Wednesday, March 30, 2011

This Is Why "Politics" Disappoints Me

Before you go any further, I'll assure you that this isn't the post you think I'm about to write. This won't get personal. And, no, I won't be flooding this post with nonsensical, political jargon.

I just want to rant. Will you let me? Here I go.

Wait. First, I'm going to tell you a couple of stories.

ANECDOTE 1 - The Left Wing Nutjob?

A couple of weeks ago, I was out for drinks with some new friends who I didn't know too well (hence, the going out for drinks thing. A good way to get to know each other, yeah?). Anyway, one of them made a joke about my department.

"So, I heard about the Commies over there. Is it true?" they joked (but, not really joking, if you know what I mean), "How do you deal with those left wing nutjobs, anyway? God, they must be such terrible people. So unreasonable. I swear, those people are crazy. They think people are evil just because they wear suits and nice clothes. What kind of sheltered crap is that?"

Um. There are a few things wrong with this picture. Not least of these being that you're insulting my department to my face. But, let's carry on.

ANECDOTE 2 - Those Evil Capitalists?

Again, a couple of weeks ago, I was out for drinks (again) with some (other) new friends (I swear, I do have time for school). With news about a pending election, they casually asked me if I'd be voting NDP. After my hesitant reply (I have to weigh the options, obviously), they immediately froze.

"What? You're not voting orange?" one of them asked, horrified, "You're a terrible person."

And, casually, another asked, "So, what are your politics?"

After my moderate reply, he shook his head, and turned to our other friend, "Listen, I know people who think like us. We should, you know, create a club or something."

I then mentioned a friend in Economics who would be interested in something like that.

They stared at me, strangely.

"What? He doesn't think there's anything wrong with free markets?" they asked, "We can't be friends with him! What the hell? He's an evil capitalist. He must be a terrible person."


Do we see a problem with these two scenarios? I do. And, ironically, these two camps of utter hypocrisy have more in common than they think they do.

My problem? Conflating a person's "politics" with the "type of person" they are. From what I've observed in the grad student community here, competing ideological camps have perceptions of each other as "Communist nutjobs" or "fancy-suit-wearing-capitalists," without getting to know them as actual people.

Conflating their "politics" with being a "terrible person"? Really?

Does anyone see a problem with these judgements? Anyone? I understand why you don't want to be someone's friend if they're actually, legitimately a jerk. But judging someone before actually getting to know them, on the basis of their political leanings? Without judging their personalities, without getting to know them as actual people? Or, for example, conflating what their parents do for a living with what type of people they are?
Like, your parents are dentists? Oh, you must be rich. Ergo, a capitalist. Ergo, can't be your friend, sucka! I need to judge you, like, right now!

Like, your father's a truck driver? Oh, you're a peasant. Ergo, radical Marxist. Ergo, can't be your friend, nutjob!

Like, I've "heard" he's an Economist. Must be a right-wing radical. Can't be his friend, nope!

Like, I've "heard" she's a Development Studies student. She must be a freaking Marxist, yo! I can't be friends with a Communist!
I'm actually sick of it. Now that I write this blog post, I don't know if its politics specifically that disappoints me. Or, rather, if it's just people themselves.

Granted, I'm guilty of this too, though. You don't want to imagine what was going through my mind during both of the above scenarios.

For people who think they're so educated, some grad students can be so incredibly close minded, no matter what "camp" they belong to. They believe so much in how they think the world should be, that they neglect another camp they should be understanding and listening to. Instead of debating or engaging or listening to each other's ideas, they close themselves off to ideological camps. Surrounding themselves with friends who ONLY think the way they do.

Both camps espouse the same elitist attitudes they accuse each other of exercising. Whose hypocritical now?

And, frankly, from what I've seen in the grad student community this year, I'm not surprised that our world is the way it is today. Why it's so full of division and hate. There's no interest in understanding each other. There's only interest in sheltering oneself with those who think the same way.

Now, I'm not saying that everyone in the grad student community thinks this way. I've met a number of friends who are so open-minded about ideology and the policies associated with each kind. But for those that don't? You cannot imagine how much this annoys me. And yet, despite my hopes, I know I'll still witness such behaviour.

And while I'm not naive enough to think that we can all come together under one ideology, one political camp (what? I know! Crazy!), I just wish we could just try to understand people before judging them and insulting them behind their backs. Understand why their "politics" is opposite from yours. Understand their logic. Understand where they're coming from.

Really, is that so hard? Or is gossiping and calling them names behind their backs just the easier option?

If grad students can't even be friends, and hate each other based on stereotypical ideological misconceptions, imagine what it's like with actual political Powers That Be?

It's disappointing, really. And so hypocritical. And, disheartening.

Grad school has taught me (among other things, of course), that people can disappoint you. In remarkable ways. Where is this love everyone keeps talking about? Because, between ideological lines, I don't see any love or understanding.

And we wonder why our world is so messed up? We don't understand each other, or even try to understand why others think they way they do. Nor do we stop and actually listen. And open our minds. If we want our world, our communities to be a better place, there's no place better to start than with ourselves.

“If each man or woman could understand that every other human life is as full of sorrows, or joys, or base temptations, of heartaches and of remorse as his own... how much kinder, how much gentler he would be.”
- William Allen White

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”
- Dale Carnegie

“We are all alike on the inside”
- Mark Twain


  1. LOL. But can people change? I hope so! The point is that I despise it when people make politics so negatively personal. It doesn't make friends. And, it's just mean. Ah well. MISS TALKING TO YOU, MANG! :) Skype soon!

  2. I don't know too much about politics, but I know in negotiations it's really hard to come to an agreement without hearing the other person out first.

  3. Hey Anonymous! Haha, yes, that's true. But still, I guess I'm just frustrated at how people behave towards each other, specifically in the grad student community I've been observing. Too many grad students act this way, it's actually quite sad. Ah, well. Nothing I can do about it except rant, haha. Have a great week!