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Day to Day Politics: Disagreeing with grace.

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Please don’t assume by the title of this piece that I am disagreeing with a women by the name of Grace or that it is the title of one of my short stories. On the contrary, it is about disagreement and the grace one shows (or should show) when we have a different opinion and voice it. It is particularly applicable in light of the survey on marriage equality.

Grace is a multi-faceted word usually used with religious implication. (Amazing Grace). Among its many meanings are these two: “he responded with grace” and “the quality or state of being considerate or thoughtful”.

So this piece is a follow up to my article, “Why are the Right so Feral?”

But its genesis lays in a response to another article I wrote, “A Society for the Common Good”. A young Facebook friend of mine who I shall call, for privacy reasons, David ,wrote a critical response to my piece pointing out what he determined were errors in fact and opinion. He often messages me with his thoughts on my writing and although he is almost 50 years my junior I appreciate the quality of his thinking and the dignity and civility that accompanies his critiques.

David has a Diploma of Education and teaches humanities (history) and economics. This year he is, I think, completing a Masters in Education at Melbourne University.

This is part of a recent conversation:

So I did a Diploma of Education and moved to rural Vic to teach at a public school that services students from a pretty poor background.

I teach humanities (mostly history and economics) in years 8-9 and business studies in years 10-12

Me: Rewarding?

Yeah it has been. I think ‘eye opening’ would be the first thing that comes to mind. I’m only 24, and was raised in Sydney and Brisbane, parents are quite well off, and I lived a pretty sheltered life (private school, then straight to uni), so going to a rural town of just 2,000 in what is (apparently) the poorest postcode in Vic has been a big switch

I’ve gained a lot from it – I understand how stacked the odds are for many young people.

And I’ve been, in small ways, able to help students in a way that I hope they might just look back on and think that changed their minds about something, or made them aspire to achieve something they went on to conqueror etc.

I am hoping to meet with David in Melbourne with a couple of other Facebook acquaintances for a coffee.

I cannot recall how I met him. I think he commented on something I had written. He is of Liberal mind in the Nick Clegg mould of English politics. He sent me an essay of Clegg’s titled “The Open Society” which I found politically enthralling.

You see, even though I am of the traditional left I am very much interested in listening to the political philosophy of others. In it Clegg suggests that the old isms of right and left are dead and we are left with either an Open or Closed Society. He may well be right.

We have been corresponding now for around two years and although we differ in our political outlook, age, upbringing and education we are both open to what can be learnt from each other.

I think that often our opinions can be clouded by our values and sometimes they clash with our understanding. Some debate from within the limitations of their understanding and have difficulty separating the two. Then they resort to emotional argument devoid of factual representation. Or they squabble with their feelings. And frequently they are inclined to form opinions through the prism of their own interpretation of what is right and what is wrong. Whereas we should be open to being persuaded by the reasoned thoughts of others. Supported with factual evidence.

Having said that, it is everyone’s right to have a view regardless of how it is expressed. I think good grammar is vitality important but is secondary to the expression of a valid well-constructed point of view.

However, if one’s view is laced with dignity and civility it is more likely to be heard. If you admit that what you know is only surpassed by what you don’t, or are yet too, you show humility and having the ability to admit that you are wrong is an absolute prerequisite to discernment and knowledge. Which of course is the basis of all intellectual advancement. Together with truth it enables human progress.

So it seems to me that the wisest people I know are the ones that apply reason and logic and leave room for doubt. The most unwise are the fools and fanatics who don’t.

David and I have differing and unresolved opinions about free speech. He sent me a link on the subject which presents one of the best articulated arguments for free speech one is likely to read. It was in response to my article “Free Speech or Licensed Hate”.

I am still digesting the power of its argument and assumptions but based on my life’s experience I find it difficult to accept the fullness of its discourse. Have I been enriched by reading it? I cannot tell you by how much.

When I asked David to critique my piece, “A Society for the Common Good” he began with these words:

“Hi John, Just read over your piece ‘A Society for the Common Good’ and wanted to give some feedback (if I can be so bold). You’ve always struck me as someone more interested in learning from rather than sledging others, and as I too have this outlook, I hope you appreciate the spirit in which my comments are made.”

He then proceeded to point out factual errors I had made, discussed or expanded on some assumptions, and generally and generously gave me food for thought.

I considered what he said and whilst I still feel the general thrust of my piece is legitimate. If I were to re write it, it would be much better incorporating David’s observations. Thus illustrating the power of an honest and decent exchange of ideas.

Which brings me finally to the point of my writing this piece. In my article “Why Are the Right so Feral?” I pointed out the crass intellectual emptiness of those of the right who would commentate on political and social issues. When I first started writing for The AIMN I was confronted by some nasty types and I naively didn’t handle it well.

On this blog none of the writers backs away from contrary opinion. Indeed we welcome it but I would say this: To those who think they can win a debate with ill-considered words I would say reconsider. To those who think they can win with a perceived superior intellect I say be humble because discourse requires civility from everyone to produce reasoned outcomes. In fact sometimes we just have to agree to disagree and go our separate ways.

We have so much to learn from people we disagree with that it’s a wonder we don’t accommodate them more often. All that is required is a degree of diplomacy from both sides.

You may not agree with my thoughts and I may be wrong. All I ask is that you consider them.

My thought for the day.

“It seems to me that the wisest people I know are the ones that apply reason and logic and leave room for doubt. The most unwise are the fanatics that don’t.”

PS: Vote ‘YES’.

“Polls consistently show that a large number of Christians support Marriage Equality. It is disingenuous for the Australian Christian Lobby to allude to it as representing all churches. It does not. It is also hypocritical of Archbishop Hart threaten the churches employees livelihoods while at the same time being inept at ridding its own institutions of child predators.”


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  1. Graham Barnes

    it’s an attempt by running-scared politicians to gag us by getting their fingers in our tills. They no longer believe that the Right of Dissent is the linchpin of democracy.

  2. Jack

    If only the same grace would be shown during protests these days. Since we live in the ‘now’ generation where everything is communicated via social media, no group can organise a protest without the opposing view showing up to confront them. With so many wound up passionate people in the one spot, violence eventually ensues.

  3. helvityni

    “Hi John, Just read over your piece ‘A Society for the Common Good’ and wanted to give some feedback (if I can be so bold). You’ve always struck me as someone more interested in learning from rather than sledging others, and as I too have this outlook, I hope you appreciate the spirit in which my comments are made.”

    David is right, and therefore it is always pretty civil and peaceful here…

  4. Andrew Phillips

    Hi John, In a world of competing voices, it seems to me that many people simply lack the skills that are required to engage in civilized debate; critical thinking, manners and the ability to research. As a result they feel unable to compete with those who legitimately care about properly examining a topic, and who are able to change their perspective in light of new evidence. I’m not sure if this is a reflection of insecurity or just a matter of them ‘needing’ to be right. I mean, cognitive dissonance can account for some people’s unwillingness to see another perspective, but I feel that there is something else that drives people to attack others in order to try and force their point of view. I have one particular friend who has some very fine qualities but debating is not one of them. Regardless of any evidence or reasoned argument, it is impossible to get him to concede even the smallest point on a matter being discussed. Perhaps it is narcissism. What ever the reason, I just can’t help feeling that in today’s society, many people are only concerned with being right rather than being informed or enlightened. Perhaps it is a desire for relevance in crowded and noisy online world where people have become obsessed with being noticed, liked and having their ego’s fed.

    Cheers and thanks for the thought provoking articles you often post.

  5. wam

    Wow, Lord, a young conservative correcting his virtual grandfather, a man of truth, sounds a dash piscatorial to this silly old cynic?

    Sadly, the conservative in my circle are like the rabbott cannot risk any discussions beyond trilogies on labor:
    the recession we had to have

    This translates as whitlam and wasted the economy, keating killed business and juliar devastated us with debt

    (the bodge does feature well apart from crying what did he do? consensus well apart from that floating the dollar well yes but charlie perkins Uluru got rid of appealing to pommie courst apologies to monty python)

    the ABC is so left wing, I can’t watch its news or current affairs(my page doesn’t even watch ch 7 only 9 have never heard of SMH think the courier mail is left wing and share nationalists propaganda from england and america and love the love of god)

    These beliefs are the answers to any discussion

    One has shifted to the slimey X but the rest are more attracted to trump and parts of pauline especially her recent garment and they will all vote no. There is not enough to swing from yes but who can trust the trumball mob to trick up the question a la chicken licken the rabbott or after the census the ABS doesn’t instil much confidence either???

    ps notice the senators with free murdoch tv???

  6. Frank Smith

    Protests these days are pretty tame affairs when compared to the rather more passionate protests against the Vietnam war or the Civil Rights movement of the 60’s. I have been amazed that the many problems that face society and the well-being of our planet and fellow humans today rarely seem to attract more active protest movements these days.

  7. Andrew Phillips

    Graham, they no longer believe in democracy. Power, control and greed are all they believe in. I suppose for many it has always been that way, but today it seems like they are all devoid of any conscience. They barely even try to hide their criminal activities and openly circumvent, twist and ignore the law in pursuit of their own interests. I feel that democracy in this country needs a severe overhaul. We have a duopoly of political parties that have gamed the system of years to ensure they take turns in defrauding us. I hear many people saying they will just vote for a minority now, but where will that get us? With a preferential voting system we still end up with the same two overlords. Even if minor parties were to gain enough support to make it a contest, we risk being governed by a coalition of alt righter’s or some other party with an equally destructive agenda. The only saving grace with the duopoly, as I see it, is that at least roughly half of the population has some representation. All this leaves me wondering just how bad things have to get before a people’s revolution rises up and sweeps this lot of self-serving sycophants away.

  8. Harquebus

    To me, “The most unwise are the fools” who refuse to do arithmetic.

    “The problem isn’t that Johnny can’t read. The problem isn’t even that Johnny can’t think. The problem is that Johnny doesn’t know what thinking is; he confuses it with feeling.” -– Thomas Sowell

  9. Roswell

    “Don’t confuse me with facts. My mind is already made up” … or something like that. (Stanton T. Friedman … or something like that, nuclear physicist).

  10. Roswell

    Harquebus, I quite like arithmetic. I tried working on an easy formula for squaring numbers, but sadly it only worked when squaring 17, 18 and 19.

    To square 17, take the 7 and times it by 4. This gives you 28. Take the 7 again and square it. This gives you 49. Take the last figure (9) and put it on the end of the 28. This gives you 289. 17 squared is 289.

    Do the same with 18 and 19.

    I’m sure that if I worked on it – which I haven’t – I could come up with a better formula.

    I’m not into horse racing but I also created a formula that with a starting wager of $10 you could finish up with a million dollars by backing favourites to win seven out of the next eleven races (whether it be over a weekend, a month, a year or whatever between races).

    I was told by a professional gambler that my formula was better than any computer program he’d seen. (He used my formula, by the way, and did quite nicely).

    But me? I’ve never used it. I wouldn’t know a good racehorse if I fell over it. I’m not into gambling. I just had fun with the numbers.

    Damn. I’m off topic.

  11. Andrew Phillips

    Harquebus, I think Thomas Sowell pretty much nailed it with that observation. For some people though, thinking is hard; much easier to go with feelings that reflect their own world view.

  12. Harquebus

    So you can do ‘common core’ math which, some might be surprised to hear, is beyond even my comprehension. Bravo.

  13. jimhaz

    Of topic – but day to day politics.

    I note Kelly O’Dwyer is out blaming the ALP again for multinational tax loopholes – without any form of questioning that i have seen from the media.

    Kelly O’Dwyer, pants on fire

  14. Kaye Lee


    I wrote that article without having to even get out of my jammies. It drives me insane that journalists aren’t better prepared with questions that expose the lies. The Opposition should spend more time on that and less on the rubbish we are distracted with every day. But perhaps the electorate aren’t interested?

  15. jimhaz

    Yes, I keep expecting them to say .”but X,Y,X” however they rarely do.

  16. jimhaz

    another off topic.

    Disgrace, not grace – but some terrific comments from Gillian Triggs re the contemporary LNP.

    “A culture of post-truth has allowed politicians and Parliament to reject evidence based reports by credible agencies in favour of populist decision making that denies the truth and responds to fear,”

    “You’ll remember when the party oligarch says to the hero: ‘reality is not external, reality exists in the human mind and nowhere else, whatever the party holds to be truth is the truth’,” she said.

    “I think we are coming closer and closer to that everyday as the truth is manipulated in the interests of party politics.”

  17. @RosemaryJ36

    I am a great believer in the exchange of ideas but find it very difficult with people whose minds are closed, those who lack empathy and those who mistake beliefs and opinions for facts.

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