A Time to Listen?

“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

I was reminded of this quotation in the tragic aftermath of the murder of Sir David Amess MP last Friday. It’s one which is often quoted but I now wonder just how much it is meant.

Politics is about the clash of ideas, principles and persuasions or it is nothing but the day to day routine of administration. But to have a clash of ideas etc., you must be willing to hear what the other side is saying; just because they differ from you doesn’t make them wrong. Far less does it make them some kind of monster out to destroy your particular world. A “6” is only that from one view, take the opposite view and it’s a “9”. Neither is wrong but the ability to see the different perspective is a gift.

As I write we don’t know why someone went to his surgery with a knife. Perhaps with the intent to injure or even kill an MP doing the most basic part of their job; hearing complaints and trying to help resolve them. What twisted ideology gave him the idea that he had the right to take the life of a man out doing his job?

Now, I’m a million miles away from being a Tory but nor am I a Socialist. If I have an “ism” it’s simply to the idea of Scotland’s Independence and I first joined the SNP in 1966. But over the years I’ve had a few friends who were also political opponents. In my youth, I frequented a watering hole in Cumbernauld where there was a small group of political activists from SNP, Labour, Tory and even, for a short time, a Liberal. They were, by and large, good people and in most cases our disagreements were about the “how” of politics. Most, like myself, went on to be elected in various Councils across Scotland.

We gathered and debated, sometimes argued, for our own perspectives but it was an unwritten rule that you listened and let the other person finish before responding! Sometimes we not only argued but we also listened and occasionally even learned from each other. Naturally election times were especially interesting as a good friend and I would make up the “story” for the night and twist as many tails as possible.

I believe that my political understanding was improved by these discussions with people who held their views as sincerely as I do. They simply saw different paths to many of the same objectives.

My point is simply this; everyone is entitled to their own opinion. I see and hear many voices proclaiming that everyone supports their cause or route to achieving a common goal. Then I wonder how many differing views they hear? Put simply, Scotland votes roughly 50% SNP, 20% Tory, 20% Labour, 7% LibDem and 2% Green on 1st preferences. If the voices you hear, especially on social media, don’t have some of the others then you’re simply not hearing the real Scotland.

By all means engage in discussion, debate or even argument but please let’s remember that we will all be citizens of an Independent Nation before too long. It’s important that everyone can accept the result and feel that they were given a fair chance to have their say. Many bridges will have to be rebuilt and the less damage we do to the foundations the better as we make that journey.

My first real sales boss taught me that “God gave us all two eyes, two ears and one tongue, use them in that ratio.”

Politics has become far too polarised in recent years, to bring some more civility into our deliberations would be a fitting tribute to the memory of Sir David Amess and Jo Cox.