Daniel Kligerman

Me, on the web

Complexity & Disagreement

The divide between right and left has been growing to the point where the extremes of each side are dominating the discourse, and where even the more moderate are losing the ability to engage in dialogue. I’ve been observing the growth of the divide, and the breakdown of exchange of ideas, with an ever-increasing sense of dread. I believe that overcoming this divide to the point where constructive dialogue is once again possible is critical to the very functioning of the world as we know it.

To explore what is really going on, and get beyond the surface-level headlines and sound bites is not simple; it is not by accident that the left and right have been so effective at polarizing their supporters–their messages and emotional draws are powerful. As someone who identifies with the left, I found it difficult to extricate myself from the left’s ideologies sufficiently to understand the entire situation. Listening to more centre or right-wing content initially caused me to feel only frustration and defensiveness. It took many months of persistence, and exposure to a wide variety of views on both the left and right to start to develop a more fulsome understanding of what is actually going on.

The deeper my understanding, the more I realize just how complex this situation is. What is dividing the right from the left involves dozens, if not hundreds of issues, and each of these operate at many different levels. To fully grasp each issue requires a non-trivial understanding of some combination of history, psychology, linguistics, biology, sociology, logic, education, technology, law, and journalism. And yet, the vast majority of the “debate” between right and left occurs in offensive sound bites. The polarity of the overall situation is ironically paralleled by the divide between the depth of dialogue required and what is taking place.

Because of how combative things are between people with different views, negative emotions quickly take over and get in the way of any real progress towards learning the details that would foster real dialogue. In fact, people are not even getting to the point where they understand that the situation is complex or nuanced. Each side is so entrenched, so angry, and so satisfied by the simplicity of their own sound bites that delving into any further depth never occurs to them.

Somehow, we must break that cycle. Ending the increasing divide and polarization cannot occur unless there is true dialogue, and that dialogue cannot happen until people realize there is more to learn about what they believe, what others believe, and what is actually going on here. That realization must not be seen as a sign of weakness in one’s position, but as an opportunity to eventually find some degree of common ground.

Most insidious is that even questioning or exploring deeply entrenched views results in immediate attack, no matter which side you’re on. This is an example of the multiple layers at play: not only do people not realize there is complexity, they are discouraged from this realization and from learning more by the cultures within their own camps.

Given all of this, the most feasible place for people to start is by privately questioning the basis of their own views. Doing so privately avoids any risk of being attacked by your own side, or of showing the other side that there are cracks in your beliefs. I highly encourage you, no matter your affiliation, to take some time to ask yourself some fundamental, tough questions about your beliefs. Not for the sake of disproving what you believe or to move you to another point on the political spectrum, but as a means for you to start to see the complexity of our world, and plant some initial seeds that may eventually grow into the basis for true dialogue.

For example, if you are left-leaning, and you believe that in our society, women are treated unfairly, there are many questions you can ask to delve into this. Not for the sake of disproving that women are treated unfairly, but to deepen your understanding. Pick one way you believe this unfairness manifests, and learn about the history of this treatment. Learn about the biology, the sociology, and the legal aspects at play.

Again, I understand that by even admitting you’re learning about these things, you may be labeled a traitor and called all kinds of names. This is an example of the insidiousness of our current situation. But believing women are treated unfairly and understanding the situation at great depth is a much more powerful position than simply believing it arbitrarily and without question. After all, it is only once you do grasp the details that you can engage with those who disagree with you in true dialogue, rather than the current surface-level debates that quickly devolve into name-calling or worse.

Ultimately, the vast majority of people who hold views in opposition to each other don’t understand the nature of those views to a level of depth that stands up to any rigorous debate. Therefore, before we can have the kind of dialogue that is the first step towards common ground, I challenge all of us to take the time to do some serious learning, informed by unhindered self-questioning.

There is a lot more I have to say on this topic, and I plan to use this space as a means to explore both the nature of the situation, and ideas to help move things in a more positive direction.

Hello, 2017

After migrating this blog to Tumblr a few years ago, and subsequently not blogging anymore, I’ve decided to migrate it back to its original home here on WordPress. Nothing wrong with Tumblr, but it didn’t inspire me to write much, and writing is something I’d like to do more of in 2017. I also prefer to keep ownership of my own online space, outside of a potentially walled garden.

So, here we are; welcome back. As cliche as it is to say, it’s hard to believe the years have flown by, and that it’s now 2017. The earliest entry on this blog dates back to 2001, which is now some time ago. Much has changed since then, both with me and in the world. I hope to share more of my thoughts with you in the years to come.

Thank you for continuing to Walk the Earth with me.

Cold and Dark

The ice storm that hit Toronto on Friday and Saturday has left our house without power since Saturday night. It is now Monday night—the second we have not been able to sleep in our own beds. Of course, relative to the adversity that many people in the world face on a continual basis, our situation should be classified as an inconvenience, and nothing more. That said, being displaced from your home is an unsettling experience.

Speaking of unsettling, walking through the cold and dark house tonight, flashlight in hand, was eerie. It reminded me of the scene in Breaking Bad where Walt breaks in to his fenced-off, deserted house, finding it run down and vandalized. While our house is neither, it felt much less welcoming than usual; deep chills and shadows engulfing the spaces that are normally bustling with the commotion of everyday life.

On the bright side, our displacement has given us the opportunity to spend some wonderful time with friends and family, who have graciously taken us in. And the kids are having a blast; they are hoping the power stays out as long as possible, so the adventure can continue.

Loving the Good Lovelies at Glenn Gould

Seeing and hearing The Good Lovelies was pure delight. The Glenn Gould theatre was the perfect venue for the trio; intimate feel, delicious acoustics, and the Lovelies genuinely seemed tickled to be there. Swapping instruments and taking turns on vocal leads, the music was intoxicating and immersive. In between songs, the Lovelies chatted with each other and the audience, and had everyone in stitches.

Just like the musicians, the audience had grins on their faces from start to finish. When the last of the super-tight three-part harmony was sung, and the last chord strummed, feelings of authentic joy and friendship remained.

This is the way music was meant to be enjoyed. Bravo.

Productivity on the go

Having switched from Blackberry to Android about six months ago, my mobile experience has become much richer and more extensive. But that only applies to consuming content; not to creating it. As much as you might argue that the mobile tools exist to produce written content, the limitations of a phone keyboard, and lack of things like drag and drop are too significant hurdles for me.

The wonderful Swiftkey keyboard predicts my next word quite well, which gets me to the point where I can write short emails, texts and tweets. But anything longer, such as a post like this, and my longing for a full 90 words per minute keyboard is too intense to keep writing.

The problem is that this limits my ability to write as much as I want to. I don’t carry my laptop with me everywhere. So I end up reading, listening and watching much more than writing. And I’d like to write more.

Solutions? Maybe a tablet with some sort of full external keyboard? Or a smaller laptop that I carry around more? I’m open to suggestions.

Don Cherry is an Entertainer

In case you missed it, Don Cherry wasted no time in offending three former NHL enforcers during his first appearance of the season. Cherry referred to them using colourful language (for prime-time, kid-watched TV), and said directly that the former players were hypocrites for making their careers as enforcers, and then blaming the fighting for their current mental and physical health issues. The players in question all said how offended they were, and are looking into legal action.

Ultimately, what this comes down to is that Don Cherry is an entertainer, and nothing more. He will say whatever he needs to say to draw attention to himself, because that’s what increases his ratings. Cherry has no motivation to be balanced, or to apologize, or even to be rational: expecting him to be or do any of these things is only causing people much frustration.

That is not to say that Cherry should not be held accountable for making false, potentially slanderous statements–he should. Especially if holding him to account ends up limiting his ability to speak further on this topic, since that is really the only thing that will hit him where it counts.

Ironically, the fact that Cherry is an entertainer parallels the enforcer’s reason for existence in the first place: fighting in hockey only exists because NHL hockey is, above all else, entertainment. Those who argue that fighting adds to the sport itself are kidding themselves; if that was the case, why is Olympic or World Junior hockey so great? So in the end, what we are dealing with here are a bunch of entertainers being offended by another entertainer. Yes, one is wrong and the others are right, but seeing them in that context makes them much less about the sport of hockey, and more of a side show to the side show.

Own your on-line presence

I have always agreed that you should own and control your on-line presence, assuming you care about such things. So while there is no issue with using Facebook, Google+ or Twitter, you are giving up a significant amount of control and ownership if you use those sites as your only presence.

I have (sparsely) maintained a blog since 2001, and I just completed an update to it that includes moving it to my own domain name (kligerman.ca), and rejigging it to add links to all the other places I am active on-line. These changes make it feel much more like a real home for me on the web, and I think it will encourage me to share my thoughts more often. I also added a feed of the posts by others that I think are worth reading–oddly, I have been sharing such posts for years within Google Reader, but for some reason have never shared them elsewhere. I chose a theme with lots of columns, where the column with my posts is no larger than the others, because I think this accurately represents the importance (to me) of content from Twitter and from others, relative to my own. Sharing is just as important as producing.

Let me know what you think of the new setup. I look forward to seeing how it continues to evolve. It feels good to have a single place that aggregates me.