Parliament adjournment symptomatic of an absent culture of debate and civilized dissent. Need to change this!Sep 7, 2012
It’s nothing short of a shame. The Parliament sessions being adjourned. I wince, but walk on as a citizen of the country, when young children get raped, when countrymen kill countrymen, when visitors from neighboring nations get lynched. But today, my head hangs down in shame.
Why is obstruction always a better option than debate for us Indians? Why cannot we have a civilized conversation, agree to disagree, or simply disagree with grace and firmness? Is it that we have not tried hard enough to develop a culture of conversation and communication, a culture of debate and civilized dissent? It would seem so.
I look around and see that theory playing out everywhere. Yesterday, students in a private Gurgaon institution burnt down a part of the building because a student died. She had a heart condition and died in hospital, but the students claimed she wasn’t given immediate attention by the institution. By no means is burning stuff down a legitimate response to the rage, the helplessness that the students must have felt in this situation.
We are a very angry people. So caught up in our anger, in our world of grouses that we have stopped listening to each other, to the person in front of us. If the opinion being expressed is other than what we believe in, we tend to shout louder and drown the other voice. What about listening? Listening does not mean you agree. It only means you listen, process, even learn. Then, you reposition your own thoughts in light if the inputs received.
When you debate, you are the strongest when you can convert your opposition’s point to your advantage. That requires you to first listen intently, patiently and then bring your intelligence into play. I’m not expert, but I’m wondering how well our Opposition listens in Parliament.
When the situation is not debate for debate’s sake and a group is trying to take decisions, listening becomes critical. But beyond listening, for those in position of power, is the need to take criticism in good spirit and address concerns in a logical, informative manner. Here is where the leading party seems to mess up. The Opposition would be less successful at disrupting if the Congress were forthright in providing ansers and even accepting mistakes where required. But then, politics isn’t that simple! Those in power will do whatever it takes to stay there, and ethical considerations simply do not seem to figure in the scheme of things.
To me, all of this only demonstrates an urgent need to build a culture of civilized dissent in our society. I was lucky to get a chance to be a debater in school. I got introduced to it by a certain Mother Teresa in Loreto Convent Lucknow, who picked me for an inter-school debate over other established debaters in the school. I went on to win and she encouraged me to hone my skills. Later, in Army Public School, many more opportunities came my way. I lost the fear of questioning, learnt to do my research well, learn to retaliate in a well spoken manner, learnt to back aggression with facts and logic and accept defeat gracefully, even while plotting to down the opposing team in the next round!
However, in our academic institutions, school and college, no one is encouraged to criticize or debate ideas. Students listen, teachers don’t. We perpetuate that culture of one way communication when we become adults and occupy positions of power. Our natural rebellion and dissent, or even curiosity, is suppressed and we learn to bottle it, only to express it as uncontrolled rage on social media or on the streets! We’re a nation of spoilt children, who all had a bad childhood, in a sense.
I’m aware that this is a simplistic diagnosis and a pop psychology type of hypothesis. But seriously, how do we change this and bring into our society a culture of listening, sharing, collaborating and building consensus- ideas, anyone?