In both the U.S. and the U.K. there have been significant political upheavals over the last two years. The citizens have been divided, and arguments are the order of almost every social media engagement. While many may decry the conflicts that have emerged and worry about the division, is there perhaps something to be said for an argumentative culture?
With the Brexit referendum of June 2016 still dominating the media, and across the pond, the election of Donald Trump the only topic of concern for an entire nation, are we not more politically engaged than at any time in the recent past?
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Should you happen to walk the halls of Twitter and Facebook for something other than sharing family photos, you will likely come across an argument between two or more people on either Brexit or Trump. It’s probable that the quarrel was made up of insults and jibes rather than stated facts and statistics.
However, asking people to stop the dispute is counter-productive. By getting involved, people from both sides may end up becoming more informed and learn something — even if it is only how to argue better. And what’s more, the lack of political discourse weakens the intrinsic power of democracy.
Adversarial democracy is the process that improves legislation and stops laws that would only benefit the few from being driven roughshod through our constitutions. It is the process of argument that leads to improvement. And this is true of individuals as well as governments.
When regular folks start bickering, they may begin by slinging names and laying blame, but this soon becomes dull; at some point, a real dispute appears and they must stop and consider the other person’s point of view. The disagreement may be wrong, it may be from unreliable sources or even just pure speculation, yet the fact that the person needs to think about it and form a response that addresses the issue involves mental examination and critical thinking.
Just a few years ago, people were lamenting the lack of engagement in politics by not only younger generations, but even those who had given up on the whole system. This is no longer true. Even the most dejected soul now has an interest and opinion on global happenings. We may be inundated with fake news and overly biased opinion articles, but for all this, it has created a rich environment in which regular folk are expected to have and voice their opinions.
The seismic political events of 2016 have unleashed a wave of curiosity and engagement. The political elites capitalized on this to form their resistance, unaware that they were creating a culture that would eventually bring their new found “solidarity” crashing down around their ears.
When we engage as individuals, it brings a personal level to the “Great Debate.” And whether we are on the winning side or the losing side, the game never ends. Keep speaking to those on the other side, keep challenging ideas with new ideas, and most importantly, never discourage others from participating. It is only when we all have our voices heard clearly that we will be able to form a better way.