Friday, 11 December 2009

What inspires debate?

There are many talking points in life, breaking news stories and controversies amongst friends, families, pets and peers. But what sparks conversations into full-blown heated and passionate speeches and heart-felt pleas for agreement or acknowledgement?

1) The most topical issues of the day.

Examples: racism, climate change, social (im)mobility, economics (these are perhaps more contemporary than immortal/eternal, but will likely rage on in debate for many years to come).

Reasons: everyone will have a different view on how to change what is the norm, or at least what is taken as a given in the current political or social climate. However, much of these will have come from influence by the media or influential/talkative people outside the group within which the 'debate' is occurring.

2) Social/societal influences

Examples: sport, art, politics, television, music.

Reasons: Personal interpretation is more influential here - everyone is different, people will find different things more exciting or more entertaining than others, but because these are far more emotive in terms of understanding or reasoning, there does not need to be justification. The wonderful thing about this part of the model is that everyone can have a say and need not be told otherwise by someone who is apparently better informed - opinions are just that, and you cannot tell someone that they're wrong because they don't like something you do, even if you're adamant that you're right.

3) Age-old dilemmas.

Examples: Religion, philosophy, science.

Reasons: People can be richly or poorly informed either way, and while it benefits to have read widely about these sorts of topics, just because you're not completely clued-up on a subject does not mean that your views aren't important. Some might be loathed to accept personal opinions in this area, but again the fact that you've got an opinion does not exclude you from having them or contributing to the debate. However, if you haven't heard the whole story, and let's face it, NO ONE HAS, it might be best to see what other people are saying and picking holes in their argument rather than having one of your own. None of these subjects will ever produce fruitful responses to the point where everything is explained, so debate is the only way to make any social or emotional progress, given that there is very little in terms of pragmatic answers that can be described, explained and justified.

If debate is only about winning, then you are not debating, you are arguing deafly.

If debate is only about chatting, then you are not debating, you're conversing.

If debate is only about making a difference, then you are not debating, you are deciding.

Debate is only there for us to pass the time, but at the same time it is only there so we can try to change whilst preserving our way of life, it is there so we can see a new side to every story without losing focus, it's there so we know less about ourselves but in more ways than we ever knew we could. Debate is rubbish. Debate is brilliant. Debate is nothing and everything.


There are weaknesses to this model - notably a lot of people will only spend time with people who they have known for a long time, have been forced into working/living with for a set amount of time or are of the same beliefs as them, so debates can tend to be one-sided and reserved, thus limiting the progress that can be made - no one really wants to annoy those who they either choose to be close to or cannot escape nonetheless. Are these really debates? Perhaps it is that fear of losing standing in our own friendship groups that means we cannot really say what we're thinking. Perhaps that is why many people are easy-come easy-go in MY life. Perhaps that is why social change or views are age-old, passed on from generation to generation (albeit subtly) as the fear of change can never be truly ignored.


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