Thursday, 17 November 2011

The need to revisit perennial questions

I've been thinking a lot about what the Occupy Movement actual means. I mean, not in the sense of ring-wing dismissive attitude, but, clearly, this is part of a historical process (perhaps in the sense of that much-used and abused phraseology: A Decline and Fall of...), and, as such, requires of us some reflection and thoughtful contemplation of what it means to be part of the human community in these (again, much-used phrase) times of trouble and unrest.

As an observer of social and political development here in Nunavut, I've always tried to advocate for thoughtful exploration of open-ended questions like, "Am I my brother's keeper?"; "What does it mean to be a responsible humanist?"; even, "Who's gonna drive you home tonight?" - to quote an old Cars song. As a lover of classical literature, I think there is much that these types of open-ended questions have to offer even if the challenge of answering them is a highly subjective process and their beauty is that there is no one right way of answering them other than involving and engaging others to explore them with you. They do not so much as answer definitively as inform our decisions so that we may account for and justify truthfully these difficult challenges of public policy.

I've also started reading the introductory analysis of John Stuart Mill's essays: On Liberty and The Subjection of Women which brought up some issues that I think are worth discussing: the question of what is "healthy", "informed" public opinion vs "oppressive" and "coercive" public opinion; what is the difference between "happiness" (ie, not the emotional type but as a state of being qua American Constitution) and "just" social responsibility; is the notion and practical consequence of "conformity" same as being a "law-abiding" citizen; is there such a thing as a "progressive" human nature, and, if so, what is the role and responsibility of legitimate government in ensuring that our public policies do not shut out future possibilities of discourse.

To quote the editor of Penguin Classics' John Stuart Mill, Alan Ryan, I think political thought such as what right-wing ideology and corporatist bureaucracies (such as what we have in Nunavut) entail should be made to answer and justify its imperative to "revolutionize" by repeal and deregulation of policies intended to safe-guard our political openness and undue hinderance and manipulation of social development thus:

"...that the mere fact that we do not like what someone else thinks and says is no reason for us to stifle him. This is the familiar liberal view that it is the hearer's business whether or not to take offence at what someone else says or thinks. Mill's aim was to prevent the 'likings and mislikings' of society being made the basis of what we all may say and think; insisting that those who wish to restrict other persons' behaviour should show what damage they will suffer if they do not get their way is of the essence. As Jefferson asked, 'what harm does it do me if my neighbour believes in sixteen gods or none?'"


"We need freedom of speech and thought not just to discover new truths about external reality, but also to discover new truths about what we might do with our lives. Because human beings and human nature itself change over time, we must keep the door open for new insights."

These are things and possibilities not afforded us (aboriginals) here in our own country, and as long as this prevails, it will be a black eye and true shame of Canada. Even more so, when the Westminster model of Canada allows for diversity and depth of political views, the neo-conservatives try and present other political parties as "socialists" of dictatorial/totalitarian persuasion rather than legitimate political parties worthy to partake in the Canadian discourse.


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