By Dave Hood
The other day, I was visiting Facebook, updating my profile. One of the sections asked: What are your political views? I thought for some time. Then I wrote down “pragmatist.” After many years of politicians and governments who attack each other, make promises that aren’t kept, fulfill the interests of a few, and seem to solve no social problems, such as unemployment, poverty, homelessness, I’ve become cynical of politicians and government. I know longer vote for a particular party who has a particular ideology, such as Liberal or Conservative. Instead, I take a pragmatic approach to voting and politics, which means I support the politician and government who are most pragmatic in solving the problems of my country, province, or city.
William James said this about pragmatism: “Pragmatism asks its usual question. “Grant an idea or belief to be true,” it says, “what concrete difference will its being true make in anyone’s actual life? How will the truth be realized? What experiences will be different from those which would obtain if the belief were false? What, in short, is the truth’s cash-value in experiential terms?”
The website Wisdom Commons defines it as: “Pragmatism means accepting what’s real and making the best of it. Pragmatism finds out how to fulfill our values and mission in the real world rather than spending our energy complaining that things should be different. When we are pragmatic, we accept the status quo, even if we don’t like it. We explore the cause and effect relationships that govern our lives, and then use the power we have to make things better.”
Pragmatism means that we look at our own behaviours and ideas and ask ourselves—Do they work? Are they getting us to where we want to go?
Pragmatism and flexibility go hand in hand, because the world keeps changing around us.”
I would also argue that pragmatism means doing what is” right and necessary for the electorate,” instead of following a rigid political ideology or doctrine.
When I studied at university a life time ago, I was fascinated by politics, and so I majored in Political Science. At the time, Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister. I admired the man for his vision of the country, his political views, and his intellect. I am grateful for his legacy: the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; the view that Canada is a place that believes in “social Justice.”
For many years, I always voted as a Liberal, especially when Pierre Trudeau was the Prime Minister. His governments always supported the notions of social justice and redistribution of income to help those less fortunate. But that has not occurred. On the contrary, the rich continue to get richer and the middle class and poor continue to have a smaller share of the wealth. And so I became jaded of politics.
As years passed, politicians began sniping, building agendas that appeal to big business. Nothing seemed to change no matter if a liberal or conservative government was elected to power. There were always the same social problems: high unemployment; poverty; violent crime in the city; homelessness, and so forth.
As well, most of the leaders who followed Trudeau were rather ordinary men–except for Brian Mulroney, who was charismatic, passionate, intelligent, and a visionary of sorts. He brought in Free Trade Goods and Services Tax to reduce the federal debt (G.S.T), and helped build closer ties with the United States, the supreme super power of the world, and our closest allies.
My cynicism of political leaders and interest in politics has waned so much that I did not vote in either of the past two elections. I didn’t like the leaders, nor did I feel inspired by the political views or election promises. But mostly, I believe that my vote didn’t really matter, despite my university degree, which taught me that every vote is important in the sense that a single vote can lead to significant change, a fresh view of the issues, and solution to the social, political, economic, and environmental problems that compromise our lives.
I still follow politics from a distance, but I’m not passionate about it. I read the editorial section of the Globe and Mail, which tends to have a conservative slant, and the Toronto Star, which always views politics through a lens of a liberal voter.
I follow the social issues and economic topics, especially when there’s an interesting issue important to the public and myself. In fact, I tend to be pragmatic about the social problems, such as unemployment, poverty, and crime. I always ask myself: Which political party will provide solutions to the important social problems? And what are their solutions?
I also have an affinity for those politicians who want to help the ordinary man, the common man, the everyday man. The late Jack Layton was one of those political figures. But I don’t hold any political allegiance, like I did when I was attending university. Instead I embrace the pragmatic approach or view of politics.
So whenever there’s another Federal or Provincial election in Canada, I will weigh the views and political promises of the leaders, and vote for the candidate who is most pragmatic, providing this leader is worthy of running the country or province.
And if he or she is not, I’ll take the pragmatic approach–and not vote. That will be my voice of descent, my way of showing my contempt for government. It is my non-vote of protest. This approach seems pragmatic to me.