Two articles that appeared in a newspaper world section at the weekend highlighted the dividing line running through today's Western societies, ours included.
One article concerned Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson who is in hot water yet again and whose fate is the subject of intense speculation, not only in Britain but in the 214 territories where the show is broadcast. The other concerned the release of a cross-party parliamentary report on the snooping activities of Britain's spy agencies.
The Clarkson piece was written by Sathnam Sanghera, an award-winning journalist whose parents emigrated from Punjab and who grew up in the West Midlands town of Wolverhampton, which is every bit as gritty as its name suggests.
As well as pointing out that Top Gear is wildly popular "among the ethnic minorities that the press often accuses Clarkson of insulting", Sanghera had this to say: "If you want to understand provincial Britain, you have to understand Top Gear. You need only glance at the coverage of Clarkson's suspension to appreciate how, for many, he symbolises much more than cars."
The spying article revealed that at an evidence session before Parliament's intelligence and security committee last October, the heads of four civil liberties groups were asked if they'd drop their opposition to bulk data collection if it was shown that it had helped thwart terrorist attacks. They said no, they would not.
The committee's position is that "we do not subscribe to the point of view that it is acceptable to let some terrorist attacks happen to uphold the individual right to privacy - nor do we believe that the vast majority of the British public would".
The divide is between what might be called enlightened metropolitan opinion (EMO), aka the chattering classes, aka the forces of political correctness, and popular opinion (PO), aka the silent majority, aka the great unwashed.
As far as PO is concerned, Clarkson is an entertainer with an instinctive take on the issues of the day that it can relate to. Yes, he might go too far every now and again, especially when he's had a drink or six, but don't we all? Besides, it's not intended to be taken seriously.
But EMO loathes Clarkson because, in its view, he breathes fresh life into dated and deplorable attitudes. He is, in his own words, a "dinosaur", but one who has thrived rather than become extinct.
Likewise, as PO sees it, the anti-snooping brigade is exercised by an abstraction - the possibility that intelligence agencies are reading our shopping lists and text banter - while disregarding the real and terrifying prospect of a bomb going off at the local shopping mall. If you lump them together, EMO's stances amount to getting the old nursery rhyme "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me" arse about face.
To EMO this nonchalant acceptance of bulk data collection reeks of the contradictory notion that extremism in defence of liberty is no vice. The author of that premise was Barry Goldwater, the failed Republican candidate in the 1964 presidential election and a founding father of Tea Party conservatism.
EMO would argue that any attack on western societies is an attack on our core values of freedom, transparency and the rule of law. If the West fights back by trampling on the very principles we are supposedly defending, then our enemy has already won the war of ideas.
Successful centre-left leaders and their parties straddle this divide. Labour went into last year's election with a leader - David Cunliffe - who was seen as the personification of EMO and we all know how that turned out. On first impressions his successor Andrew Little comes across as a more rounded figure, a man with one foot firmly planted in the provinces. His challenge is to persuade the public that he has shifted Labour away from a doctrinaire EMO party line.
Part of John Key's success is he is seen as a Clarksonian figure - someone who speaks our language, the voice of bluff, non-PC common sense. But success based on being a darling of PO comes with built-in obsolescence: when you've been popular for a long time, you start to take the public's support for granted.
At that point the law of diminishing returns kicks in because, unlike love, PO isn't blind.