Between Activism and Constipation: why maintain a dialogue with zealous idealogues?
January 23, 2007
So yesterday a good friend asked me a very important question: “why do you bother?”
The question was in regards to a series of posts I made in a public forum. The forum, which was loosely discussing Canadian politics, was very much dominated by a vocal minority of what I like to describe as postmodern conservatives.
What are postmodern conservatives? Well, what I mean by pomo-cons (as I affectionately refer to them) is a relatively quick growing segment of the 20-30 somethings educated population that have married basic critical thinking skills they acquired in university or college, a post modern critique of hope and optimism, and a petty bourgeois retreat to fiscal and political conservatism. The result is a group of young, relatively intelligent, ardent conservatives eager to point out the folly of civic engagement and touting a neo-con agenda dressed up in quixotic intellectualism, enter the pomo-cons.
Now lets pause for a moment. While I am probably describable as a ‘lefty,’ this is not about being against conservatives. Despite not usually seeing eye to eye with many on the political and social right, I do listen and respect those who are willing to discuss their ideas and beliefs. Even here in the close nit family of Beats Entropy, we do not all share the same political visions. I do not begrudge people the right to hold to what political and social values they choose, provided they (and I) remain open to a meaningful dialogue through which either or both views may change.
The distinction I make here is with those for whom this dialogue is closed, or worse still, those who zealously defend their apathy though it were a political stance. This sadly rising constituency often represents a very vocal minority, most especially in the all too accessible virtual public sphere.
So, to return to that ever important question: why bother? Why bother trying to engage civilly and intelligently with those who will not do the same? Why be patient and analytically rigorous when your opponents have already made up their mind?
Well, here is what I think:
I consider these forays as sorts of gladiatorial battles. Across a metaphoric expanse are the opponents, not other individuals who are willing to forward a position and listen to others, but (often) ignorant idealogues bent on a verbal bloodbath.
“Why fight?” my friend asks. Or more importantly, why maintain some decorum while your opponent froths at the moth and spits insults regarding your parentage? Why fight when the goal of meaningful constructive dialogue cannot possibly be met? Why bother to engage when the only possible outcome is the unsatisfying defeat or analytic-emasculation of unreasonable and unreachable zealots?
It is not for this sadly unreachable adversary (like the frustrating pomo-con) that one must carry on, but for the invisible masses who watch.
It is for those who observe quietly from the sidelines of the public arena, watching and learning. It is for them that I try to always address, calmly and politely, the challenges (often neither calm nor polite) that are brought forward.
To believe, as I believe, in the power of discourse, is to believe that ones words carry weight and meaning beyond the scope of their primary recipient and into the ocean of common meaning.
We lead by both the manner and content of our speech and actions.
Whenever possible I try to make both of those worthy for others to be inspired by.