Milloy: In this increasingly polarized society, how can we learn to trust each other again?

No easy answers in terms of how we address weakening trust:

How should we react to calls for both sides of the COVID-19 debate to try to find common ground? Many federal Conservatives as well as a collection of commentators are urging dialogue on vaccine mandates and public health restrictions. The new Conservative leader, Candice Bergen, has talked of the need to extend “an olive branch.”

Their arguments are simple. Although there may be racists and extremists involved in the anti-vaxx movement, most of those protesting current COVID-19 rules are ordinary Canadians who deserve to be heard. The trucker’s protest in Ottawa, which has now spread to other communities, is symptomatic of a divided nation that needs to be healed.

Communication is generally a good thing, and both the “pro” and “anti” vaccine sides could certainly benefit from a dose of humility. But beyond gaining a deeper appreciation of each other’s basic humanity (never a bad thing), here is a question to ponder: if they ever did meet what would the two sides talk about?

Those who oppose COVID vaccines and restrictions have made it clear that they don’t trust our political leaders. They mistrust scientists, public health officials, doctors and much of the mainstream media.

And on the other side, proponents for vaccine mandates and restrictions don’t trust the protesters. They don’t trust their claims about science or public health. They don’t trust their opinions on politics or governing and would be quick to point to their bizarre calls for the Governor General and the Senate to somehow force the federal government and provinces to end COVID-19 restrictions. Most of all, they don’t trust their motives and see them as a bunch of yahoos looking simply to cause trouble.

We have a problem in our country. The level of polarization seems to be growing exponentially. Extreme views are becoming more commonplace, but perhaps more concerning is the fact that even middle of the road people are increasingly admitting that they have no time for anyone who doesn’t share their opinion. A recent Angus Reid poll found that close to 40 per cent of Canadians believe that “there is no room for political compromise in Canada today.

This isn’t about the need to “hash things out.” This is about trust. We don’t trust each other. We don’t trust our governments, our political leaders, experts, media, multinationals, or our churches.

As a society we have developed ways of dealing with issues and challenges. We have institutions and systems that are supposed to analyze problems and drawing upon the best evidence, find the needed solutions.

Source: In this increasingly polarized society, how can we learn to trust each other again?

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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