The Parallel Parliament

Glen Pearson

Posts tagged “democracy

Truthiness and Consequences

Posted on May 1, 2018

It was back in 2005 when Stephen Colbert first used the word “truthiness” on the Jon Stewart show.  The audience bellowed their laughter and overnight the term took its place in our modern vocabulary.  Colbert said he used it to describe the kind of politics that rejects reason and research in favour of “gut feelings” that someone feels regardless of the lack of facts.  Now, some 13 years later, the term is etched in our thinking. One of the clearest examples of how “truthiness” played out in real life occurred in the Republican Party’s 2012 primary race – a contest eventually won by Mitt Romney.  In one debate, Romney’s key challenger, Rick Santorum, provided a strange example of what happens when governments get too…

Labyrinth

Posted on April 26, 2018

The thing about rage only two decades into the 21stcentury is that it’s everywhere.  In past eras it brewed in turbulent hotspots – the Middle East, India-Pakistan, the Balkans, the Congo, Nicaragua, among others – usually far away and, in consequence, far from our minds.  But the individual and collective anger has spread to normally stable places around the globe – Germany, France, Norway, Britain and most obviously in the United States. In his Meditations, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius cogently noted, “How much more grievous are the consequences of anger than the causes of it.”  It seems to me that some are coming to terms with this observation.  The “age of rage” has been rolling on for years and the change which that kind…

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…

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