Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Politics and Attitude

So this isn't the first topic I thought I'd breach on this blog, but bear with me.

I'm currently in a Summer semester of school (my last semester ever, in fact), and one of the courses I'm taking is English 349 - American Political Rhetoric.

So far, the class is amazing. The prof is great, engaging, and speaks with a kind of hyper-manic interest in both politics and the construction of language, and I am a huge geek for both of those things, so I can dig it. However, because it's politics, and specifically focused on AMERICAN politics, it naturally attracts some people to the class with pre-determined attitudes and opinions about some-things-political, and all-things-American.

(Of course, having preconceived notions about politics is fine - that is, after all, how parties and ideologies typically work.)

In any case, on Monday as the professor was discussing President Obama's calling upon certain aspects of the constitution as part of his reasoned argument for closing Guantanamo Bay, a woman in the back shot her hand up to the sky. Tone dripping with disgust, she said "Uhm, actually, why do you think it is that Guantanamo Bay isn't FULLY CLOSED yet? It just seems to me that the Americans want to be able to still threaten people with the place as part of their intolerant culture of fear".

Now, let me sort of cop-out of the real point here and say that yes, Gitmo is an insanely complicated issue with problems on all sides of it - yes, I think it should be closed and stay closed, but that isn't what I wanted to get at.

I absolutely can't understand how people can consider themselves educated, or interested in something as ENDLESSLY complex as politics, and then in one broad stroke basically deliver a playground smack down about the entire American Populace. Never mind that Canadians are often thought of as a singular body of polite ice-fisherfolk. Why do people, and I know it happens everywhere, feel that they are smart and enlightened enough to make insultingly generalizations about an entire country? There are good (and great) American citizens. Not all of them are the xenophobic, terror-mongering assholes whatever websites (democracynow!) this particular student read might paint them as.

The point I'm trying to getting at is that thinking in needlessly broad strokes is not only stupid, it's dangerous. One of Alexander Pope's famous idiom's goes something to the tune of "A little knowledge is dangerous", and this is a pet peeve of mine that is brought about solely through that idea.

For the record, I'm not saying I'm smart enough to understand all sides of any issue, at all, in any capacity. But shouldn't we, and especially students, seek to actively understand more than one viewpoint? This is also sort of a problem I have with the critical theory parts of Communications, which tend to largely favour cultural criticism that views people as generally weak-willed and eager consumers. There's a kernel of truth in these approaches - but they don't explain everything.

Anyway... Music and TV and stuff right? Pop culture woo! I've been listening to Sleigh Bells a lot lately, and for anyone that wants music that sounds like it was made by crazy people, I can't recommend it enough.

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