American politics have always been partisan, Glen Pearson writes. But Canadian politics used to be different:
Americans have always remained divided along partisan lines, while the Canadian context has been more of accommodation along general principles – a hegemony usually kept together by political parties usually hewing close to the political centre. That national coherence is now fraying in light of more extremist tendencies weighing heavily on our traditional parties.
Increasingly, we are adopting the American model:
Seriously, we make assumptions based upon our belief that our positions are well thought out and we wonder how those with opposing views can be so naïve. I’ve encountered a lot of this lately, as a conservative mindset sweeps across much of the world. Those holding to such views who I encounter every day and work within our community think it’s high time that liberal thinkers started waking up to reality. Liberal thinkers feel exactly the opposite. How can they be so dumb? Why can’t conservatives be open to research, to rational thinking?
We would do well to read a book by Jonathan Haidt titled The Righteous Mind:
Haidt declares right off that his goal for the book is to help people better understand and dialogue with each other as they work their way through their differences – a task seemingly impossible in our modern world where everything is about politics. But the reader needs to beware that Haidt believes that all of us act more by intuition than rationality, so if you’re going to use reason to debate others, you might not get far. In doing so, he provides plenty of research, as we would expect from a social scientist. It’s more important to understand the other point of view than it is to defeat it, he says, adding that we were never designed to listen to reason:
“When you ask people moral questions, time their responses and scan their brains, their answers and brain activation patterns indicate that they reach conclusions quickly and produce reasons later only to justify what they’ve already decided.”
Haidt believes that people reason all the time, but that they base it upon their preconceived intuition or value systems – filters that make movement in thinking a pretty difficult thing. And, yet, we all think we’re smart and capable people. There’s a significant disconnect here and it has its effects not only on our relationships, but ultimately on our politics – how we reason, vote, and collaborate together to face our greatest challenges.
The Righteous Mind reminds us that our certainties could end up being dead ends, leaving us little room to maneuver when the time comes for compromise. We don’t necessarily have to agree about our political directions, but we do have to respect that we all – millions of us – hold to core beliefs that require one another to achieve together instead of dividing into rigid camps that could put the lie to what we have historically constructed together. As DeShanne Stokes would put it: “We owe our loyalty to each other and to our children’s children, not to party politics.”
Wise words. Until we get our loyalties straight, we'll be at each other's throats.