Common Sense Comes to Town!

Common sense is the most fairly distributed thing in the world, for each one thinks he is so well-endowed with it that even those who are hardest to satisfy in all other matters are not in the habit of desiring more of it than they already have. (Descartes)

Change for the Better

Posted on | May 6, 2011 | No Comments

« The only constant is change ». This is an oft-heard cliché. Nevertheless it remains true, and it is also true that we generally change for the better. We only have to look at our society’s evolution in the past 10 centuries to be convinced that we not only improve on a personal, but also collective basis.

This may seem obvious to you. This is great, but tell yourself that many people don’t see things this way. It was Plato’s case, as he believed for example that persons and objects had an unchangeable essence. It is also the case of the religious right. This is precisecly what we must fight against if we want to preserve the gains made in the past by Western civilization.

 Indeed for the rights humans never change. This is behind the repressive mentality which clamours for more super-prisons: a criminal has the “essence” of crime, and will never be anything but a criminal. Consequently he must be locked up for life, with no hope for redemption. This is also what motivates the fiery article by Nathalie Elgrably-Levy in the Journal de Montréal: a poor artist does not have the “essence” of art (strangely suggesting that it is in the essence of art to be lucrative) and should therefore not try to live off his art, nor be encouraged in any way. This finally also leads to climate scepticism: the world is getting warmer because it is part of its “essence”, not because we have any influence on it. Thus it is impossible to reverse this state of things.  

In fact, according to the right, the only power able to change a being’s essence is divine intercession. This allows for the rise of “Born Again Christians” for example, people who apparently change and leave behind their past failings (the best case being George W. Bush alcoholism) under god’s guidance.  

The right is clearly wrong. Beings do not have an unchangeable essence. Everything changes – this is not only plain common sense, it is also the basis of modern science (just remember Lavoisier’s popular aphorism). This is the argument that we must serve to defend ourselves against Conservatives. We must demonstrate, in any situation, without the shadow of a doubt, using philosophical, scientific, ethical and linguistic evidence that change to a better and improve state is possible.

This will seem a heavy burden to bear – it is indeed. But in reality, faced to fear and resistance to change as displayed by the right, we need not only a message of hope, but a message of hope which is so obvious and clear that its rejection becomes impossible. It has to be communicated as simply and fully as possible in order to slowly bring about the metamorphosis of Canadian public opinion: from self-centered to openness to others, to difference and the potential of everyone.

Against four years of Conservative rule, this is the only tool left at our disposal to safeguard the social advances made in our country.


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  • Photographie par Patrick Meunier

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