Calvin: To leave the European Union, of course. I'm all in for the Brexit!
Hobbes: Really? How come?
Calvin: We pay millions of pounds to the EU every year and get very little in return. Our businesses are burdened by their onerous regulations. I haven’t had a steady-paying job in years and immigrants are overrunning our country. They’re taking our health care, burdening our services, and overcrowding our schools.
Hobbes: I think you're succumbing to a lot of fear-based rhetoric. First of all, many of the people you're speaking about are refugees. And that begs us to ask, what has caused the refugee crisis? From what I’ve read, the civil war in Syria is attributed principally to: 1) climate change; and 2) the destabilization of the region brought about by the US invasion of Iraq. Aren’t you compassionate for people victimized by a situation that we helped cause?
Calvin: Well even if the climate is changing, I don’t trust those communist scientists who fudge the data. The Earth has been much warmer in the past and there are natural cycles. Those scientists are just trying to take away our freedom.
Hobbes: okay, you've got a lot of misleading claims there, too. Did you know that something like 80-85% of the pollutants in the air that are caused by the burning of fossil fuels have come from western countries, including Great Britain? We were the first country, after all, to undergo an industrial revolution based, in large part, on burning coal.
Hobbes: Well…if we, as Britons, are very much responsible for heating the planet, which in turn, has displaced millions of people across the globe because of drought and other forms of extreme weather, don’t you think that we also have a responsibility to care for the refugees? Did you know that Great Britain, during WWI, redrew the boundaries of the Middle East to suit its own imperial interests rather than conform to the ethnic realities on the ground? Did you know that Iraq, currently in shambles and effectively partitioned in three, did not really exist as a country before the 1920s? I would add that our country, led by Tony Blair at the time, was a firm supporter of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. Don’t you think that this invasion played a big part in causing the refugee crisis?
Calvin: Well even if that were true—and I just think you’re listening to communistic media—how will that get me a job?
Hobbes: Well first of all, I'm not convinced that breaking away from the EU will do anything to solve your problems. It may make you feel good, but it could very well make things worse for you economically, especially because you've traditionally worked in jobs that rely on trade with continental Europe. And nothing I’ve said thus far is remotely “communistic” as you say. I’m just trying to get you to engage in critical thinking; to be aware of the importance of history. And yet you seem to want to throw around misplaced labels. Quite frankly, you don’t have a job for a lot of reasons. The companies you that you associate with freedom and feel are burdened by regulations…they profited a lot from the Iraq invasion through contracts with our government. They sent your job overseas because they didn’t like the labor union you belonged to. They also lobbied our government for tax breaks, put all of their money offshore in the Cayman's and in Switzerland, and their CEOs make millions of dollars while you suffer. Don’t you think that’s unfair?
Calvin: There you go again. Always hating Britain first. I’m not gonna fall prey to your Jedi mind tricks. I want to feel proud of Britain. This is about heritage. We were once a great nation and now we're in the dumps. These immigrants that are overrunning our country…they don’t share our common values. They don’t believe in freedom. Many of them are terrorists. We need to make Great Britain “great” again. All you smug, elitist professors sitting in your ivory tower in Cambridge, all you do is look down upon the true salt of the Earth like me…the real people.
Hobbes: Uggh…that sounds like a talking point from Rupert Murdoch and Sarah Palin. Rest assured they don't have your best interests in mind. People who have uttered those words have done much to divide people along the lines of race and religion, all the while laughing to the bank. But let’s get back to your economic woes…You claim that immigrants are taking your jobs, right? What evidence do you have for that?
Calvin: I heard it in the Times. It’s also all over the tabloid news. And a friend of mine told me about a Syrian immigrant who hit on his wife.
Hobbes: Well there’s your problem. Again, Rupert Murdoch. And the example from your friend is just anecdotal.
Calvin: You know something? You’re going to lose this election. You’re just an elitist professor. You don’t understand how real British people feel.
Hobbes: Oh my god, you’re making my head spin. If you wrote this in an essay for my class, I’d give you a “D” for all of these vague generalizations, trite clichés, and meaningless catchphrases. What exactly does it mean to be "elite"? How can you call me “elite” when I’ve lived on food stamps? How can you call me elite when my salary is 25,000 pounds per year? This is hardly an excessive standard of living. By this measure I have much more in common with you than with those business owners you associate with freedom.
Calvin: You just don’t understand where I come from. You’re an arrogant person who just wants to make decisions for me. You want to take away my freedom.
Hobbes: Where on earth are you getting this from? In what way have I behaved arrogantly? Besides, as the great historian Eric Foner tells us, there are multiple versions of freedom. You may have articulated one version of freedom in calling for low taxes and deregulation, but that's largely the wealthy businessman's version of freedom. Are you a wealthy businessman? I would argue this version of freedom actually takes away other peoples’ freedom. It takes away equal opportunity. It takes away fairness. There are plenty of other versions of freedom – the right to health care; the right to due process; the right to not have air pollution; human rights; the right to marriage equality; the right to a minimum wage. Aren’t those freedoms, too? And to get back to your original point, I don’t see how immigrants are taking away your job. They contribute to the economy, too. They pay taxes. Some of them might be great inventors but they're not able to make use of their skills in their country of origin. They’re not taking the jobs that you would take anyway.
Calvin: They’re overrunning our borders.
Hobbes: Again, where are you getting that from? This isn’t the Roman Empire and they’re not the Visigoths.
Calvin: I heard it in the news.
Hobbes: Yeah, well I’ve read lots of academic studies on this and all the empirical evidence I’ve seen says you’re wrong.
Hobbes: What do you mean lies? What you are effectively saying is that you don't trust the scientific method. Are you telling me you don’t believe in empiricism? In evidence? In data? In having an argument based on some sort of reason and rationality? This doesn't mean we have to agree on everything, but it does mean we have to agree on certain standards of evidence and what constitutes a valid argument. All you're really arguing for is hatred, anger, and exclusion, and it won't solve any of your problems. And by the way, the entire society you thought was “great” would have never come to be without these standards. All of those advancements in the industrial revolution came about because people trusted science. They trusted academics. It’s my job to study this stuff. And when you call me “elite,” all you’re really doing is saying you don’t accept knowledge. You don’t accept learning. You can’t demand that I respect your opinion merely because you are capable of forming one. Here’s an analogy: I know how to play football on a very basic level. I also know, however, that I can’t play it very well and probably couldn't score a goal for the life of me. Because I'm aware of my limitations, I leave it up to the experts to decide who will play on England's national team. I don’t demand that my opinion be accepted and respected by elite football players. They surely know much more about the game than I do. You see, this is really the opposite of arrogance. True arrogance to me is asserting something without any evidence that can be verified. It would be like me saying, beyond a doubt, with an absolute certainty, that the Easter Bunny and tooth fairy exist, and when I die, I'm going to go to some magical universe where I meet them along with Santa Clause. That would be arrogance. I don't see how referencing scientific studies that people have worked very hard to put together is arrogance. Politics is ultimately about power. It’s about distributing resources. If you want this process to work well, you need to study it. And you shouldn’t be insulting people who have dedicated their lives to these studying these subjects. If you have cancer, you’d go see a doctor. If you had legal troubles, you’d call a lawyer. So why don't you trust a professor when it comes to debating matters of policy? I’m not saying they’re right 100% of the time, but at some point you can’t just keep denying expertise because you find it inconvenient. I’ve tried to calmly tell you about the evidence and data suggesting different conclusions than the ones you hold and all you can do is angrily wave the Union Jack flag, talk about your narrow sense of “freedom” and turn around and call me a “snob” and an “elitist.” It’s impossible to have a helpful debate here. As a philosopher, I’ve dealt with a lot of arguments, but this one truly stumps me.
Calvin: Well, Hobbes, you’ve certainly given me a lot to think about. I’ll swallow my pride and think about this.
[Note to reader: we all know the last response from Calvin never plays out this way in real life. But the question is…why must we accept Calvin's viewpoint as having equal merit to the one presented by Hobbes? Why must media always present "both sides" when clearly the two sides in this case are not based on the same rigor and credibility? Why must “snobs” have to legitimize and entertain ill conceived, ignorant arguments merely because they come from “real” people?]