Monthly Archives: July 2013

A layperson’s rant on the state of debate …

Is it just me, or do a lot of players in the discourse of the main debates raging today seem to shift between the ‘I’m the oppressed minority and victim of imperialistic hegemony’ posture, and the ‘I hold the majority view of all those who are worth listening to’ posture, whenever it’s tactically advantageous?  And yet, in my God debates with some people, I’ve heard them insist that they are oppressed victims of a cruel, uncaring majority that needs to be brought to justice in one instance, and then in another instance, claim that anyone who tries to make a rational, scientific case for views opposing their own is a nutter because the weight of majority consensus is against it.  Meanwhile, higher profile participants from all sides – atheist journalists, Christian journalists, Muslim journalists – all vie for the same role of ‘lone freedom-fighter in a cruel hegemonic world’ and posture themselves as liberators of an oppressed minority comprising people who hold their views.  If all parties are valid in the estimation of themselves, we’re faced with a demographic impossibility.  Likewise, if a party can be an ‘oppressed’ minority and a ‘right-thinking’ majority within the same discourse, we’re faced with an ontological impossibility.

When we participate in the discourse of these debates, are we not more than so many spin artists trying to make the world believe that we hold a kind of pedigree to whatever schema we touch?  Can this ‘rational’ enquiry into truth really be so rational and so concerned with truth, if the weight of so many arguments depends on self-posturing and other-framing, the trimming and dressing and packaging, rather than the actual substance?  It makes one wonder: where is the original cause in this; where is the external truth, the golden goose at the stake of the original debate, if we go on scrapping over our entitlement to a sympathetic frame in this schema of rectitude or that, like two bratty girls fighting over playtime roles?

What we have here, I think, is a tactical mess of conflicting schemata.  A schizophrenia of conflicting identities.  Perhaps you could confer it some dignity by calling it a product of an ‘ethical’ conflict of the age – where modernist utilitarianism and postmodernist moral sentiment meet in the middle and clash, and the materials left to the people to build their battle-tools are blunted and wear each other down.  But come down from those dizzy heights of abstraction, and on the ground, in the thick of the argument, there has to be something else we’re doing wrong.  When we beat the identity of our precious cause into whatever shape fits the rapid alternation of hard and soft tactical requirements of debate-winning, we treat our cause as our currency, rather than our prize, and we sell it out for a bitter and faceless victory.  Do we love our cause?  Do we honour and respect it intrinsically?  Then why do we shape it and mould it into identities it mightn’t be, can’t be, or isn’t, lest we lose face from a single battle’s loss?  When we do that, we reveal what we believe our real prize to be.  I’m ashamed to say that I’ve sold the Christian community and my God out like that too, sometimes.  I think it’s time to stop it.

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