A quiet word

The Compass - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky is TC Me­dia’s At­lantic re­gional colum­nist. He can be reached at Rus­sell.wanger­sky@tc.tc Twit­ter: @Wanger­sky.

Hello. How are you to­day? Work get­ting you down? How’s that cof­fee?

Away from the of­fice, I’m a gab-bag.

I’m happy to talk to you at the of­fice, too, as long as your sec­ond sen­tence doesn’t la­bel me a “cuck,” a “rape-cul­ture apol­o­gist,” a “Lib­tard,” a “me­dia elite” or a “mouth­piece of the pa­tri­archy.”

Prob­lem is, all too of­ten, the sec­ond sen­tence in any com­mu­ni­ca­tion so of­ten tends to be ex­actly that now.

I had been called all five — the en­tire range of the left- and rightwing spec­trum — by Tues­day of last week.

I am, ap­par­ently, a part of ev­ery prob­lem, and a so­lu­tion to none.

Now, part of that may be that I’ve learned to take so­cial me­dia far too se­ri­ously. I’m work­ing on that.

I’m grad­u­ally de­tun­ing my Twit­ter feed to what it’s meant to be: a land where slap­stick quick com­ments rule, like, de­scrib­ing Don­ald Trump thusly: “gi­gan­tic col­icky in­fant sobs as his lol­lipop is once again slapped out of his hand by one of the poors.”

In other words, it’s merely en­ter­tain­ment, not ar­gu­ment or news source. At best, it’s some­times a start­ing-point for re­search, be­cause I’ve rec­og­nized that 140 char­ac­ters does not a ra­tio­nal ar­gu­ment make.

Nei­ther does yelling into an echo cham­ber (Face­book) and hear­ing all my like-minded friends chant “Hello … hello … hello” back at ever-di­min­ish­ing vol­ume. It’s not a rea­son­able sam­ple-set for es­tab­lish­ing the tenor of broad-based opin­ion.

In fact, it cre­ates a false and frus­trat­ing word of oth­er­wise-un­re­pro­d­u­ca­ble re­sults.

The fact is that we’re all pretty much the same: we hold opin­ions, of­ten strongly, and when we sense we’re los­ing a ra­tio­nal ar­gu­ment, we de­volve to a shouty, non-ra­tio­nal one. I think the tools we’re us­ing, es­pe­cially on­line, make that de­vo­lu­tion hap­pen more quickly.

Take it from our neigh­bours: Hugh MacLen­nan wrote the fa­mous “Two Soli­tudes,” which deals with English and French ten­sions in Que­bec in 1945, but that term is now more apt for those to the south of us.

Amer­i­cans on two dif­fer­ent sides of the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum lis­ten to — and be­lieve — two sep­a­rate streams of me­dia, and end up work­ing from two dif­fer­ent fact-bases, while all the while de­rid­ing the me­dia on the other side as “fake news.” That’s two soli­tudes in ac­tion; I was in the U.S. for an ex­tended pe­riod last fall, and pol­i­tics had be­come such a strat­i­fied topic that cus­tomers didn’t even talk about it in din­ers any­more.

If the dis­cus­sion is “I’m right and you’re wrong and that’s it,” well, it’s es­sen­tially over.

It builds walls. It doesn’t break them down.

It also gives the ad­van­tage to politi­cians who seek to ex­ploit one side for their own gain. Di­vide and con­quer.

I think it would work here, de­spite the fact we of­ten pride our­selves on hav­ing some kind of higher level of na­tional tol­er­ance.

Thing is, we can’t just run away from talk­ing about the prob­lems there are in this coun­try, whether it’s in­tol­er­ance for im­mi­grants or en­trenched sex­ism or the frus­tra­tions that arise from the loss of what used to be the stan­dard of well-paid man­u­fac­tur­ing jobs.

I go to Twit­ter for a de­scrip­tion of where that takes us: “PRE­DIC­TION: This year’s hottest home ren­o­va­tion will be the ad­di­tion of a scream­ing room.” In a room. Alone. Scream­ing.

If we want to get things done — if we want mean­ing­ful change — we can’t just talk amongst our friends and shout down whole groups that we per­ceive as our en­e­mies.

We ac­tu­ally have to learn to talk to each other again.

And we have to use our in­side voices some­times, too — be­cause, face it. I’m hu­man, too. Call me a “cuck” or a “rape-cul­ture apol­o­gist,” and I stop lis­ten­ing, no mat­ter how big and em­pow­ered it makes you feel.

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