Since Camp is keeping the bookstore open late for the Christmas season we decided to miss a couple of Thirsty Thursdays and instead meet for Christmas dinner with our partners, Clare and Muriel at their house. We’re all triple vaccinated and Omicron aware. I’m taking this opportunity to post a personal opinion on this snowy morning, which Camp would surely support.
What binds us together as a people is communication and since Descartes pointed it out, we have known that reason is the basis of communication. Without reason, we veer off into insults, unfounded claims and exclusion. This is exactly what is happening today – and it is very dangerous. Because without dialogue, ideologies cannot be overcome. Every trend passes at some point. But what is happening now is frightening and is more than a trend, it’s the division of reason, common sense and science against nonsense, rhetoric and dogmas.
The dictatorships of Latin America and Africa produced neither development, growth nor prosperity. It is similar in the socialist countries, where many people, mostly in rural environments, have become impoverished, thwarted by a system of repression and corruption. The only form of government that enables people to prosper and have freedom of expression and movement are democracies of which the USA is the largest. And now this democracy is teetering on the brink of fascism, fostering a culture of exclusion and division by demagogy and political dogma, that threatens the greatest achievement of democracy: open dialogue between people with different opinions. The freedom to agree to differ and the courtesy, respect and sense to discuss our differences is a triumph of an open civilisation that is now in peril.
And the lie becomes the truth. Such Orwellian quips are not just literary ‘bon-mots’ but actually reflect reality. Oxymorons like ‘weapons of peace’ and ‘fake news’ are bandied about without a thought to their accuracy. There are weapons and then there is peace; there are news and then there are statements masquerading as news. We live in a culture that defines ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ as us vs them. ‘You’re either with me or you are against me. In or out.’ There are two different cultures in the western democracies. There is a culture of exclusion where there can only be one first, one winner, which by definition makes everybody else a loser. There is another culture practiced in Scandinavia and parts of Western Europe and to some extent in Canada, which is one of inclusion: participation in the process is more important than individual victory. Instead of pitting unequal individuals against each other for a spot on top of the podium – which is mostly determined by birth, money and physical strength – I favour consensus and commonality against winner takes all. What is the point of being rich if I have to wall off and guard my house? Safety is not an armed, aggressive defensive position but a supportive, respectful community that accepts differing points of view and fosters dialogue in favour of dogmas and blind beliefs.
We need to calm down and be kind to each other and we must be vigilant and question claims that are based on heresy – speak social media – and not supported by the scientific and journalistic community. We are not supposed to know everything but we should be able to discern facts from fictions and truth from lies by dearth of their provenance and qualifying method. It’s what we’re taught in school, to think and distinguish, to be able to analyse and come to a reasonable conclusion. It’s called using your brain which includes admitting at times to not knowing and an ability and willingness to listen and learn. Is this a novel concept?
I wish you all good health, good common sense and above all, love and compassion for your fellow humans, all passengers on the spaceship earth.