Is there room for nuance? (conclusion)
And so it is, in my estimation, with so many of the tenets of the “progressive” faith. Fracking is bad; the province’s new forestry policy will destroy the forest; “conservative” is tantamount to evil (hence the characterization of Stephen Harper as a dictator and destroyer of the country); all those who agree with us love the earth and embrace common humanity– those who disagree are selfish destroyers of nature, health and the common good.
We hear a great deal these days about polarized opinions and “camps”. In part, I am arguing that such polarization results directly from the over-simplification of complex situations and concerns, an oversimplification that arises when anyone or any group, either formal (e.g., Council of Canadians) or informal (the “progressives” Wente references) imagines that truth can be absolute and that he/she possesses that truth. When I travel between Sussex and Saint John, nailed to a tree I see a sign which captures, perfectly and sadly, that trend: two boxes, one FOR Fracking and one FOR Health, and the viewer is asked to PICK ONE.
Does anyone really believe that the choice is that stark? That absolute? Sadly, it is but one small manifestation of a pervasive phenomenon, one where assertion substitutes for argument, where “yes’ or “no” is the only response we are invited to provide. Chances are a judgment of our moral character may very well be in the balance.
Personally – fracking being but the most current example – I believe taking the time to investigate and to think beyond the confines of a narrow interest is our most important responsibility, both individually and collectively. During my tenure as an MLA, I had the opportunity to ponder issues in considerable depth and I was repeatedly appalled at the oversimplification of complexity that was provided (through commercial media and/or online) and commonly embraced.
Overall, I want to encourage all those with an interest in public policy to avoid the absolute, to embrace nuance and to develop a carefully considered opinion. It will take time and effort – looking beyond the tweet, the headline or the online “study” – but it will be time well spent.