

Anyways, in any dispute, the middle ground is an area or position of compromise. By taking or playing the middle ground, you're trying to seek an agreement rather than a prolonged conflict. You're willing to give a little and perhaps take less. In other words, you're ready to make a little sacrifice in order to resolve the dispute.

The middle ground position, or the middle way, is obviously different from an extreme position, on either end of the dispute. The extreme position takes the view of the black and white. It's either black or white. To them, there is no grey. To them, it's do or die, win or lose.

Yours truly, by the way, sees a lot of grey in everything these days and therefore, I believe in moderation and restraint, plus lots of consideration for others.

That's neither here nor there, though. Let's read a few examples of people seeking, or avoiding middle ground:

1. AT A small factory in Melbourne's eastern suburbs last week, Chris Kalomiris, an organiser with the National Union of Workers, delivered his stump speech on the Howard Government's sweeping rewriting of workplace laws, predicting all manner of dire consequences for working Australians.

The good news for the 30-odd workers, he said, was that they would not be affected by most of the changes — apart from the exemption from unfair-dismissal laws for firms of up to 100 workers — because a one-year extension had been negotiated to their enterprise agreement.

Even so, they were still asked to put their hands in their pockets and fund the broader struggle against the laws, with Kalomiris conceding that this was a fight that would not be won with the traditional union artillery of rallies or industrial action.

Yes, there would be rallies, he said, and they were important. “But marching up and down — and I was one who marched up and down during the Kennett years — that in itself won't do it.”

It was the “mums and dads” — those who had generally enjoyed good times and low interest rates under the Howard Government — who had to be won over, he said. “They're the ones who are going to get it in the neck when the award system is gutted.”

So the workers were asked to add $5 a week to their union dues for a month to help fund the ACTU's advertising campaign against the changes, a campaign that was costing about $6 million, but was certain to go “way above” that figure.

The motion was carried unanimously without debate and, after closing the meeting and chatting with the factory manager, Kalomiris prepared to deliver the same pitch at another factory.

Last night, the Government launched its bid to convince the same “mums and dads” that the new system is all about greater choice, more jobs, higher wages and more opportunities for their children, with television advertisements portraying happy workers giving the changes their approval.

While John Howard denied that his advertising campaign would cost taxpayers about $100 million, he conceded the cost would be “significant” (the ACTU claims about $12 million will be spent on government ads in the next three weeks, before the legislation is introduced in Melbourne Cup week).

But the Prime Minister is refusing to give the same guarantee — that no one will be worse off under the new system — that he gave before the 1996 election. The “preliminary explanatory memorandum” he released yesterday will not convince the skeptics that the new system will make everyone a winner....

When Howard was asked what sort of a choice it was for workers to be told they must accept an individual contract or there was no job, he became just a little impatient: “That is a right or situation that exists under the present law. I mean, for heaven's sake, that is not something that's suddenly being created here and I don't think that is an unreasonable thing and those situations vary.”

Ultimately, he is asking the electorate to take him on trust. Describing himself as one who has “devoted his public life to improving the living standards of average Australians”, Howard is banking on being believed by the mums and dads who are the target of the ACTU campaign.

But, if the success of the ACTU campaign to date and the reaction yesterday of Family First senator Steve Fielding are any guide, the Prime Minister still has a lot of work to do. Fielding said Howard's assurance that workers would be able to choose between individual contracts, collective agreements and awards “looks mean and tricky”. He also worried about the impact on low skilled and older workers.

What is certain is that the transition period to the new system will be messy and complex, especially in the early stages, and especially if the states refuse to co-operate — and that the results will not be clear for quite some time. “I believe that these changes will produce a far more productive economy,”

Howard said yesterday. “I think they'll make the economy work better and, if that proves to be the case, then people are going to be better off. Now, that will emerge over time. It's not something you will be able to do a stocktake on in six or 12 months' time. These things will develop over time.”

Which means the workplace reform battle for the middle ground will be fought right up until the 2007 election.

- Workplace warriors, TheAge.com.au, October 10, 2005.

2. President Obama is a political fraud, left-wing academic Cornel West charged in his latest tirade against the man he once supported.

“He posed as if he was a kind of Lincoln,” said the firebrand professor. “And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton.”

The professor at Princeton University and Union Theological Seminary expressed disillusionment with the first black President during an interview with Salon, where he attacked policies involving Wall Street, national security and the response to protests in Ferguson.

“He posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit,” said West. “It's like you're looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin.”

It was not the first time that the outspoken and controversial intellectual turned on Obama.

The staunch leftist, who has also taught at Harvard, said in a 2011 interview that the President is “most comfortable with upper-middle-class white and Jewish men who consider themselves very smart.”

In 2012, he called him a “Rockefeller Republican in blackface.”

In his chat with columnist Thomas Frank published Sunday, West slammed Obama for seeking middle ground.

The middle ground is not the place to go if you're going to show courage and vision,” he added.

- Ivy League academic Cornel West decries President Obama as ‘counterfeit', New York Daily News, August 25, 2014.

3. According to a new YouGov survey, 49% of 18-24 year-olds in Britain define themselves as something other than completely heterosexual. The Kinsey scale invented in the 1940s placed people on a range of sexual preferences from exclusively heterosexual at 0 to exclusively homosexual at 6.

In the Yogi study, individuals were asked to put themselves on that sexuality scale. In total, 72% of the British public scored themselves at the completely heterosexual end of the scale, while 4% were at the completely homosexual end, with 19% stating they were somewhere in between – classed as bisexual by Kinsey.

One of the most striking findings of the new study is that with each generation, people see their sexuality as less fixed and more fluid. The results for 18-24 year-olds are particularly telling, with 43% placing themselves in the non-binary area between 1 and 5 and 52% place themselves at one end or the other. Of these, only 46% say they are completely heterosexual and 6% as completely homosexual.

Public opinion seems to accept the concept that sexual orientation exists along a continuum, rather than being an either/or choice between being straight and gay. According to YouGov, 60% of heterosexuals support this idea, as do 73% of homosexuals.

Only 28% of heterosexuals believe that “there is no middle ground – you are either heterosexual or you are not”.

- Sexual orientation in the UK: Half of young people say they are not 100% heterosexual, IBTimes.com, August 16, 2015.


About the author:

Zhang Xin is Trainer at chinadaily.com.cn. He has been with China Daily since 1988, when he graduated from Beijing Foreign Studies University. Write him at: zhangxin@chinadaily.com.cn, or raise a question for potential use in a future column.

(作者:张欣 编辑:Helen)



















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