It seems that the art of debate has been lost, and we should all be concerned about that.
You only need to look at the state of the current political landscape, to see how the art has been totally lost. In a few short years, we have gone from debate, to argument, to shouting.
There are, of course, extremes in all of this, but I am talking about the mainstream. Different people have different political ideologies; something that used to be allowed. In the current climate, there is a trend of assuming that I am right and you are wrong. People soon migrate to the idea that you shouldn't even be allowed to say that.
In politics, robust argument and even shouting have always been a part. However, those events used to be somewhat short-lived and focused. In the United States, regarding Donald Trump, and in the United Kingdom, with Brexit, it has been constant for multiple years. The fallout of that is having a profound effect on our larger society.
As onlookers, we regularly see individuals on both sides of the argument, lose their temper and descend into almost shouting. Whilst one could say it has some entertainment value, it actually shows a distinct lack of skill and imagination.
In a political setting, there is something called debate. It works by letting your opponent state their case, to which you then attempt to deconstruct it or highlight flaws in it whilst also expressing your alternative view regarding the same topic. Or, you attempt to derail them into talking about a topic that you feel more comfortable about.
It can be forceful at times, but the basis of the debate is to out manoeuvre your opponent, using your debating skill.
Those debating skills appear to be shockingly scarce in present times. Worse, they seem to have been replaced by something more sinister.
The approach used to be something along the lines of ... "I know you are wrong, and I will demonstrate why my view is right."
Which has now moved to ... "Your view is wrong, and I am going to show others how wrong you are."
Then ... "You are so wrong that it should be obvious to everyone how wrong and stupid you are."
To ... "You are so wrong that it is offensive to me, and should be to others."
Then predictably ... "Your offensive ideals shouldn't be allowed to exist."
Of course, the person on the other end of these feels the need to get equally combative, and likewise will soon turn to mirroring the same line of attack.
Why does this matter?
It matters, because you soon end up in an emotive state of groups of people shouting about what they don't want, whilst devoting less and less time to expressing what they do want.
Furthermore, that negative thought-loop starts to leak out into the wider community, away from politics. People then start to mirror that behaviour and start creating mental lists of things (or people) that they don't like. Rather than thinking about the things they do like, and thinking about how they can get more of the things they like.
This leads to intolerance, which leads to extremism, which never leads to anything good.
The current clumsy & sloppy kind of tribal argument that we are all witnessing results in less new ideas. It results in large groups of society shouting at one and other about all the stuff that they hate.
This creates the perfect setting for extremist groups to grow and prosper, as history has shown time and time again.
We do not need to be merely tolerant of other views and ignore them. No, we need to engage with them, and find ways to debate with them in a way that illuminates an alternative view, rather than just attacking their view.
In doing so, those illuminated views may well foster ideas that will, in turn, help resolve some of the overwhelming problems that face us all.
The next time you are in an argument, rather than just saying no to everything, try to express your idea. Listen to them, express your own counter-view, and if their argument is better... well, then take it on the chin, consider it further and come up with a better idea; try again.
To move forward, we need less no's and more ideas.
I'm a carbon-unit who writes; a Carbon Writer. Life & culture are my default topics, mixed with a little English wit & sarcasm. Full of mostly true stories, I occasionally remember to write them down. Found in a crowd, or contemplating in a corner. Habit of talking to anyone. Author.
- Nigel Derbyshire