Wednesday, August 25, 2004

On pluralism

Welcome Frosh. If you are reading this, you are probably confused.

You don’t know what the hell the YFS is, or why you gave them $19 of your money. You don’t understand why everyone is fighting about the CFS, and you don’t think you own an unauthorized sound amplification device, but you certainly wouldn’t use it if you did, since it got some guy suspended.

And for the life of you, you probably can’t figure out what everyone is bickering about.

I’ll explain. See, here at York, it is common practice to think that if anyone disagrees with you, he or she is either misguided or just plain evil.

If now, you’re even more confused, it’s probably because you didn’t know that loud, angry, and sometimes borderline violent demonstrations have been the status quo here in the past. Many people believe that York has been remiss in its duty to protect its students from demonstrations of this nature. But even if it has, York students are the ones who are planning these demonstrations, theatrical performances, and advocation for major political battles to continue.

Though it is a new school year, there are many who wish to resurrect old ghosts and stir up old conflicts. They stir up trouble because it serves their purpose to pit peers against each other, and because they can’t stand the continued existence of fields of thought that differ from theirs. And it will fall to you, the frosh, and the silent majority to stand up for discourse and bring an end to enmity.

So as you walk through our hallowed halls, people will try to interest you in their political message and draft you into their crusade to right the injustice of the week. Educate yourself. Learn about politics. Join a crusade, if you feel strongly about it.

But be respectful. Dialogue and debate, but don’t scream, blame and start witch hunts. Stand up for yourself, but don’t trample anyone in the process.

York may be diverse, but these days, we lack pluralism. We lack the essential recognition of the right to think outside the box or defy the party line. We think that for us to have free speech, we need to outshout those we disagree with.

Perhaps instead of screaming and shoving in Vari Hall, we ought to be dancing the hora together with those whose views are diametrically opposed to our. Vari Hall’s a big circle. Perfect for the hora.

Let me make something clear. This is a university. This is a great chance for you to educate yourself. It’s a chance to experience new ideas, think about new perspectives, and challenge yourself.

You are here to do all that.

You are NOT here, though, to demonize people who don’t think like you. But some people think they are. So do yourself a favour, and tune out anyone who wants you to hate someone, simply because they disagree with you.

It’s not enough for York to be multicultural, if the cultures won’t talk to each other.

It’s not enough for York to be diverse, if no one ever contemplates a change in perspective.

So talk. Contemplate. Ponder. Be pluralistic.

But hold onto your values if you think you need to. In the words of a great educator, pluralism means “I’m prepared to honour your right to be wrong.”

I’m prepared to honour your right to be wrong.

Ask yourself. Are you prepared to honour my right to be wrong?

- by Aliza Libman, News Editor, published in York University's Excalibur on August 25, 2004


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