Friday, January 18, 2008

Yes, Nicol This Thought Train Does Make Sense

Nicol over at The War Room, wrote an terrific post today. Do go over and read the entire thing (I'll wait). I was going to leave a comment, but it became rather long-winded and I decided to write a post about it instead.

Nicol poses an important question:

My question is, to those of you with strong beliefs, do you find it easy to be friends with people whose beliefs are polar opposite to your own?

I don't mean friendly or on nice speaking terms. I mean friends who share deep experiences with each other.

The conversation turns to the news of his soon-to-be born daughter:

We seek to baptize our child Catholic. Can one invite [his friends] the academic or the pagan to the baptism when you know they have communicated to you that they see the faith as a form of oppression and hate?

Take the flip side; if one really believes the war in Iraq is about nothing but oil and greed and oppression of other people, how can that person be good friends with someone who is for it?

Unless of course you conclude the opposing side is just ignorant, misinformed and stupid...which is of course just as problematic. I feel like I am at a bit of a turning point in my life as we prepare for our daughter to be born.

And that is my question. I truly believe one should seek out many diverse friends to have with differing views and beliefs. But realistically, in the arts, I do not have that many conservative, Christian or Catholic friends.

You are not alone in your sentiments. I feel that way a lot.

I got away from Sociology and decided to do a Masters in public policy. The simple reason was, in Sociology, there was only one way of (allowed) thinking. I will never forget the time when in an Analysis of Social Policy class (this was around the beer and popcorn incident) when I raised the possibility/questioned whether it was in the government's role/responsibility to provide child care as social policy. I was basically laughed at by my colleagues, and tsk-tsked by the prof for thinking in the "status quo".

In a classroom, why must I hide under a shield of saying that I'm "playing devil's advocate"? Because, I would have no friends in university.

Switching gears in academic fields was the best thing that happened to me, but I truly wish there was more diversity of opinion. My public policy degree requires courses in economics, statistics and politics, and thus it does not allow students to fly by on just an arts degree. Perhaps I was naive to think that this would create an environment where students who see things in more than one political colour.

On my first week of class this January, two out of three profs poked fun at our current PM. They don't dare name "him" though, they says "our current government" and give a frowned look when referring to poverty, environment etc...

I do feel alone. I cringe in a classroom when we talk about "global warming"/"climate change" and how profs and colleagues refer to the opposite side as "climate change deniers." I finally spoke up this week in class (but was cautious not to make myself the guilty party) and said "climate change deniers" is inaccurate as many of them acknowledge that climate changes, which is their very point. I wish I had had the courage to add, "if you would actually being a little open-minded and actually read/listened to the other side, instead of belittling it, you would know that." How ignorant of my prof (and most of Canadian/MSM) to call them "climate change deniers" (only because the language changed from 'global warming' to 'climate change') when they aren't even denying that climate changes! It is precisely their point that it does change!

Outside of the classroom I go out with friends, but I can't say that there is any one person to whom I feel particularly close. Like you Nicol, I have very few conservative friends.

Blogging, which Nicol was my inspiration to start, in the BT community actually makes me feel less alone. I've neglected blogging the past 6 months because I am trying to distance myself from the childish "Celine Dion/Dijon" vocabulary and genuinely try to blog from a non-partisan perspective. I even considered leaving the BT. However, in this time in my life right now, this is where I fit in.

The past three years I have grown considerably. I have made 4 realizations in my early 20s:

1. "Tolerance" means 'think like me' (and secretly criticize and/or dismiss any opposing view)
2. Inequity is not only a reality, but not necessarily all bad
3. Being "open-minded" apparently does not include (big C) Conservative/(small l)liberal ideas
4. Being a "critical thinker" apparently means to abide by #3 at all times.

Nicol, you talk a lot about the baby-boomer generation. You sound a lot like my partner who is a Gen Xer. I'm Gen Y, and I'm even more worried for my spoiled-spoon-fed generation.


Blogger Joanne (True Blue) said...

Very insightful, Spitfire. I admire your courage to challenge your professors.

Fri Jan 18, 10:09:00 PM EST  
Blogger Jarrett said...

I think it's for the sentiments expressed in this post that you and I seem to get along so well. A couple of things:

1) I find it's a lot easier to be (small-c) conservative when I play neutral to it. For example, this morning a buddy of mine had an Obama puff piece in some crappy student paper out here, and he asked what I thought. I immediately started picking it apart using what you might call "objective facts" - for example, I countered his bit about Bush being the worst president ever by raising the names of, you know, Warren Harding, James Buchanan, Andrew Johnson, Franklin Pierce, Jimmy Carter, etc. Conservatives generally have to keep their views to themselves, but when you start to raise your voice, I've found (at least out here) that there are lots of people who come out and tell you they agree with what you're saying.

2) At our weekly firm-sponsored free-booze-for-all evening, this week being the week after we learned about how inequality makes us more equal as long as we treat the right people unequally, someone asked me about my political beliefs. When I pointed out I was an egalitarian, I found it sad and amusing that this wonderful person started spouting back the obviously flawed theories we'd been spoonfed last week. (It's not that I don't "get it". I just don't "buy it". I don't know about you, but I think that judging litigants differently based on race gets pretty freaking dangerous. It sounds great until someone splits hairs in the precedent and goes, "Yes, but this case involved an ethnically Chinese family" or whatever.) Funny thing was, these people seem so tolerant of others and accepting of the opinions of other cultures and lifestyle choices (condemning conservatives for SSM), but the second you say you're also pro-polygamy for the same reasons as you're pro-SSM, boy howdy, watch out for a backlash!

3) I admire your efforts to try to blog from a relatively non-partisan perspective. It's not always easy, but it's far more valuable. If I wanted partisan talking points, I'd read the party websites :)

Sat Jan 19, 12:37:00 AM EST  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm Gen Y, and I'm even more worried for my spoiled-spoon-fed generation.

If that's the case, I suggest you get off the computer, read a book and stop looking for reasons to feel superior to everyone around you.

Sat Jan 19, 10:50:00 AM EST  
Blogger Nicol DuMoulin said...

Wow...that was a wonderful, heartfelt post.

I felt the same way when I was at university. The difference was, when I was there, there was still a battle taking place. There were still debates taking place about free speech and right vs. left etc. Back then, 89-93, the term 'political correctness' had not even made it to the mainstream yet and many of us were trying to figure out where we stood. I called myself a liberal, because liberals were supposed to be for free speech.

But...we lost.

Now, there is no debate on campus' and it is expected that you have the status quo. I am sorry that you felt the need to switch your discipline. There are too many fields now where too many ideologically driven people have too much control.

As for the friends thing...yes, it is difficult when people do not have your same world view. How can I confide in people that one of my worries is earning enough money in film so that I do not have to send my daughter to a Toronto public school when most of my friends worship at the altar of the Toronto Public School Board?

I know there are good public schools, but in Toronto, you would have a hard time finding one that isn't fairly extreme.

How do I confide in my friends that I worry about things like free speech and the HRC, when they do not even know who Ezra Levant or Mark Steyn are? They think they are smarter than history because of how they vote even though they only scan the front page. I fit is on the front page of the Toronto Star...that is their view for the day.

I love my friends...but I find I cannot relate to them much anymore and deep down I think they feel the same way.

It gives me no pleasure to feel that way...but I suspect there are a lot of people going through it. As my wife says, my passion (film) is sadly an occupation where there are virtually no people like me. We even met a major Canadian director before Christmas who said he would like to meet with us and I still feel frustrated because you are always worried that someone will find you out. You are always wondering if you did not get that last job because someone knows your views.

"Friends" of ours recently would not let my wife and I use them as references for a film company. They said it was because they were not on good terms with mangement and it would hurt us. My wife and I both suspect is actually because they are afraid to be associated with people who are not uber left, even though we never talk politics or religion in a professional capacity.

Thank you for your heartfelt post and for reading my work through the years. Your support has always been very appreciated.

Be well.

Sat Jan 19, 12:07:00 PM EST  

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