By: Connor Mycroft
[This is a transcript of a Member’s Statement I had the privilege of giving at this year’s Commonwealth Youth Parliament that was held in Victoria, BC. I delivered this statement on November 9th, the day after Trump’s victory. Unfortunately, we were only provided 2 minutes of speaking time, and thus I was cut off about midway through. As such, I have included the full planned statement here. Also, you may notice that certain sections are similar to the rant by Jonathan Pie that was shared across Facebook shortly after Trump’s victory. I assure you that any similarities are simply coincidental, as I was not introduced to the video until 2 days after delivering this statement]
“Because it’s 2015.” Boy did those words ring out.
This was the response that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave upon being questioned about his decision to create a gender-balanced cabinet.
Because it’s 2015.
With the change into the new year, ‘Because it’s 2015’ quickly became ‘Because it’s 2016’, as many believed that this would be the year where sexual and religious tolerance, and racial and gender equality would reign supreme. That we would continue to release ourselves from the shackles of intolerance, hate, and discrimination. We believed that at this point in history it was unfathomable for these forms of intolerance to continue to exist.
Unfortunately, as last night’s [election night] results have shown, we cannot take progress for granted.
For progress does not proceed along a linear line. Rather, it is in a state of constant fluctuation. People on the [small “L”] liberal end of the spectrum, including myself, are guilty of operating under the assumption that “history is on our side”. That the social change we advocate for was inevitable. But this view is not only counter-productive, for as last night shows, it can also be potentially dangerous.
To quote a fellow by the name of Maximillian Alvarez, “we see the present not as an opportunity to fight for what could be, but rather as a chance to make good on what should have already happened.” We see the future as having some inherent and inevitable righteousness that adheres to our views.
At the end of the Cold War, Francis Fukuyama infamously declared that we had reached the ‘End of History’. That there would be no more ideological conflicts. That western liberal democracy was the final form of our political evolution. It gave people the sense that it was no longer necessary to fight for what we believe in, but instead that we simply had to defend the throne of progress.
He has since acknowledged how terribly wrong he was.
Something else now holds that throne. Something that embodies the misogyny, intolerance, hate, bigotry, and racism that we thought was withering away, relegated to the dumpster of history. And we don’t only see it in the United States. This has been spreading across the rest of the world. Europe, once seen as the bastion of progressive ideals, is fracturing at the seams. Fascist parties are on the rise everywhere, and even democratic governments have been slipping deeper into authoritarianism.
[It is at this period that I was cut off by the speaker, as I had reached my allotted time. Included below is the rest of my planned statement]
Armchair activism is not enough. Sharing something on Facebook or using a trending hashtag on Twitter does nothing. Those things exist in an intangible digital realm. A narrow echo chamber built for you by algorithms that show you only what you want to see. We’ve become conditioned to reject all opinions that do not adhere to our own, regardless of their legitimacy.
Progress is a constant fight. Emancipation, women’s suffrage, civil rights, LGBTQ rights, anti-colonial independence, human rights. These were not simply the result of some pre-determined history. People organized, came together, and fought for what they thought was right. But more importantly, they had to engage with those that disagreed with them. They had to confront them on their views, challenge them, and convince them otherwise. There were no ‘safe spaces’ that they could turn to, only constant hostile territory. If progress is to reclaim its former stance, we must get out and fight for it.
But this need not be a violent fight. As Martin Luther King Jr. famously stated, “Hate cannot drive out Hate, only Love can do that”.
We must meet hate with love but is important that we actually meet it. We cannot build a wall between us and those we disagree with and expect things to change.
In times like these, it is important for us to come together instead of contributing to the divisions that led us here.
Because it’s 2016.