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Michael Kourlas

Yes to neutrality

In their recent editorial (“No to neutrality”, 27 October 2014), the McGill Daily editorial board attempted to equate a position of neutrality on a political issue with an affirmance of the status quo, when nothing could be further from the truth. Under the editorial board’s model of neutrality, one must reject the notion of an organization with purely non-political aims. Every association, from the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (RASC) to a local hockey club, must adopt a political stance on every issue, because a failure to condemn an alleged human rights violation, social inequity or environmental problem is equivalent to tacit support for the same. In the world envisioned by the editorial board, every activity, no matter how benign, is politicized, and every community, no matter how ideologically diverse, is polarized. Of course, the reality is that the definition of neutrality used by the editorial board is simply wrong. Neutrality is not itself a stance on a given issue; it is the absence of a stance on that issue. It has long been recognized that in a liberal, tolerant society, organizations without an explicitly political mandate can and should adopt a position of neutrality on political issues. Unlike SSMU, neither RASC nor most hockey clubs have adopted policies on weapons development, oil pipelines, or Canadian military intervention in Iran. This is because the whole point of these organizations is to allow a diverse group of people from all walks of life to temporarily put aside their ideological views in order to come together to enjoy stargazing and hockey, which are inherently non-political activities. Introducing political positions into the mix would be more than a mere distraction for these groups; it would be antithetical to their respective missions. For essentially the same reasons, SSMU should also be a largely neutral,… Read More