Should we associate with people who think differently from us?

Karl du Fresne is alarmed at the insistence of the left that your friends must also be politically and ideologically sound.

The notion that we shouldn?t associate with people who think differently alarms me. Democracy is about the free exchange of ideas, but we retreat into tribal enclaves, erect barricades and refuse to have anything to do with the enemy.

We block our ears and hum loudly when anyone dares express a contrary thought. It?s as if we?re scared of being exposed to ideas that might turn out to be less heinous than we imagined. Groupthink takes over.

This happens on both the Right and the Left and has become noticeably worse since the advent of the Internet. Political blogs and websites provide fortresses where like-minded people can band together, drawing comfort and reassurance from their conformity and angrily repelling all invaders. ? ?

Anyone who challenges the consensus becomes the enemy. This can have strange consequences, as I discovered recently when I wrote a column asking whether John Key really believed in anything.

My column was picked up by conservative blogs, triggering an avalanche of venomous comment attacking me as a hand-wringing leftie.

You?ve got to laugh. No one could read a selection of my columns from the past 30 years and conclude that I?m a leftie. But I?d committed the unpardonable sin of writing a column that wasn?t slavishly pro-government.

In today?s world, it seems, you must be either 100 percent Left or 100 Right. People with fixed, rigid ideas feel threatened when anyone deviates from the norm. Infidels must be punished.

I?m not sure what you call this, but it certainly isn?t democracy as I understand it.

I have plenty of friends on the left, something they forgot when they attacked me last year.

Those who were formally my friends on the left who got themselves involved in Dirty Politics, must understand that there is no comeback from what they did and participated in.


– Karl du Fresne