Politically Correct: We need a new way of doing politics

Sep 30 2011 in Opinion by Sam Nabi, Politically Correct

Much of my political activism has centred around the process of voting. I’m more comfortable encouraging people to vote and advocating for electoral reform than I am talking about actual policy.

Maybe it’s because I’ve never voted for the same party twice. But for this election, I feel the need to highlight one K-W candidate who isn’t afraid to speak his mind, and whose vision for our community is frank, honest, and achievable.

Peter Davis is an independent candidate running in the provincial election for the Kitchener-Waterloo riding. Last week, I met up with him for a chat about his campaign, the student vote, and what it means to be part of a community.

I came away from that conversation inspired. He brought every issue back to the idea of a society that collaborates for the greater good.

“A student is a student and will be interested in student things,” he said.

“But is there not a connecting thread between the student, the immigrant, the elderly person? Every person is human, so is there not a common interest that we can talk about that transcends those issues?”

If I had to place Peter Davis on the political spectrum, I’d call him a social libertarian. He says he “would love to see a society without government,” but thinks it’s foolish to cut taxes and social programs and “just hope that people cover each others’ backs.”

“I think that we always underestimate what we are able to achieve ourselves. Imagining an all-powerful government to solve our problems, I think that’s unrealistic. That’s imaginary … You have to make the people more compassionate if you want a more compassionate government.”

A theme of strong local community-building is infused in his campaign and drives his desire for social change.

“I think there’s a lot of arrogance that’s built into our economic system that encourages us to look down on the past. To look down on the poor.

“To look down on developing countries [...] In Arabic cultures, there’s that concept of hospitality that says ‘If we have bread, we can eat it together. And if we don’t, we can be hungry together.’ That’s such a strong idea for community.”

As the youngest candidate running in Kitchener-Waterloo, Davis is attuned to the perception of politics among the student population. But he stresses that student life and civic engagement can co-exist; it’s a question of sacrificing a small chunk of your time to be part of something bigger than yourself.

“I think that students are under a lot of pressure to constantly be having fun, and going out and partying [...] so I decided that I would campaign at night, wandering around parties and bars, and finding students who are having a good time. I talk to them about voting, talk to them about a balance in their lives between dissipation, having fun, and doing something for a greater cause, a greater good.

“I was never involved in politics when I was in university [...] But, if somebody had talked to me in first year, and said, ‘Guys, come on, vote for me,’ then I probably would have said ‘Well, sure, I’ll try it.’ And now I’m that guy.”

A lot of students feel like they’re not informed enough to vote. But voting isn’t for the political elite, it’s a form of community-building; collectively choosing who we want to represent us. Peter gets that.

“I think the idea that you have to have knowledge about all these policy areas, that’s a myth. And I think that’s preventing a lot of students [...] I think that running as a candidate without trying to tell people to support such-and-such a cause, I think that helps as well, not trying to ram policy down people’s throats.”

Peter Davis doesn’t pander to get votes. He’s focused on root causes; everything else is a sideshow.

“I don’t like to piss people off by telling them that the thing they care about isn’t important to me, but [...] I think we could all work towards something bigger than cutting the HST!”

In a political climate where hot-button issues are reduced to soundbites and repeated ad nauseum by the other parties, Davis’s voice is a refreshing one indeed.

“It’s about building an organization of people that support each other to make positive social change.

“There’s no detail more necessary than that. I think that the more that you talk about party policy, the more you take away from your own individual power to make change.”

The reason I started writing this column was because I wanted to make politics more accessible. I wanted to prove that the way we govern ourselves is not just something that happens in the stuffy halls of Queen’s Park.

It’s real life; it’s how we spend our money; it’s how we deal with authority; it’s everyday interactions with the people around us.

Peter Davis is working to expand this kind of broad political consciousness that doesn’t stop when the government offices are closed.

That’s why I’m voting for Peter Davis this election. I think you should, too.