Categories: Commentary

Understanding the other side

“A society that puts equality before freedom will get neither. A society that puts freedom before equality will get a high degree of both.”– Milton Friedman

We live in a dichotomized world, with two, or more, sides continuously being juxtaposed against one another. It does not matter which labels are used – left versus right, her versus him, rich versus poor – we are in a constant state of conflict, a social war within our society, the effects of which keep us very unbalanced and divided.

At the heart of all this discord are our self-interests, those beliefs, values, and needs, fostered by our fears, which are basic to our survival. These are neither right nor wrong, but they can undermine our abilities to learn and truly understand those interests of others. This detracts from our abilities to find workable solutions to issues, opening us up to being manipulated by other self-interested parties, such as governments, which use these opportunities to subjugate us through their sense of “order.”

A current issue within Canada is the proposed tax changes that have been touted as a means to close tax loopholes for a segment of our society, professional corporations and small and medium businesses, premised upon the ideal of “equality.” This works well as a sales pitch, as it speaks to an inherent sense of fairness amongst us.

It also creates its own sense of injustice, as one side has to lose in order for the other side to gain; the ones losing are rarely creating the problem that the government seeks to resolve. When a government casts far-reaching policies such as these, they are seen as draconian and a threat to the freedoms of those who chose a different economic path within Canada.

At the edge of these extreme positions, both sides are clearly looking out for their interests. The left in this scenario argues a rational social justice that will give them those basic needs to survive. The right puts forth the ideals of “choice,” which has benefited them, while arguing that this creates a secondary and tertiary benefit for society; the government looks to garner their support while raising coffers to fund projects that will extend their term of power. No side is right, nor are they wrong, they are just looking out for their own self-interests.

It is not in the government’s interests, nor those who benefit from cultivating these divisions, for they gain influence and power through furthering our lack of understanding of the ‘the other side’s’ motivations. Understanding does not mean that we will always agree, but, interestingly enough, if a little more time is taken to discover where there are common grounds with our interests, we might actually see the development of a more functional, collaborative society.

John Kennair: John Kennair is an international consultant and doctor of laws who lives in St. Albert.