Friday, October 22, 2010

Barriers to Debate

I've made an observation lately concerning debates and people's positions on issues. People often get caught up in a particular position, usually liberal or conservative. They become so entrenched in defending their broader agenda that they miss the nuance, the grey areas.

People sometimes fail to see relevant details when they make absolute pronouncements. This often comes in the form of liberal vs. conservative.

I just read an article on the proposed sex education program being introduced in Ontario. Some parents found it offensive because it taught very young children about anal and oral sex, sexual identity, gay marriage, etc. However, the debate deteriorated into one about whether people were for or against sex education.

The liberal side claimed the conservatives were afraid of sex and that they wanted to keep kids in the dark, but that they wanted children to receive proper sex education.

The conservatives on the other hand said it was absurd to teach children these immoral things in schools, especially at such young ages.

What ended up happening was that neither side listened to the other. A simplistic charicature was developed. The conservatives were afraid of sex education, while the liberals wanted to teach kids every immoral act under the Sun.

And that's how so many debates happen. I should say arguments.

But it goes further. A person who considers him or herself liberal will feel the need to defend liberal values no matter how absurd or immoral they may be. The liberal would never dare speak AGAINST the proposed sex education curriculum in Ontario because that would be against the liberal value of no sexual morals. They then turn to mocking conservatives who hold sexual values.

Another example is conservatives who feel they must support the death penalty. Within the community of conservatives, this is sort of a litmus test. In order to be conservative, you must support the death penalty. But it becomes absurd when someone is ALWAYS in favour of the death penalty. They may be shown evidence of innocence, or shown the inmate was too young or not mentally competant. However, because the conservative is "for the death penalty", he must support it in all cases.

We live in a society that loves "sound bites". Nobody wants to sit and think logically about a situation. They'd rather know if a situation is black or white, good or evil, for or against. Liberals simply ask themselves if something is a conservative value, and if so they are against it. Conservatives may do the opposite.

Going back to the above issue concerning sex education in Ontario schools. Instead of saying you're either for unlimited sex education or for no sex education, it is better to sit down and carefully review what is to be taught. Conservatives are certainly not against sex education. But they may not want everything being taught. If liberals stopped for a second trying to advocate a point of view, they may realize they also don't want their kids learning all that stuff.

If you read an encyclical by Pope Benedict, there is not simplistic language. He doesn't just label something as "evil" and then never talk about it or react with anger. He breaks an issue down, analyzes it, etc.

I guess the reason I am writing this is because I am disappointed by the low standards of debate in the media or in person. It is just so predictable. Either someone is for no taxes and no government or they are for communism. Either someone is for any and all forms of sexuality, no matter how perverse, or someone never wants anyone to learn anything about it at all. Either someone believes practically everyone deserves the death penalty or there should be no prisons. Either a person eats red meat at every meal or they believe meat is murder.

In order to find the truth, we must break down barriers and stop polarizing issues to such an extent. We must read the fine print so to speak. This doesn't mean we cannot take a strong point of view. It simply means we try to discuss issues with intelligence and rationality.

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