Despite three years of writing opinion columns on this campus, I have a dismal track record of actually voicing any opinions about this campus. This is because it is remarkably difficult to inject a sense of nuance into discussions that take McGill by storm, and throwing my weight behind one of two extremes is an awful waste of precious column space.
The year I enrolled at McGill, a quasi-libertarian, right-wing reactionary base was forming against an entrenched far-left contingent on campus. This polarization grew, and its parallels have arrested not only the voice of moderates, but the very way our campus talks about issues. The most recent examples are the debates surrounding the occupation of the James Administration Building. There has been such a variety of absolutist descriptions thrown about that it would seem our campus is made up entirely of either fascists, communists, militants, exhibitionists, or some other sort of -ists.
I am writing this neither to demonize nor celebrate the occupation. I am writing to call for some nuance, some moderation, in the tones, words, and actions we use to communicate it. Is it not possible to deplore the disruption of people’s work spaces while admiring—what one professor has called—the moxie of the occupiers? Or for a broader example, is it not possible to disagree with tuition hikes but acknowledge the Principal’s efforts to increase accessibility to the administration?
Where one stands on different issues have neatly been lumped into discrete camps, with little room to move around, little room for common sense. This blatantly ignores the fact that many—if not most –of us will have a foot in both camps, depending on the issue. Passion for a cause does not have to see compromise as weakness, especially when, for a vast majority of issues, generous dialogue is needed and will occur somewhere around the middle. It is so easy to define any group—from the occupiers to those who are criticizing them—with a limiting label. It is much more difficult to truly try and understand where people are coming from. Too rarely in the last few years has the middle ground, the place where thoughts are offered to others, not shoved into them, been walked. So much so that the catchword ‘dialogue’ has become a piece of satirical tripe.
There is no reason why this needs to continue. If the actual ends here is to truly communicate about what happens on our campus, then the different voices do not need to shout to be heard.