Monthly Archives: July 2006

Hard-Wired to be Partisan?

Have you ever noticed that politicians you disagree with are really stupid? The way they just don’t make any sense, contradict themselves, and constantly exhibit hypocrisy?

Lord knows I have. Yet, at the same time I’ve always believed that politicians are generally good people doing what they honestly think is right (I wouldn’t have become one if I didn’t). Sometimes it’s been difficult to reconcile this apparent contradiction.

As it turns out, there may be a biological explanation. According to a report in the Washington Post, our brains actually do the psychological equivalent of plugging our ears and running into the other room going “na na na I can’t hear you” when, for example, I hear Stephen Harper talk about transparency.

    Psychological experiments in recent years have shown that people are not evenhanded when they process information, even though they believe they are. (When people are asked whether they are biased, they say no. But when asked whether they think other people are biased, they say yes.) Partisans who watch presidential debates invariably think their guy won. When talking heads provide opinions after the debate, partisans regularly feel the people with whom they agree are making careful, reasoned arguments, whereas the people they disagree with sound like they have cloth for brains.

The result, the author argues, is that we’re hardwired to be increasingly partisan.

As one blog points out, however, there’s a lot of nurture going on here too. We’re taught “with us or against us,” and “liberal or conservative,” as if there are no other options. We’re taught to only see black and white, never gray.

Likewise, we can unlearn it. At a campaign event early this year a supporter came up to me and told me that “the ideology of the Green Party is pragmatism.” Indeed, that’s one of the things that had attracted me to the party. I really do believe we’ve taken the best of all the other parties and incorporated it into our platform as much as possible. Now that we’re increasingly popular, one of our greatest challenges is to maintain that openmindedness.

Now that us humans know we may be pre-disposed to closemindedness, we can fight against it even more strongly. That may be the most useful application of this report.

I’m doing my part. Why, last week I even found two things that Margaret Wente and I agree on!

Ok, Maybe They Honestly Don’t Know What Those Words Mean

When the Canadian Taxpayers Federation is criticizing the Conservatives, you know something’s up. (Jason Kenney used to be their CEO, and all of the federation’s provincial directors have roots in conservative parties.)

Today, they’re upset that the government tried to keep a pay raise for senior officials under wraps. “What’s got my goat,” explained the CTF’s John Williamson, who gets extra points for using that goat expression I love so much, ” is that this is a government that was elected to be more transparent and accountable.”

Wait a minute…he’s right! It’s almost as this is becoming a bit of a recurring theme.

Bees is a Funny Word

Last night I watched a Nature of Things documentary called “Beetalker: The Secret World of Bees.” (In my defense, I didn’t know the name of the documentary before I started watching it.) Anyway, it was pretty interesting, made even more so by supplementary interjections by my girlfriend, Claire “Bees are so cool!” Salloum.

At one point in the doc, Dr. Mark Winston claimed that, “without bees, human society as we know it would not exist.” Now I’m a pretty eco-conscious guy, but even I wanted to laugh at such a silly statement. That is, until he explained that without bee pollination, the overwhelming majority of our agriculture couldn’t exist.

That would be a problem. Because, like, we humans totally love to eat.

That’s why I was a little concerned today to learn that diversity in bees and wild flowers is declining, bees are being killed by pesticides, and that bumblebees could even face extinction.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Sure Chris, I understand that we need bees to make food, and I like to eat, but protecting bees will hurt the economy, and that’s the most important thing. I want jobs, not bees!”

Good point. However, according to Simon Potts from the University of Reading, the economic value of pollination worldwide is over $100 billion Canadian each year. (And according to Doug Woodward–a Green Party member from St. Catharines who may or may not know what he’s talking about–Potts is “low by a factor of maybe 1000.”)

In conclusion, whether you’re into survival, money, or both, bees are your friend.

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Conservative Party Using War to Fundraise

According to Jeff Jedras’s blog, the Conservative party has sent out a fundraising letter that attempts to monetize Harper’s description of Israel’s strikes on Lebanon (which have left over 400 innocent people dead and counting) as “measured,” and to capitalize on the war itself.

I could try and respond, but I seem to have gotten myself a little worked up, and I’m worried my response wouldn’t be measured.

Read Jeff’s blog and the comments. That pretty much sums it up.

**goes into other room, closes door, swears loudly**

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