Listening to Each Other

Anyone who’s spent any time following political posts on social media will know just how little time people actually spend listening to each other. Most comments are statements of position. Many simply repeat political dogma whether from the left or the right. Worse, is the mud-slinging. Calls of libtards, repugnicans (I admit to having used this myself and have vowed to stop), snowflakes litter social media.

If the only place we saw this was on the comments section that would be bad enough. Unfortunately, our entire political system has become highly polarized.

This is one of the symptoms of the First-Past-the-Post electoral system. Only one team can win the horse race. The stakes are high, and when you can win 100% power with 43% of the votes, it becomes easy, necessary in-fact, to tear down your opponent. And in doing so, you polarize your followers.

A government should not be a place of 100% power for a given clique. It should be a place of debate. We would build better solutions if our governments were places of negotiation and consensus-building. So this trend toward more polarization in politics is disturbing on a number of levels. It puts too much power in too few hands and it creates see-sawing public policy which is expensive and disruptive.

It can seem like this is all doom and gloom, particularly in light of the current American administration. We Canadians shouldn’t be too self-congratulatory though. As things go in the US culturally, they tend to go here too. There is no doubt that we have a fair degree of left/right polarization in our public discourse and that it is growing.

So it is exciting to see some people recognizing these problem and taking action to mitigate the harmful effects. A group of concerned people in the US have found a fun and creative way to help people in that act of listening to each other.

They’ve started an event called “Make America Dinner Again”. The idea is to throw a dinner party. Invite people with different political  tastes. Let them meet, talk, listen, and learn.

It is a beautiful idea. Protests and public action are valuable. Writing letters and signing petitions can help. Getting involved in a political party is a positive process. Sitting down to have dinner together may be delightful.

Click here to read more about Making American Dinner Again. And thank you to the CBC for their article that pointed us to it.



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Working Together

Anyone who has spent time problem solving knows that working together with other people produces better results. When we work together we build stronger relationships, gain clarity and continuity, and produce better ideas. Unfortunately, as this article from the Guardian points out, we are living in an age of increased hyper-individualism and it may be doing us great harm.


This isn’t just about personal choice. We have become highly independent agents. Socially, we can choose where to live, who to congregate with. Politically, we have a wide variety of causes to get behind. Economically we have an unprecedented amount of choice.  It sounds great, and many political movements, Neo-liberalism, Libertarianism, Populism, celebrate the individual in their own way (although members of those particular camps would resent being lumped together).


Sadly, ironically perhaps, they are missing the big picture.  Humans do better when we work together.


Climate change is going to test us like no other challenge has. Acting independently, we can, and should, buy reusable coffee cups and LED light bulbs. We can ride our bikes to the grocery store where we will feel conflicted over organic vegetables wrapped in plastic. These decisions have less impact when our governments buy pipelines and corporations continue to produce more and more wasteful single use products. We will feel thwarted in our efforts to act responsibly by a system that relies on us consuming beyond the capacity of the environment.


We can solve these problems, despite the dysfunction created by Neo-liberalism by working together. Social action and political action are powerful tools for change.


Working Together with the Green Party

Cooperative problem solving is a vital part of Green Party of Canada policies.  In fact the GPC runs their conventions using consensus-building techniques, promotes proportional representation, and believes in cooperative, not conflict-driven, government.



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Journalism and Democracy; Taking a Stand

Today, newspapers across America are answering a call by the Boston Globe to run editorials denouncing Donald Trump’s attack on journalism.

It is an important issue. We may not always be happy with the news we read. We may not always agree with the opinions expressed in editorials. There will always be bias in journalism and, of course, we will run across articles that do not align with our own biases. There will be times when we will be fuming mad because we don’t agree with something we read. This is okay and is just as it should be. Journalism should be something that challenges us and asks us to think critically.

It is entirely up to us to understand the difference between news and opinion. It is up to us to understand that bias exists, to be understanding of it in other people, and to be willing to see it in our own beliefs, opinions, and actions. We can, in fact, learn to appreciate difference of opinion. In doing so, we encourage building better solutions.

We build sustainable democracies by ensuring the free movement and discussion of ideas. That includes, of course, the challenge of standing up for the right to speak opinions which differ from our own. It also includes denouncing efforts to weaken journalism through intimidation, threats, and bullying.

Following are a few links to editorials including one from Canada’s National Observer:

National Observer (Canada)

Boston Globe

The New Yorker

The New York Times

The Atlantic


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