Addressing the importance of political discourse regardless of differing opinions
By Zach Fortier
I was scrolling through TikTok as one does on a typical Tuesday night. As a person who follows politics, many videos on my “For You Page” are on that topic. One specific video caught my attention: It depicted Kaitlin Bennett, conservative provocateur and expert troll, being viciously attacked by angry college students for her explosive and controversial statements regarding politics. It really got me thinking about discourse between people with different ideologies and how quick we all are to attack each other.
What is your political ideology? If you’re like most of my friend group and classmates, you most likely identify as liberal. Our school is filled with different classes and social spaces that promote left-leaning ideologies, but have you ever stopped to think about whether this helps or hurts our generation’s ability to think critically?
I met with Paul Hawkins, an English teacher at Dawson who teaches a book by Jordan Peterson, a centre-right professor and media presence. We went into great detail regarding the problems facing Generation Z and our overwhelmingly liberal views.
While we discussed pressing issues like cancel culture, a form of online censoring, boycotting and public shaming mainly done by liberals, Hawkins gave an incredibly revealing and insightful point of view. “How can you be a liberal and not want to promote freedom of speech? It seems to me that freedom of speech is one of the core liberal values. We’re forgetting the importance of free speech because liberal principles are now dominant in our culture.”
I couldn’t help but keep thinking about that Kaitlin Bennett video. It just seemed so strange that liberal college students were feeding into neo-con alt-right trolls by throwing food at Kaitlin’s van, swearing violently at her and telling her to leave. Is this what liberal free speech is all about? What led my side of the political aisle to get this angry and unwilling to listen?
Free speech allows liberals to be enraged by Kaitlin Bennett. But, there’s definitely a better way to express these views than what is shown in the video, or with the use of cancel culture. In addition, it is also important to note that it isn’t only liberal people who react this way to differing opinions. While free speech isn’t necessarily a cornerstone of their ideology, it is still part of the constitution, and therefore should be respected.
I sat down with my friend and fellow Dawson student, Mojisola Adamson, who identifies as neither a liberal nor a conservative, to get an outsider glimpse into the modern Generation Z political intolerance problem: “I would say that I do have controversial views, so sometimes I don’t even bother to open my mouth and start arguing with people that are not willing to listen to me. There should be a larger place at Dawson for people with different political perspectives [...] We would see more students who are conservatives share their values instead of hiding them.”
On my path to political open-mindedness, I met up with Henri Cant, a student at Brébeuf who identifies as liberal but loves to engage with conservatives. He explains that “As mainstream society makes a shift to the left because of young people, it really comes down to expressing your views regardless of fear of being criticized. We all need to keep having discussions and sharing our ideas and values.”
After all this soul-searching, I felt like I got a pretty good sense of why it might be extremely challenging for non-liberal Gen Z’s in college to express their opinion. In my discussion with Paul Hawkins, there was one thing he said that really got stuck in my head: “Schools have to reintroduce a culture of dissent and debate, because we need to make sure young people are hearing differing opinions.” I liked this because it pointed out a defining starting point that could fix our generation’s problem regarding politics.
As a collective generation, will we make the choice to accept others’ controversial opinions and open up a dialogue? Or will we shut out and cancel those who do not say what we want to hear? That is Generation Z’s decision to make as we enter the political sphere this decade.