Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thoughts on debates

One of the things that the internet has become is an open forum for debate. The problem being that many people don't actually know how to debate.

It seems likely to me that the average person's only exposure to debates is campaign debates and/or courtroom dramas. Those who are actually taught to debate tend to end up doing tournament debates.

All of these debates have something in common - they have a winner and a loser. We often say that a candidate for President 'lost' a debate. A lawyer is trying to convince a magistrate or jury of the truth as his client sees it. And, obviously, if you're in a debate competition, you want to win.

On top of that, if people have had no debate training...they come in all guns blazing, desiring to 'win' the debate and often not actually having a clue how to. Before too long the thread has degraded into personal attacks and discussion of Hitler.

However, lately, I've been noticing something of a trend...people who actually have a clue as to what they are doing. I have even seen people who appear to have been born in America beginning to grasp the dialectic style of debate in which person one proposes the thesis, person two responds with an antithesis and the group tries to find the solution or middle ground - the synthesis.

Why is this happening? I'm fairly sure that American public schools aren't teaching debate more - and certainly not dialectic debate, which is far too strong associated with Karl Marx and dialectic history to be tolerated by most Americans.

Then it occurred to be. Could it be that people are tired of adversarial debate and ad hominem attacks? Not because of bad debates on the internet, but because it seems that our politicians and public figures do almost nothing else these days.

Are people tired of mud slinging campaign ads, partisan politics, budgets being held hostage to 'moral' ideas? Are people tired of conservatives acting as if the liberals are taking all their rights away whilst liberals threaten to move to Canada?

Are people finally starting to try and find a better way forward for dialogue? I hope would be really nice to see this spread through our society with people learning to negotiate, compromise, and respect everyone's rights (even, yes, the right to be a racist homophobe - providing you don't commit actual crimes as a result).

Let's hope so.