Time for some calm
After weeks of turmoil, I find myself questioning my own beliefs
There is danger in self-righteousness. When I’m right, and my opinion is holy and unassailable, then all those who differ are clearly wrong, blasphemous, and evil. I am guilty of such thinking. I’m confident we are all guilty. This is the society in which we find ourselves today.
Now I’m writing to you to join me in some self-reflection. This isn’t the normal futurism-related message, although in a lot of ways, it is related to the future. After all, if we can’t fix the present, how awful will be the future?
You see, the events of the past few weeks here in Canada have caused quite a stir of emotions and beliefs in me. I’ve become more confused about what I thought were truths. I’ve become meaner. Uglier.
And today, while sitting at my desk attending a narrative writing class on Zoom, it occurred to me that I’ve taken on the mantle of holier-than-thou — the exact same stance I accuse others of having. But the truth is, I don’t know any better than anyone else.
I do know the following:
The COVID-19 pandemic has sucked for everyone
A massive protest erupted in Ottawa and blockaded the downtown core of the city
The federal government invoked emergency powers
Everybody is fighting each other
Who is right and who is wrong? Why does this matter?
The truth is that I don’t know. I strongly believe in individual rights, and I strongly believe those rights are inalienable. I don’t believe in rule by the majority, because that is exactly what rights are meant to protect against. I believe in direct democracy over representative democracy and I’m a republican instead of a monarchist. In many ways, I’m a borderline anarchist.
But there also has to be some protection of the public good. After all, what is the public if not a collection of individuals? I strongly believe in labor unions, universal health care, universal education, cooperative housing, and even universal basic income (in principle.) I’m a borderline socialist.
These ideals of which I’ve been convinced have been assailed during the past two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, and even more so during the past three weeks of the Freedom Convoy protests. Half of me agreed wholly with the truckers and their supporters, while the other half agreed with the city which the truckers had blockaded.
However, I dug in my heels on one side and chose to make that my unassailable truth. Anyone who argued for the other side was committing a grave sin. They were uneducated, brainwashed, stupid, and wrong. They were enemies!
Those enemies felt the same about me. I was for sure stupid and stubborn and plainly on the wrong side of history.
Thus how civil wars begin.
It was during my narrative writing class that my professor dropped a few truths. Whether or not he meant to is unknown. All I know is I suddenly realized I wasn’t right, yet I wasn’t wrong.
The truth my professor told us was that everyone is so forceful, and everything is pronounced with such statement of fact today, and this is a big issue. He was referring to the media but in the end, it can apply to everyone. I realized this applied to me, too.
After all, personal “truths” are nothing more than opinions. There are no facts. Nothing in science is a fact. Facts are not allowed in science. Everything is a theory and must be assailable, or it isn’t scientific.
Nothing in philosophy is a fact. It must all be debatable and subject to change with new insight, otherwise, it’s not philosophy.
Even the law, that edifice of society in which we all fall back to argue our points, does not deal in fact. It deals in evidence and tries to piece together the most likely, and most objective, series of events leading to a result.
I deal in thinking about the future. Not just the future of technology, although that is a big topic because it impacts the overall future of our world in big ways, but the future of society. The future of society includes thoughts and discussions on issues of morality. Issues of principles.
What is clear to me now is there can be no progression, no future, while we are so divided in our opinions. As I mentioned, I am now of the opinion there are no facts, and therefore no truths, and therefore all of our beliefs are nothing more than opinions. Society is extremely opinionated and divided along those fault lines. The world has come to a grinding halt as a result.
How can we expect to progress into the future when we’re so divided? Right vs left, women vs men, black vs white (vs Asian vs brown vs whatever). None of it is helpful. Nobody is right. Everything is simply opinion.
I’m not sure how we can get out of this deep rut in which we find ourselves. Empires have fallen with such division. Societies laid waste. Wars started and lost. And yet nobody seems willing to budge. People dig their trenches deeper and set up more barbed wire.
The Freedom Convoy protests in Canada have laid bare the divisions here in my country. People cannot agree.
A recent series of polls from various pollsters showed roughly 40% against the convoy and 40% for the convoy.
40% of Canadians want the government’s Emergencies Act and 40% are strongly against it.
A lot of what people know of the protests depends on which side their particular media falls, with left-leaning outfits tripping over themselves to paint the convoy in a bad light and right-leaning outfits doing the same for the other side. How can our small country move forward with such division?
A lot has to do with the media.
I’m a student in a well-regarded journalism program, and I know the intentions of journalists are mostly good. However, there is no denying that the mainstream media in this country have spun angles that simply did not exist in order to fire up tempers. The media, and the social media which distributes their news, share a large part of the blame for today’s climate.
It’s no wonder journalists from legacy outfits were harangued on the streets of Ottawa. They’ve spent the past couple of years being nothing more than propagandists, and I, for one, was not surprised when people attacked them. I don’t condone it, and felt bad for them, but it was expected.
The fact that many journalists were completely shocked by their treatment at the hands of thousands of working-class people in the protests shows how out of touch they’ve become with regular society. It also shows how much anger there is on that side of things.
I don’t know how we get out of this. I do know that we don’t move in any direction until these divisions are solved. They won’t be solved with blunt force. After all, if division is the cause of the problems, then unity must surely be the cure.
Until then, I remain torn, depressed, and stressed by it all. My once beautiful country has been growing steadily worse over the past few years with prices out of control and government corruption and people getting more spiteful and angrier.
Moving forward, I’m going to try and keep my ego in check. I’m going to ditch self-righteous indignation. That means I’ll need to disconnect from the internet for a while. There’s reading week coming up, and this seems like a great time to take a breather. Maybe with a bit of calm restored to my life, I can be a better person.
There will be a break from the Drop for a few weeks while I do this. It’s time for some serious self-reflection about what we value as a society, and which so-called truths it might be time to ditch. If you can do the same, perhaps we can all meet in the middle somewhere, and only then can we progress towards the future.
Thank you for reading my rant. Have a great month of March!
Thanks for writing this, Nathan. This has encouraged me to do some introspective writing as well. Also, I'm touched.