The politics of ‘being right’

Advanced polls opened this past Tuesday for residents of the Greater Toronto Area to vote for a mayor, a school board trustee and a city councilor. Toronto mayoral elections have become a hot topic among Toronto and general Canadian youth, especially in light of Rob Ford’s scandalous behavior. I recently voted in advanced polling, which sparked conversations about politics among my friends and family.

Political debates cover some of the most heated topics. A person’s political beliefs tend to parallel their morals. Political discussion is often skewed with fancy garble that confuses or embarrasses people into silence, but politics isn’t as complicated as it is made out to be. Political ideologies are essentially the way in which someone wants the world to work. When you attack someone’s political schemas, you are attacking their character, judgment, and all that they stand for and pretty serious arguments can stem from that.

Growing up in Toronto, I was surrounded by people that were typically politically left leaning. An NDP voter in Toronto usually supports initiatives such as government subsidized housing, increased spending for the arts and further increasing some of Toronto’s high taxes. To break this down a bit, an NDP voter generally believes in higher taxes for the wealthier residents in order to reduce the financial stresses of the less wealthy. In high school, students said that they would never associate with a right wing person because they ‘couldn’t understand’ how someone could have such selfish world views. Although my teachers were not as bold, they would often smile in agreement.

Outside of school, the people in my life generally held entirely different views. They often dug into the school system’s cushiony pension plans for teachers and viewed arts as a hobby rather than a career. I often heard them remark that people should never expect handouts and work for everything they had.

On many occasions, I tried to talk to classmates, teachers and my family about different political perspectives. This was greeted with a lot of eye-rolling and scoffing, followed by a loud and defensive statement as to why what I just said was ridiculous. When their immediate responses were that dismissive, I could tell there was no room for active listening.

Is it more important to learn something or prove that you’re right?

Political ideologies are so close to our hearts that people are consumed with being right and defending themselves to the point that they can’t even entertain another possibility. In heated political debates, a common tactic is to talk at someone, rather than have productive two-sided discussion. This is usually done in a raised, defensive tone of voice with the hope of possibly changing someone’s mind.

In an ideal world, we would be less concerned with being ‘right’ and more interested in learning from one another. In reality, however, we are hypocritical. We are far too concerned with the notion of sacrificing our opinions to hear others, rather than focusing on what we will gain from learning about new ideals or perspectives. We say that we respect other people’s opinions and want to have balanced debates–we are more interested in hearing what we have to say than pursuing more information or understanding new insights.

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