Guest Blog: Time to Change the Conversation

This is Dan’s post advocating a values-based movement.

I don’t know about you but I’m getting pretty tired of this Right-Left stuff. It’s the stuff of extremism and it’s not doing us a damn bit of good. Left and Right are terms designed as a form of shorthand to describe opposite polls of the political spectrum. Wikipedia puts it this way:

“The terms left and right are used to refer to two globally opposed political families. In France, where the terms originated, the Left is called “the party of movement” and the Right “the party of order.”

Neither of which actually apply in Canada. We are not a nation of extremists. Opinion polls over the years have demonstrated a balance between individuals and the society in which we live.

I see us moving into an era of extremism. In Canada people don’t generally drive vans loaded with explosives into innocent human beings in the name of some god. We have witnessed the odd crazy south of the border who decides to kill fellow citizens to save us all from big government. Our extremism in North America generally has been more subtle. But I think in recent years the extremism has become more obvious. This is demonstrated in many ways. None more so than the process that unfolds when it’s time to select political leaders.

I can barely remember the last election campaign based on ideas. Ideas are actually discouraged rather than debated. More often than not, these days’ election campaigns are won entirely on the back of attack advertisements. And this kind of extremism seems to be growing, led by our neighbours to the south. A recent news report cited a situation where in one hour of radio broadcasting in Texas Mitt Romney had aired 17 attack ads against his major opponent. What does this say about Romney, what does this say about voters and, more worrisome, what does this say about ideas? A campaign that is all about attacking one’s opponent leaves little room for attacking problems. Extremists don’t like ideas that are not theirs. They have no patience for options that in the slightest deviate from a black or white, right or wrong form of ideology.

It’s time to move the discussion away from ideologies towards ideas and understood or appreciated social values. When I say values I am not talking about moral or religious values. Those kinds of “values” often do more harm than good. I am also not assuming there is one national set of values that applies to every Canadian. To do so would actually be undemocratic and contrary to the belief most Canadians have in the value of the individual. However, an ideas and values based discussion would push us away from the political outer edges, the extremes, and would allow us to search out and find the kind of Canada we seek to be. Such a discussion could result in social and other policies that don’t swing wildly every few years because they would be based on our shared vision, more reflective of core values.

While there certainly are exceptions Canadians by and large believe in a caring society. We generally believe in access to health care for everyone, that an educated society is a strong society and we believe in taking care of people who can’t take care of themselves. We believe that honesty and effort should be rewarded.

The policies of the political extremes pay lip service to these beliefs. The ideological extremists, if they talk about them at all, only do so selectively to advance a narrow portion of a narrow political agenda.

As I write this both Opposition Parties are in the process of seeking new leadership. What both need to be seeking is new vision, vision that capable of seeing what needs to be done and the courage to do it. Lately there has been some discussion about merging the Liberals and the NDP. It’s an interesting idea but frankly not of much value if all it does is seek to merge existing ideologies and compromise on values. What if both parties were to dissolve completely and a new party was created? Rather than being created for the sole purpose of kicking the Harper Conservatives out of power it would be created to change the dialogue in this country. It would refuse to be guided by the political extremes. That’s something I could sign on for.

The party I want to support is one that doesn’t worry about being on the “political right” or the “political left”. I want a party that’s more concerned about doing right, and making sure no one is left out.


About saxbergonstuff

I'm a mother, a grandmother, a sister, a daughter, an auntie. When I'm not focusing on that, I'm an educator, facilitator and content designer. When I feel like it.
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4 Responses to Guest Blog: Time to Change the Conversation

  1. jeff says:

    Have been thinking about this. It makes me take a step back and take a look at what’s going on. It’s easy to get caught up in the heat of battle between right and left. I believe we have extremists in power and have to be careful not to fall into the opposite trap. Sometimes what may look extreme is part of a strategy to achieve a more moderate goal. Unfortunately there are always people that take what they hear as unwavering and hear the soundbites as factual statements. The tea party comes to mind. It’s a dangerous road to travel and we can learn a lot from American politics. I feel when I am attacking the Conservatives, and writing political articles, that I am trying to stimulate some debate among my peers. Trying to coax my friends, neighbours, and membership into being critical on the issues, trying to point out what I see written between the lines, and hoping they will look deeper into the issues than the last extreme news flash they are hit with. Your article reminds me to be more careful when travelling that road and not to fall into the trap of joining the coffee party. Thank you

    • Dan (aka Sweetie) says:

      Thanks for you comment Jeff, The fundamental problem with the Left/Right designations is that it allows for the dismissal of ideas without consideration. It’s not that people can’t or shouldn’t disagree. Disagreement that encourages debate is a good idea because it has the possibility of leading to consideration, compromise and even collaboration. It can lead to better ideas and better solutions. Even members of the same organization, for example a union, will disagree. Do we simply label them and write-off all their opinions and ideas? A good example of the divide is the debate over individual versus societal rights. The fact that I believe decisions should be made from a societal view doesn’t mean I should totally dismiss the importance of the individual. That should define the issue of the debate. How do we create a great social system while preserving the effort and creativity of the individual within that society? Simply dismissing my views because I am a “socialist” is just as unfair as dismissing anthers because she might be a “conservative.”

  2. Glenn Sullivan says:

    First Blog..Edgy…I like it! Nice work Dan.

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