Updated: Sep 4, 2020
Sometimes you just need to say "enough is enough". Mayor Brenda Chisholm-Beaton of Port Hawkesbury, Nova Scotia reached that point this past week and decided to speak out against the misogyny she encounters regularly in what she refers to as the "dirty side of politics". (Photo credit: Tom Ayers/CBC)
demeaning and sexist name-calling
wild and false accusations, and
very public character assassinations
As always, this toxic behaviour in the public square has everything to do with the perpetrators and nothing to do with the Mayor. It is nevertheless, toxic harassment that has no place in any society, let alone a modern democracy.
Why do people engage in this type of "dirty politics"? There are a variety of reasons, but a primary motivator is a desire for one to have their way by any means necessary.
Like a person in the water who lacks sufficient swimming and floating skills, they rely on grasping and bringing others down, even their rescuer. This reflects a lack of social-emotional skills related to self-regulation, patience and acceptance of the inherent value and worth of other human beings.
Other times people simply never learned how to engage constructively in civic dialogue and don't understand the process. They have been told that these are the rules of the game (bully to get your way) and they follow along.
Whatever the reason, there is no excuse for this type of behaviour anywhere and certainly not in the public square.
Toxic culture deters a diversity of people from running for public office since the less socially secure you are, the less likely you are to join the politics of the snake pit.
Remember the vision of democracy? That system that belongs to the people, for the people, by the people? That means it needs to include all people -- men, women, white, black, brown, indigenous, all genders, all professions, farmers, entrepreneurs, teachers--everyone.
Next time you are tempted to either engage in or turn a blind eye to "dirty politics" ask yourself what world you want to live in. Reflect on the consequences of your silence, for the individuals involved, your community, your country and future generations.
Advocate for comprehensive civic education training for all.
For more on how toxic culture kills community and what to do about it, read Save Your City.
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