The Charter and “Extremism”

The Charter and “Extremism”

I’ve avoided talking about the famous (or rather infamous) charter up until now, mostly because it was giving me an opportunity to observe a worrying trend I’ve noticed in the last few years. We could debate the merits of the charter and simply repeat what has been said a thousand times over the last few months, but instead I’d rather talk about how people debated about it.

Recently, teachers of Sherbrooke University got together and wrote this letter both to state their stance and denounce the charter’s pointless dress code propositions, claiming that it does not reinforce the government’s secularity while attacking the civil liberties of individuals. This is not only true, but a reasonable stance, and there’s the problem: Why did it take months and dozens of university teachers to finally form a coherent, moderate stance on this issue? In case you don’t understand what I’m talking about, go read articles, essays, columns, opinions and whatever else you want to call argumentative texts (blog posts?) about the charter. Whether it is to support or oppose it, it is very rare to see a moderate stance on it. Supporters always seem to claim that we are being submerged in waves of religious zealots out to convert and oppress us while opponents can’t form an opinion on the matter without describing french canadians as backwards, racist yokels for even thinking about this charter. This charter, seemingly aimed at fighting extremism, has itself revealed that extremism is already here, and it is not muslim: It is Canadian.

You see, this was the true aim of Marois’ Parti Québécois all along: Get the Quebec bashing machine to rear its ugly head and spit its venom at French Canadians, who would respond in kind. Create a schism, or rather reveal it. Show everyone who thought that the francophones and anglophones could get along that the anger and hate was just simmering and waiting to be prodded to erupt, like some awful purulent sore. Make them feel as if those differences were irreconcilable and that separation is a necessity. Of course, the Canadian news agencies swallowed it all, bait, hook and line. And this should have us all worried. Where extremist opinions reign, extremist actions are sure to follow.

But why has this happened? Why have we reached a point where the other party’s stance is so detestable as to be impossible to consider and that those who hold it must be viewed as enemies? Simply put, because we let it happen. Extremism, by its very nature, is loud. Extremists will scream their inanities to the four winds, hoping as many people as possible will hear them, and making sure to admonish those who oppose them. They detain the truth, and none may oppose them. They are always right. Meanwhile, moderates tend to be quieter. They prefer to sit by and watch the debate unfold and form their opinion according to the facts which arise one after another. They do not believe themselves to always be right, and so are open to new ideas, open to negotiation. They do not speak, they listen. And so, they are not heard.

And so, to fight extremism, we moderates must adopt a sort of oxymoronic stance: extremist moderation. While keeping our moderate stance, while remaining open to others’ ideas and considering issues with rationality and intelligence, we must speak out, both to state our more reasonable stances, but also to denounce the extremists and their ways, to condemn this perversion of the social climate. We must do it, or extremism, whether religious, social or political, will ensnare us and never let go.

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Other articles by Lucky James:
The Dire Consequences of Political Ignorance and Indifference
1982′s Constitution and the Meech Lake Accord
The NDP and Jack Layton: Why?

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JLLucky James prides himself as a moderate in a time where the polarization of issues and the rise of extremism of all sorts threatens to take over the social and political arena. Having studied a variety of subjects yet never truly dedicating himself to a single one, he now seeks to share what he has learned and observed throughout the years, hoping to break the echo chamber phenomenon to which the modern internet has given rise.

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