The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

Posts tagged “democracy

The “Terrible Simplifiers”

Posted on April 17, 2018

Robin Sears’ article, posted in Sunday’s Toronto Star, was a cogent warning on the implications of extreme populism.  Titled “The Fatal Attraction of the Politics of Confrontation,” the column reminds us of what inevitably happens if we opt for leaders who would rather attack democracy as opposed to reforming it: “But the problem with those who bellow their promise to confront the swamp denizens, or to clean up City Hall is this: they always fail, and they leave a large mess for their successors to struggle through their first term trying to clean up.” As with the current Syrian conflict or the circus that is now Washington D.C., what we have isn’t war, but many wars.  By electing what Jacob Burckhardt calls the “terrible…

Putting the Social Back Into Social Media

Posted on April 10, 2018

Two weeks ago, many Londoners were asking whether the time had come to get off Facebook altogether. Individuals who have blithely used the platform for years were fearing for their privacy, security and politics. Yet the implications for communities are as insidious, and perhaps even more destructive, as for individuals. Victoria’s mayor, Lisa Helps, in a blog titled “Why I’m quitting Facebook,” decided the time had come for her because: “Facebook peddles in outrage . . . It has become a toxic echo chamber where people who have anything positive to say are often in defense mode against negativity and anger. Continuous reinforcement of existing beliefs tends to entrench those beliefs more deeply, while also making them more extreme and resistant to contrary facts.”…

Information Isn’t Knowledge

Posted on April 10, 2018

On a recent Freakonomics Radio podcast, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg had to confess that he has struggled with the platform’s effect on democracy, politics and citizenship: “We’ve been focused on making the world more open and connected.  And I always thought that that would be enough to solve a lot of problems by itself.” Okay, to a point, that’s fair enough.  There was a lot of excitement at the launch of various social media platforms.  Political dysfunction seemed everywhere.  Citizenship appeared on the rise.  And the belief that we could solve our own problems was causing us to abandon institutions and history in favour of interaction, innovation and inclusion. But the problem has become just as Zuckerberg stated it on the podcast: “The world today…

Closing the Distance

Posted on March 22, 2018

Speaking to an American university graduating class two years before he died, former playwright and Czech president Vaclav Havel said something that caused the auditorium to do some serious thinking: “The deeper the experience of an absence of meaning – in other words, of absurdity – the more energetically meaning is sought.” He knew his audience.  America’s youth, like those in most nations then and today, was fed up with the kind of politics that got increasingly ugly the more it grew ineffective.  Yet the final six words of his quote lit a fire – “the more energetically meaning is sought.”  It was true of those students, as it is of us.  We want more than a politics that just can’t inspire. Perhaps the…

Tribes. Tribes. Tribes.

Posted on March 15, 2018

It’s all worked out pretty much as they said – three books that predicted the madness of American politics. Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, by Geoffrey Kabaservice The Party is Over: How Republicans Went Crazy, Democrats Became Useless, and the Middle Class Got Shafted, by Mike Lofgren It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collide With the Politics of Extremism, by Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein It’s interesting to note how long these titles are, almost as if the subject matter is far too great and complex for a simple phrase.  But what’s even more telling is when they were written.  Though they adequately describe the turbulence of American politics today,…

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