“A huge percentage of the stuff that I tend to be automatically certain of is, it turns out, totally wrong and deluded. I have learned this the hard way, as I predict you graduates will, too.”
-David Foster Wallace, 2005 Kenyon Commencement Speech
Back in University, I was fortunate to have a Political Science professor who opened my eyes to the complexities of the modern world. He would spend an entire lecture convincing us to adopt a certain worldview until we were wholeheartedly convinced, and than with a smile he would conclude by saying: “next day, I’m going to argue that everything I told you today is completely wrong.” He left me with a simple message: it is possible for two intelligent people to arrive at completely opposite conclusions. If two smart people cannot come to an agreement, would it not make sense for us to approach complex subjects like politics and governance with humility? Given the nature of current political discourse this message is now more relevant than ever.
“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts.”
One problem with party politics and the political spectrum, is that they lead us to paint others with a broad brush. Choosing a party to vote for is a complicated decision with hundreds of different factors to consider. Like any large decision in life, when voting its perfectly natural to deliberate before making a conclusion. Being less than 100% confident in the decision made should be a natural response because politics deals with complex issues that don’t always have an answer.
The political spectrum is troubling in that it arbitrarily lumps together groups of people. For instance, I consider myself very left-wing when it comes to social issues, in that I believe people should be free to act as they choose so long as they are not causing harm to others. In turn, I am right-wing when it comes to economic issues, in that I frequently get frustrated when I hear about wasteful public sector spending and have a strong belief in the free-market. If I vote Liberal I get chastised for being fiscally irresponsible and if I vote Conservative I’ll get chastised for being social irresponsible. When I was younger, I was taught to see tolerance as a very important virtue. I hold that everyone should be treated with respect regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or political views. Perhaps, we should stop forgetting about the latter of these.