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You take the high road and I’ll take the low road.

[ by Charles Cameron — a terrain in which divisions may arise, and at least be understood ]

It’s not easy to see one’s good friends take the opposite view on the issue of Rightor Left these days, but it may be of some help to understand how two parties can arrive at opinions that diverge so sharply. I’d like to suggest a little mathematics might help.

Here’s a diagram RC Zeeman devised to illustrate the 3-variable cusp catastrophe in Rene Thom‘s Catastrophe Theory:

Source: RC Zeeman, Catastrophe Theory, Scientific American, 1976

Never mind the various terms Zeeman has dropped into his diagram — below, I’ve altered the diagram to suit my own purposes:


Ugly, I’m afraid: but see below..

Okay, I’ll invite you to imagine you’re seeing a grassy landscape, starting from the left and taking a stroll to the right side. As you’ll see, there are two divergent paths from left to right — and if you imagine them as the thought paths of two friends who start off in full agreement but then diverge over political matters until the gap between them is enough to threaten their friendship — that’s what the diagram is supposed to represent.

My diagram is clearly the work of someone who doesn’t understand graphics, so I asked my friend Callum Flack to illustrate “The point is just to make it look as though people could go for a stroll and wind up in antagonistic positions” — and here’s his illustration, in Callum‘s characteristic black and white:

He’s picturing one traveler (white) who has taken the low road, and is facing the cliff — above which stands the fellow (black) who took the high road. And the height of the cliff represents the fierceness of the dispute between them.


I like, insofar as I can, to tie my political posts into some aspect of the arts with which they share a common pattern. Here, I think of the traditional Scottish ballad, Loch Lomond.

The ballad itself is a beautiful one, but the story behind it is grim — involving the rebellion of the Scottish Highlanders against a king they regarded as a heretic and usurper, and in favor of the Scottish heir, Bonnie Prince Charlie.

Since in that grim tale, the high road and the low road serve very different purposes I’d invite you to listen first to the tale as told on NPR by Leslie Howard — Loch Lomond: https://beta.prx.org/stories/7593 — and then to listen to a traditional rendering of the song, which touches on the Bonnie Prince, and the sad, romantic tale of the Jacobite rebellion, culminating in the slaughter of so many in the Highland clans at Culloden Field:


As a Scot, and as a Cameron, my loyalties are clear.

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