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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Wednesday 3 September 2014

Open Dialogue: Andrew Leslie and Alexandra Constantinidis Do It Right (UPDATED)

Andrew Leslie is a professional soldier.  War has been his trade.  He understands strategy and tactics, weapon systems and supply chains.

Alexandra Constantinidis is a political aide who's job, in theory, is to help her boss wade through complex policy questions and positions, as the Israel/Hamas conflict is.

Her question was good; it wasn't partisan-skewed, but focused on opinions and evidence.

Leslie's answer was equally thoughtful and based on his professional experience.  He was cautious to provide a frame for his answer - nations have to defend themselves, terrorists must be eliminated, but also that civilian lives shouldn't be fodder.

He made a clear distinction between state and citizen, even further targeting his response to a select group of folk.

In Leslie's considered opinion, "dumb" weapons (as opposed to smart weapons with more sophisticated targeting and impact radius capability) were not the way to go, because they killed more civilians and, as a result, have a negative impact on the PR war as well as the ground war.

This was a great exchange that was focused on evidence and opinion.  This is what we elect our Members of Parliament to do; these are the kinds of questions and conversations, quite frankly, we should be having more often.  Hell, it's what we as citizens should be demanding.

Yet once again, the partisans and media are turning this into a "with us or against us" story, both in terms of sides taken in the middle east and Party solidarity with the Liberals.

Positions are being taken, stories are being spun - hell, I'll bet fundraising letters are being passed around.
That's what politics in Canada has come down to - black-and-white cat fights and partisans who fiddle while the world burns.

This, they will say, is how politics works.  These are the kinds of fireworks that get people riled up enough to donate or vote for one party or another.

War Rooms lob grenades at each other and hey, sometimes people get hurt.  It's a brutal business, etc.

It's also the kind of childish bullshit that turns people off politics in the first place.  It's what keeps smart and informed people from running - or if they're in office, from commenting candidly on issues.

Aren't we supposed to be having policy discussions and leaving no stone unturned?  Isn't it about shared solutions, not party talking points?  Are we trying to build a strong country or are we trying to eliminate undesirables?

Politics should be about developing democratic solutions, but largely it isn't.  No, politics these days is all about the War Room.

You know where this kind of approach takes us, pushed hard enough?  To where the Middle East is now - war.

When you bring War Rooms into politics, war is what you get.  Those metaphorical grenades become actual grenades; character assassination turns into real assassination and collateral damage involves more than damaged reputations and lost services.

But the War Room folk don't seem to get that.  Too busy being James Bond, I guess.

This is why I'm a fan of initiatives like Open Government and Why Should I Care.  If the partisans are going to circle their wagons and play Hatfields vs. McKoys, it's up to the rest of us to be the adults in the room.
I commend Alexandra Constantinidis for her question - it was a good one.

I commend Andrew Leslie for his response - it's what we pay him for.

I only which more folk in and out of politics had the wherewithal to be so thoughtful, candidate and forthcoming.

That's how democracy flourishes - not through tribalism.


The party sent out a fundraising email blast mid-week, slamming Leslie's "stunning lack of awareness of the dangers Israel faces"

Of course they did.  I doubt there was even any consideration on whether the statement was remotely true or responsible.  Who cares?  Politics is war and w need as much money as possible to back their righteous cause, eh?

Just wait 'til they get really clever and realize they can get money from their opponents by letting it be known they have amazing dirt on their people which will be released unless they send money your way.  That'll really teach 'em.

UPDATE-IER:  Had a chat the other day with another OpenGov advocate from Australia; she talked about agonism, the idea of civilized debate that doesn't look to attack and defeat but explore and understand.

Imagine that. 

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