Navigating the blurred line between politics and peers, and why it’s important to know where you stand

PHOTO C/O: Alex Motoc, Unsplash

Friends and social media can shape your political orientation and ideologies. From a tweet shared by your favourite celebrity to a comment made by a close friend, several studies show that you may begin to question, and possibly even alter, your political stances in agreement with those around you. 

The power of social influence is not a new revelation. For decades, psychologists have noted the ability of social groups to modify and impact individual behaviours and opinions. This phenomenon occurs as a means of meeting individual needs of acceptance and belonging through conformity in society. 

The power of social influence is not a new revelation. For decades, psychologists have noted the ability of social groups to modify and impact individual behaviours and opinions. This phenomenon occurs as a means of meeting individual needs of acceptance and belonging through conformity in society. 

On a smaller scale, the power of social influence can prompt you to follow basic etiquette in public. However, on a much greater scale, the people around you can affect your political views, causing you to take an ill-informed political stance before casting your ballot. As a result, without adequate information, you may end up siding with a political party or candidate that does not truly represent your beliefs and values. 

Research is singlehandedly the most valuable strategy to combat and mitigate the power of social influence. Exploring each political candidate and their platform can help you solidify your political views to make a well-informed decision.  

While it may not be completely obvious at first glance, there are certainly damaging ramifications of inadequate knowledge when it comes to politics and voting. A lack of political understanding diminishes the value of having democracy and leads to an inaccurate reflection of the public’s true wishes through government policies and action. 

While it may not be completely obvious at first glance, there are certainly damaging ramifications of inadequate knowledge when it comes to politics and voting. A lack of political understanding diminishes the value of having democracy and leads to an inaccurate reflection of the public’s true wishes through government policies and action. 

Take Paul Fromm as an example of the rash consequences that could result if ballots are cast with such blissful ignorance. Currently running in Hamilton’s nearing municipal election, he is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi that spearheads several organizations with deplorable objectives.  

The stark and concerning reality is that there are very few eligibility criteria to run for a municipal election in Ontario. As such, it becomes the sole responsibility of us citizens to support and cautiously grant power to candidates whose visions and values align with our own.  

So, whether you are preparing to vote at the next municipal election or an upcoming MSU election, beware of social influence and try to implement necessary measures to make your vote your own. Though the prospect may seem daunting, you are not required to vote for your friend or someone they support at an election. Only your opinions and ideas about a candidate’s qualifications and plans should matter when you check off the circle on your ballot.  

It is also important to remember that along with your right to vote in Canada, maintaining the secrecy of your ballot is also a right that no one may infringe. While there is no harm in engaging in healthy political discourse, you should never feel compelled to share your political views with anyone, especially if it makes you feel uncomfortable.  

As students receiving post-secondary education in a democratic nation, we ought to recognize our privilege and use it to effect positive change in our communities. Staying aware of how our friends and exposure to political views on social media can influence our stances, as well as doing our research, is vital to ensure we are truly making an impact with our votes.  

C/O Yoohyun Park

Check out these five local vegan restaurants in the Hammer 

By: Edwin Thomas, contriubtor

The rise of plant-based diets in the past few years is part of an overarching trend involving environmentally conscious practices. Due to their reduced carbon footprints, plant-based diets are more sustainable than traditional omnivorous diets. 

Plant-based meals can range from modified vegetarian meals to using meat substitutes such as tofu and tempeh. The rise in popularity of plant-based diets is reflected in Hamilton’s diverse restaurant scene offering great plant-based options.

These spots are classic go-tos for members of the plant-based community and serve as a great introduction for non-vegans into their culinary style. 

Planted in Hamilton, 225 John St. South

A vegan and kosher establishment, Planted in Hamilton aims to serve familiar foods using plant-based ingredients only. Popular bites include pulled-jackfruit sandwiches, build-your-own-bowls and their mac and cheese. The restaurant also includes a vegan bakery, featuring donuts, cakes and milkshakes, among other options. The average price for a meal is around $12-14.

Planted in Hamilton offers takeout, delivery, indoor and patio dining. They are operating at full capacity now, though proof of vaccination and masking unless seated are required, as per current COVID-19 guidelines.

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Rise Above Pizza & Wings, 274 James St. North

Established in 2019, Rise Above quickly gained popularity with their specialty vegan seitan wings, pizzas and wraps. Seitan is a dough made of gluten and flour used as a meat substitute. The restaurant features a family-sized nugget bucket with 30 wings. Their pizzas include toppings such as seitan sausage and grilled tofu and include vegan cheese and sauce options. The average price for a meal is around $8-16, with pizzas ranging from $14-32, depending on size.

They offer takeout, delivery and patio dining, in compliance with all current COVID-19 guidelines

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Democracy*, 202 Locke St. South

Democracy* offers a wide range of meals inspired from different cultures. From avocado quinoa bowls to Banh Mi, the menu consists of popular vegan ingredients like tofu and tempeh. House favourites include cauliflower wings and fries supreme. They also feature a breakfast menu consisting of tempeh bacon, breakfast burritos and scrambled “eggs.” The average price for a meal is around $12-16.

 Fun fact: Democracy* was the first dine-in vegan restaurant in Hamilton. 

They offer takeout, delivery and indoor dining. For indoor dining, proof of vaccination is required, as per current COVID-19 guidelines.

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A post shared by Democracy* (@democracyonlocke)

The Hearty Hooligan, 292 Ottawa St. North

The Hearty Hooligan is a punk-themed vegan restaurant and bakery. Popular bites include their anti-warrior bowl, pizza pockets and crunchwrap. Their bakery displays new desserts daily, including butter tarts, cupcakes and cookies. The restaurant also features a lot of Simpsons art. The average price for a meal is around $10-14.

They offer takeout, delivery and indoor dining. Proof of vaccination and masking unless seated are required as per current COVID-19 guidelines. They are also collecting contact tracing information.

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People Under the Staircase, 27 Dundurn St. N

Built within the Staircase Theatre, the restaurant combines food and entertainment through its fully vegan menu and an in-house movie theatre. The menu features vegan pub food such as nachos, staircase chips and a yellow griffin burger. The theatre plays movies multiple times throughout the week. The restaurant also hosts live performances and contains an arcade room.  The average price for a meal is around $12-17.

They offer takeout, delivery and indoor dining. They are operating a full capacity now, though proof of vaccination and masking unless seated are required, as per current COVID-19 guidelines.

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The aforementioned restaurants are a delicious and environmentally-conscious introduction to plant-based diets for Hamiltonians and Marauders to try.

By: Patrick Leclerc

I don’t know about you but when I hear that elections are coming up, I immediately become anxious. This anxiety isn’t fear by any means, it’s more an unsettling feeling that nobody really knows what they’re voting for. The most recent elections seem evident of exactly that.

Many students seem to be voting without knowing what they are supporting. Students may vote for one side merely so that the opposing side does not get into power.

For example, there are those claiming that they will vote for literally anyone but the current premier, Kathleen Wynne. The issue is that, as far as I’ve seen, that nobody has been doing their research. I’m not advocating that you should all go out and vote for Wynne, I’m arguing exactly the opposite of that.

We should all be doing our research. A quick search would even suffice to an extent. Every party’s political platform ends up online relatively quickly after they announce that they’re running,

For a democracy to work well, everyone should vote. As far as this, we shouldn’t vote for someone just because we don’t like the other candidates. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve met many people who say they’ll vote for the opposition of a certain party just because they don’t agree with the party in question. This could lead to politically inept people being put into power or you could be voting for someone whose actual policies you don’t agree with.

These kinds of things happen because people don’t look up policies, or maybe because some students don’t understand why one vote matters. Though the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance has been working on projects that help students understand the importance of voting and how to do so, at this time, election awareness along with these campaigns should be increased. When students don’t understand why their vote matters or for students who are not accustomed to voting in Canada how voting happens, we lose some valuable voices of students in politics.

We should all be doing our research. A quick search would even suffice to an extent. Every party’s political platform ends up online relatively quickly after they announce that they’re running, though there are many issues with researching a party platform online.

I believeone of the biggest issues of them all is clickbait. By clickbait, I’m mostly talking about titles of articles that can be misconstrued. I’m sure I’m not the only one whose looked at a juicy title of an article and made an assumption based on the content of a poorly supported, but sometimes convincing article.

Unfortunately, clickbait is where a lot of voters’ “political knowledge” comes from. The best way to avoid issues like this is to go directly to the party’s website or any official Canadian government website. I know it sounds tedious, but I think the only way for voters to get an actual stance on who they’re voting for is to interpret a party’s policies by themselves, without any biased sources to change their minds.

Biases are an increasingly evident issue in media as far as I see. As mentioned earlier, the media tends to overblow their titles. Specific outlets even have evident political biases. Fox News, for example, is inherently Republican, which though many us know this, some do not. These sources tend to focus on the personalities of politicians instead of important matters like platforms and policies. Media sources should be showing voters the things they’re voting for and not the personality presenting it.

I guess what I’m trying to say is to go out and vote. Do your research, understand what you want and vote for that. Don’t find yourself voting for a personality or because you don’t like the opposition. Democracy is fair when everyone votes for who they believe will be the right person to lead them.

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This week has the McMaster student body gearing us up for the event of the year — the MSU’s General Assembly! Just joking, no one actually cares that much about the GA.

Typing that last sentence, I feel a pang of remorse for all those that have dedicated time to planning this year’s assembly (hell, I even feel bad for my own staff because we take the time to report on it each year). But the reason most students genuinely do not care that much about the GA is because most students have, unfortunately, grown accustomed to the fact that Mac doesn’t always care that much about our feedback.

Let me preface this by saying, I do not think that Mac never considers our feedback. But historically, in part thanks to logistics, policy framework, and general challenges that come from working with thousands of students, it can sometimes be challenging for our university to hear and interpret our feedback.

The GA functions as a public forum where students can voice their concerns related to the MSU and all trepidations can be motioned and eventually voted upon. Sounds pretty democratic, right? Well, not completely. The GA is often dominated by a few motions that overshadow “smaller” issues students want to bring up, making it hard for all voices to be heard. In addition, for a motion at the GA to be passed, the assembly itself needs at least three percent of the student body, so roughly 650 students, present at the event. This doesn’t sound like a lot, but historically this number has been hard to reach. What is supposed to be the most democratic form of discussion for students has its limits.

And the GA isn’t the only student-driven method that has its barriers. Every year we fill out course evaluations, create petitions and write countless articles asking for change, but don’t always see it, or even hear people acknowledging our feedback. Take for instance the yearly petition that students have created to request their majors be listed on their degrees (this year a Google Feedback Form entitled “Program on the McMaster Degree” if you wanted to sign it). For the last few years, students have gone to the university with the same request, and every year their appeal is denied, and as far as the signees can tell, isn’t even acknowledged.

With this as the current standard for accepting student requests and input, it’s not surprising that events like the GA tend to pass by unnoticed by the majority of the student population. Why should students make the extra effort to push forward a change if they feel their voices will not be heard?

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By: Chukky Ibe

What happens when we treat student politics like warfare?

With ideas as our weapons, we convince ourselves we cannot concede one inch of ground lest we lose. Direct opposition becomes the only acceptable way to win. Debates and arguments replace collaboration and dialogue, and there is no honour in changing one’s mind once you have stated your position. This adversarial style of debate does not incentivize moral diversity. It does not explore various ideological certainties and the experiences that lead people to reach their diverse moral and ideological predispositions. This warlike culture is pervasive in all aspects of society. It limits the information we get rather than broadening it. It is the knee jerk reaction you experience – but may not entirely think through – when you hear something you disagree with. It is the Bill O’Riley of dialogue.

This paradigm is exactly what we have seen happen with debates surrounding vice presidential elections on campus. Last year, a proposition was put forward to the General Assembly that students, not the SRA, should elect their student body Vice Presidents (Education, Finance, and Administration). Debates on VP reform have been framed as the two sides – students and representatives – in opposition to each other; as direct democracy versus representative democracy. Some basic nuances have been lost.

The VPs have different portfolios and are responsible for different facets of the MSU. To compare them is to compare apples and oranges. Is it useful for the VP Administration to be elected by a referendum? Should the general manager and the comptroller, as people directly involved in the MSU’s accounting, get more say about the VP Finance? What do the VP Education, and VP Administration have in common? Should they be chosen the same way?  Giving students the simple choice on their ballot of “yes/no/abstain” doesn’t allow Marauders to explore or understand the intricacies of each position.

This dichotomy that students have been forced to choose from has stemmed from the “argument culture” – or warlike debates – surrounding the issue. By presenting the options as oversimplified extremes, argument culture has limited our understanding rather than expanding it. Rather than seeking various forms of evidence, the debate has simplified complex phenomena with a “Yes” or “No” binary that does not account for all available possibilities. The truth has become the winner of the debate, and the perspectives of the losers are nullified and invalidated. Issues have been presented as having only two sides; winner takes all.

The MSU leadership has spent more time and talent defending outlandish claims than advancing their ideas. Suggestions for dialogue are laughable. Both sides are in the pursuit for victory and not truth. There is little consideration that current options may be inadequate, because opposition is viewed as our only method of inquiry. When opposition does not acknowledge complexity, then argument culture is doing more damage than good.

Issues have been presented as having only two sides; winner takes all.

Although the issue is going to referendum, the outcome is now of little significance. The union leadership continually showcases its inability to embrace its diversity of opinions. Warfare and argument culture remains its default position. In this, Marauders will always lose and common sense will never prevail. Democracy dies when debate trumps dialogue.

Photo Credit: Jon White/Photo Editor

Political activist, author and five-time candidate for President of the United States Ralph Nader visited McMaster this week speaking at an event sponsored by OPIRG McMaster and Bryan Prince Bookseller. Among many other things, Ralph Nader was responsible for founding the PIRG movement. He sat down for a face-to-face with assistant news editor Tyler Welch.

 

The Silhouette: Why are you here? Other than selling books, what message are you trying to get across?

Ralph Nader: The message basically is Canadians have to learn why they have to remain independent of U.S. control. Which is swallowing Canada in so many ways—foreign military policy, corporate policy and so on. And this is why years ago we wrote this book Canada Firsts, it’s all the things Canada led the way with: the first daily newspaper is North America, first credit unions, on and on, science, technology. A lot of it would not have happened if, you know, Canada were just five states or something.

Also, it’s good for the U.S., because we look to Canada as rational to change things in the U.S., like Medicare.

After that, I want to talk about how citizens can become sovereign again, and redirect the country away from its downward slide. It’s almost following the U.S. except in the banking area.

The indicator is more poverty, exporting jobs, shredding public services, cutting back on necessities, giving more tax breaks and subsidies to corporations.

Power is being concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. That spells decay and decline, if not worse.

 

Are things like citizen sovereignty and maintenance of Canada’s independence really possible, or are they just wide-eyed ideas?

It’s easy. What if, suddenly, you were driving on the highway and all the cars stopped because there was a boulder blocking the way, and they all got out of their cars and nobody lifted a finger, and then someone said “Oh this boulder, it’s impossible to do anything about it.” Then everyone agreed except for one, who said, “Have you really given it a try?” Then he tries, and the big boulder doesn’t move. Then everyone says, “See, it doesn’t move!”

But then what if six or them try to move, or sixteen? And they all give it a shoulder, and the boulder rolls away.

See, it’s all about how many people get involved, how smart they are and what the agenda is.

 

How many people does it take for real change?

One per cent, for real change, that would be about 330,000 people in Canada, connected together, in all the ridings, with a full-time staff. They can raise for themselves a few bucks each and have a full-time staff coast-to-coast.

Then they’ve got to ask what institution can make the change the fastest, and seek to influence them. In our country [U.S.] it’s the Congress. In your country, it could be Parliament or Provincial Parliament. But one thing is certain, three hundred thousand people is a lot more than the number of MPs.

 

Let’s talk about the emotional change that is needed for that. Many students focus on earning something marketable and seeking a good career, but you got a law degree from Harvard—pretty marketable, if you ask anyone—yet you still chose the activism route.

There’s a certain immaturity that modern industrial nations ascribe into their citizens until they’re almost 30. In a more simple society, people become adults and take on adult responsibilities at a much younger age.

People have to unlearn a lot of things. Like the free market. Free? It’s rigged in all kinds of ways. Corporations are on welfare—tax breaks, bailouts.

You’ve got to ask: “Is it a strong democracy, a weak one, a middling democracy, or is it really just a democracy in name?”

They have to unlearn a lot of things that have been controlling them, controlling their expectations, teaching them powerlessness and encouraging them to wallow in cynicism.  There is nothing that the ruling classes need the most to stay in power than widespread public cynicism. Because that involves a withdraw.  The more you become cynical and powerless, the more power you give away to the few.

 

Many say that young people are the most withdrawn from public life. True?

People say “That’s for the student government to do” or “This other club will work on that.” They wallow in their own narrow routine, everyday. That tends to magnify personal problems, they don’t have a larger framework—they’re looking through a smaller lens—and that makes them more susceptible to addictions, distractions and to that lethal little thing in their hand called and iPhone.

You just have to talk to one another more, that’s how students rose in the 60s—they talked to each other. They didn’t send telegrams to each other. It’s personal, a conversation. It develops a maturity that develops self-respect. They have to believe that they can reshape their country, because they can.

 

Were you ever tempted by the other route? The good job, nice house, nice car, nice family?

No, it just trivialized your life, that route. So what, you get paid more, big deal. You want to make zillions? What’s the point? The price for that is to further the ruling class. Harvard Law School is like a finishing school for corporate supremacy.

 

There’s been a lot written about you living below your means, and giving away most of your income—living on a budget that many people think is impossible.

First of all, when you work as hard as I do, you don’t have time to squander all kinds of money. When you do buy all these extra things, is distracts from the focus. This is serious business, taking measure of these large corporations. A yacht, a fancy car, a fancy house, they’re not compatible with that.

I know somebody that had all these things and more and one day he sold them all. He said, “I bought a lot of things and they began controlling me.”

People are trapped in this pursuit. You know this Snapchat thing? It’s worth $3 billion and they turned it down—they think they can get more. In the meantime, the necessities of life and being ignored; people are going hungry, their housing is bad, their retirement security is shot. You’ve got to get serious, and when you do, you have an incredible increase in quality of life—gratification, joy, challenge, find a different definition of friendship, and by time you’re 65 you don’t have regrets when you look back.

 

You can’t do this forever. For the next generation of activists, what are the most important issues they will face?

There is too much economic wealth in too few hands, and the few decide against the interests of the many. And, of course, there are the global issues: war, peace, poverty, and climate change. There’s a lot of backlog here—centuries to catch up on.

But the biggest thing is to structure community and civic values so that corporate values are subordinate to them. Another way to put it is “Markets make good servants, but bad masters.” Markets need to be servants or a larger framework of human values and human livelihood.

 

Where do they start?

To do that, you have to start with young students. Give them civic values and civic skills. Teach them about town halls, how the courts work, elections and institutions. You’ve got to start at that level. Otherwise, education is just vocation—just trade school with different names.

 

What is something that you wish someone had told you in university?

I wish that people told me, or all the law students, that they were heading for highly rewarding, trivial and damaging work.

Instead, they were told that they were heading for highly prestigious law firms where they would be architects of a dynamic economy, and do all kinds of important and good things.

Many of them are now greasing the way for corporate criminals, allowing the exploitation of fossil fuels, blocking the courtroom door for negligently wounded workers, making us sign fine print contracts, stripping us of any semblance of freedom of speech.

 

Photo Credit: C/O Wikimedia Commons

By Edward Lovo

There is a view of education that requires challenging. It's rather natural to be anxious about the prospects of one's choice of study. One worries about what career path one will take after completing a liberal arts degree, for example. However, the view of education that ought to be challenged sees education solely as a means to these prospects; in other words, education is an investment.

Living in a (more or less) democratic society, education is more than just an investment; more than what many regard as a privilege rather than a right. Education is a social good that is integral to the ideals of a democratic society. Two such ideals are political equality, and open and fair discussion.

Democracy, in the first place, implies that all citizens come together to reach a decision on questions that concern them all. Accordingly, the second of the democratic ideals, open and fair discussion, expresses each citizen's right to the opportunity to articulate their views and supporting reasons, and to listen to an array of other viewpoints on matters of public concern.

Political equality requires that all citizens are equal participants in decision-making. Political equality is a robust conception that goes beyond the empty formality of filling out a ballot. Open and fair discussion presupposes a substantive equality between citizens.

Thomas Christiano, a democratic theorist, gives the following example by way of illustration: “Consider a citizen who has a vote and is not forbidden to say something in the process of deliberation. But suppose that because of poverty, lack of education, and lack of organization this citizen is unable to understand the issues involved in the decision-making or have a clear idea of what [their] interests are or how to articulate them to others. Such a citizen is not the political equal of the citizen who is wealthy, well educated, whose interests and points of view are supported by organization, and who is able to understand issues as well as clarify and articulate [their] interests...most of us would believe that [this society] does not live up to the democratic ideals of political equality and participation in rational social deliberation.”

So, political equality does not end with the uneducated worker being able to cast a vote in the same way the educated employer for whom he works is able to cast a vote. This is merely equality on paper and not equality in our substantive relations with one another.

Education, as well, ought not to be restricted to a select few, such as to those who can afford it, as this exacerbates the inequality between the classes. Limited accessibility reflects in society an inequality in power among classes that privileges an educated elite not only in the process of deliberation but also in the fulfillment of political roles.

Education, then, is fundamental to a democratic society, which promotes political equality among its citizens. It serves as a grand equalizer of its citizens, and a society that limits its accessibility is not living up to its ideal of political equality. Upon these considerations, one should see that education is not an investment in a democratic society - it's a right.

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