Thursday, September 15, 2016

A conversation about Canadian values, round 2

Mea Culpa.

Commenters Russ Campbell and 'Dollops' call me to task for the following phrase in "A conversation about Canadian values":
"If she’s sincere in not understanding this, and not simply trying to froth up a corrosive populist rage for personal political gain…"
They are, of course, correct. This phrasing falls far short of the standard I do my best to hold myself to in debate. Nobody likes to eat crow, but sometimes it has to be done. The original phrasing, now in strikethrough, links to this post and its apology. It was indulgent to use such language, no matter how troubled I am by the topic.

That needs to be said. But then Dollops continues:
"Discrimination, Ms Bufton, is good; it is how we common folk separate wholesome change from unwanted adventures."
Dollops is correct again - discrimination is important. And discriminating is what I was doing in my post.

The mindset that says only a nebulous, elite group could disagree with your position and the idea that your ideas alone should be institutionalised as soon as that elite group can be overthrown is dangerous to the values that underpin a liberal democratic society like Canada's. Discrimination against unwholesome adventures departing from Canada's foundational values of free inquiry and democratic discussion need to be levelled at populist ideas for this very reason. It is incumbent upon us to take part in it.

Too many conservatives to whom the idea of 'values-screening' is appealing seem ill-prepared for the idea that their values seem as dangerous to a large part - not a small elite - of the Canadian polity when assessed by someone like me as my ideas appear to someone like them.

What would it mean for people like Dollops if every Canadian were to inform themselves, think about it carefully, and turn out to vote, and we found that conservatives who agreed with them were a decided minority, after all? Would they, then, decide to accept the position of the majority as moral and good? No. The ballot box is not the tool we use to determine what's right and what's wrong.

To be in favour of a discussion of Canadian values only if it reaches the conclusion that we've come to is not to be in favour of that discussion. To be unprepared for the idea that 'traditional' Canadian values are not set and long-held, but a snapshot of where we are now in a fluid, democratic process that has the potential to improve them is to be opposed to allowing the conversation to continue. 

The peace that must be struck between wholly incompatible viewpoints is precisely the sort of nuanced thing that the state is ill-equipped to marshal, settle, and institutionalise. It may set out the rules, but we see to the rest. Tearing down the foundations of a building because it doesn't suit the purposes of those who want to stop the process in order to replace it with something intended to be permanent and decided is exactly what those looking to replace a conversation about values with a snapshot of what they are today are looking to do. 

My interlocutors have provided exactly the sort of feedback we should search for: They held me to account for my failings and remind me to do better, and they've helped think more about my position by providing an apt example.

My sincere thanks to you both for the comments.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Flattening an elephant

The original elephant curve, used to bolster the argument
that the middle and working classes of the developed
world are being "left behind" by globalisation. 
I saw the 'Elephant Chart' first presented with a claim: that while maybe the world is getting richer, by talking about that we're ignoring stagnation for the working and middle classes of North America and the developed world. The claim that came with this chart is that we can only celebrate global growth by ignoring the stagnation and the pain that comes with it of people here, at home.

If this were true, then perhaps policies that promote globalisation are good for the world, but by passing them politicians have failed to worry about protecting their own citizens first. This would give some weight to the claim that by supporting globalisation, politicians are sacrificing the middle class at the altar of free trade to help foreign people for whom they don't have responsibility.

But it's not true.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

What I'll never forget

Of course I will never forget that morning fifteen years ago today, walking into Mr. Carrick's English class to see a TV at the front and be told that someone had bombed one of the World Trade Center towers, and watching for the next two hours to learn how much worse the truth was than that. Of course I won't. I can't.

I don't think anyone who saw that day can ever forget it. Not while their mind is sound.

I've posted before about the fact that I don't believe remembering is enough - we've dropped the bar for ourselves far too low when all we ask is that we remember something. Especially something that we couldn't forget if we tried. Especially something that changed so much.

But even our bar for simply remembering has dropped too low. There are more things I think we should remember about today.

We should remember that the very human desire to mourn together can be turned into an intellectual weapon for demanding consensus and compliance.

We should remember that the very human fear triggered by being reminded of just how little we control the world can be turned into justification for quashing people with whom it's easy to forget how much we share just to feel like we control something. Arm bands and camps aren't the only things that diminish the humanity of others.

We should remember that that fear and demands for compliance and control stand in conflict to our uniquely human desire and propensity to cooperate in spite of and benefit from each other's differences - the very things that allowed us, so helpless individually as we might be against the world, to build the colossal concrete towers that we remember crumbling, impossibly and tragically, to the ground. 

We should remember to look around us every day and see all these marvels we build when we overcome our differences, tolerate uncertainty, take chances, and work together. Even when those marvels are just trivial little contrivances. Even when we think we should be pursuing something else. We should remember that those things are still amazing, and that they come from our equally marvellous interdependence.

We should remember what we can accomplish together when we give up direct control and rely instead on rules for cooperation without knowing exactly where cooperation will lead. We should remember how little we can accomplish alone, even though we might be able to feel like we're directing where we're going when we don't depend on each other.

We should remember that actually controlling the world to the point that we're all, always safe isn't an option.

It's incumbent on us not only to remember all of these things, but to learn as much as we can from them.

We remember the towers, the Pentagon, and Flight 93.

Of course we do.

But I, for one, refuse to let that memory become a tool for people who want to undo what we can accomplish together, and a waste in our quest to understand the world and each other.

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

A conversation about Canadian values

Conservative Party of Canada leadership contender Kellie Leitch has made headlines by calling for immigrants to Canada to be screened for ‘Canadian values’. Several of her colleagues have spoken out against the idea, and CBC did a good job of pointing to some of the practical problems with the policy.

The Leitch campaign has responded by saying that people who don’t want to test for Canadian values don’t want to have a conversation about what Canadian values are. But when Canadians reject the idea she's put forward for consideration, a conversation about those values is exactly what we’re participating in. If she’s sincere in not understanding this, and not simply trying to froth up a corrosive populist rage for personal political gain (something that would be hostile to the very conversation she claims to want!), what is causing Dr. Leitch to talk past so many people?*