rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

We Can Disagree Mr. Harper and That's Okay

Please chip in to support rabble's election 2019 coverage. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to figure out that not everyone is going to agree with him and his government's policies and that's okay.

Rock legend Neil Young is making his way across Canada this week on a high-profile concert series in support of First Nations who oppose further expansion of oil sands extraction into their lands. Prime Minister Harper, through his spokesperson, responded to Young's concerns with empty talking points, reiterating that the natural resource sector remains a, "fundamental part of our country's economy."

Okay. Thanks Captain Obvious.

How is that exactly responding to the legitimate concerns around treaty violations and the undeniable damage by tar sands extraction to the land, air and water that has Neil Young and First Nations' communities speaking up?

Why is it so hard for the Prime Minister to at least talk to people who disagree with him, instead of hiding behind empty talking points delivered by a spokesperson?

In politics, to admit that something can be both good (in this case an economic driver) and bad (in this case water, air and land contamination) at the same time makes an issue multi-dimensional and much harder to communicate in simple talking points and TV sound bites. However, to admit the complexity of an issue is also key to beginning a reasonable dialogue.

Very little progress on an issue occurs when one person is unwilling to recognize the legitimate concerns of another (just ask my wife!). And recognition of a different perspective does not mean you have to agree with that perspective. Of course, Harper and his talking points want you to believe that Young is the problem. That Young is out to lunch and doesn't understand the issue.

That the rock legend and the First Nations he is working with are playing politics, while the Prime Minister is the reasonable one. But here is, in part, what Young had to say in response to the Prime Ministers statement:

"... to the thousands of hard-working Canadians," he added, "we have respect for all working people. The quandary we face is the job they are working on. They are digging a hole that our grandchildren will have great trouble digging their way out of. ... There are better jobs to be developing, with clean energy source industries to help make the world a safer place for our grandchildren."

Young even offers a framework for a road to a long term solution:

"We have a huge problem with science and the understanding of it. Science cannot be ignored as inconvenient, and that's what today's leaders are doing." "Don't accept that there's no other way. Let's develop a way out of this. Let's have ingenuity. Let's figure out a way. People have ideas. There are many solutions we don't understand that are alternatives to what we're doing. We need to look ahead and develop renewable resources and technologies to move forward and produce energy."

That is a substantial response worthy (dare I say) of a Prime Minister. But in this case it is the words of a respected Canadian who is willing to speak their mind on an issue in an educated fashion, to acknowledge the other's position and thereby open up the possibility of a dialogue with those that may disagree.

In psychology there is the concept of "Theory of Mind" which is the developmental milestone in our childhood where we begin to realize that others can have different thoughts, perspectives and beliefs than those you personally have. Typically this "Theory of Mind" develops around the age of three.

As adults we not only understand that others can look at something differently than we do, but we also become accepting of that and okay with different opinions and perspectives. Eventually, as we become what I would call "wise" we begin to embrace and celebrate these differing perspectives. In politics today and especially with this current Prime Minister on the issue of the tar sands, it appears Canadians are being treated like toddlers.

You can add your name to a petition asking Stephen Harper to stop the talking points and have a real conversation with Young, First Nations and, in turn, Canadians about their legitimate concerns about the rapid expansion of the tar sands.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.