To ‘debate’ or not to ‘debate’

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I first came across the term ‘debate’ in 5th standard when there was an inter-house debate competition organized in school. The only idea I had about it was that there would be random students coming on stage and would be speaking on a topic and then there will be another set of students who would be opposing on the topic. I used to get so awed by the confidence level of the seniors with which they used to speak on stage in fluent English during these competitions that I never bothered to listen and understand what they were actually speaking upon. However, later I realized that I have come across a lot of debates even before the competition took place in school.During evening time, my father and my uncles used to have a debate over a drink regarding which political party should come to power in the state: BJP or Congress. My cousins used to have a debate on whether Sachin Tendulkar should be dropped from the team or not. My mother used to have a debate along with her neighbor aunties on whether Mihir Virani is really dead in ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi‘ or not. My sisters used to have debate with her friends on ‘Who is Hotter? Shahrukh or Salman‘. Even without realizing, I myself was engaged in lot of debates with my school friend on whether Undertaker was dead after the WWE fight with Kurt Angle  or not. Seriously I never gave a thought on how much integral role debates play in our daily lives.

In dictionary language, debates are a formal method of presenting an argument in a structured manner on a topic regarding which the opposition gives counter arguments. Now if one seriously gives a thought on this idea, then debates can be considered to be really a fruitful thing which leads to creation of a forum for discussion thereby giving an equal opportunity to people with different opinions and view points to present their ideas. We are always confined by our own set of opinions & understandings but the debates & discussions allow people to think from a completely different perspective thereby nurturing their mind and strengthening their knowledge base and hence arriving at definite conclusions. This is something for which I guess the format of debate was developed so that it can work for the betterment of the society. However, unfortunately, the reality is far from different.

Though we are still living in an era where debates are taking place across each walk of our life where so ever we go across every street or nukkad, the irrelevancy of the outcome of the debates have also been touching sky high. The most formal way of conducting a debate is expected to be witnessed at the supreme legislative body of India i.e. the Parliament. The importance of the Parliament proceedings is unquestionable as the roadmap of the progress of the country depends on the discussions and debates that take place inside the House. But I guess most of the precious time of the Parliament is lost in the Speaker requesting the members saying “Baith Jaiye! Shant Ho Jaiye!“. This is also the place where the loud protests takes place when an opposition speaks, in some instances the tables & chairs are also thrown & broken. The intention here is definitely to suppress the viewpoints of the opposition and positioning their own stance to be superior. In college, my Verbal Communication teacher used to say in the class that in debates, one should always stay firm on his/her opinion but should also give due respect to the opinions of the opponent. But whenever I used to see such unfortunate scenes in parliament, I wondered that my teacher should have given these debating lessons to probably the parliament members.

The problem lies in understanding of the incorrect debating concept that has been wrongly conceived by most of us and the same concept we are passing on to the coming generations. When we apply for job at different companies after college, there is a group discussion process that is a part of the elimination round after which the shortlisted ones go through to the next round. The purpose of this round is to test the communication skills of the candidates regarding how well and convincingly they speak when given a topic. Now here is where the problem occurs. In order to show your caliber, you have to compete with 10 odd other candidates in the discussion who are competing against you for the same job. So you know you have to make your point in such a manner that you stay in the highlight in front of the panel and show your dominance during the discussion. This may be just one simple incident but I guess this attitude of showing our dominance during a discussion is getting imbibed in human nature.

In the current age of social media, everyone has a platform to voice their opinions and in this era, the debates takes place with the help of hashtags (#). These debates arise out of a topic and dies a slow death in a few days as the topic vanishes out of the memory of the people. As always, the debates stay inconclusive but what is more alarming that these minor issues overturn our attention from larger prevailing issues in the country. The debating topics that people have been opting for are not even worth to be a topic of discussion. The very recent example of this behavior is the ‘Uri’ incident where 18 soldiers were killed in the militant attack. It was reported to be one of the most deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in the last two decades which further brought up the burning issue of weakening ties of India & Pakistan. But the topic that started trending on social media was #BoycottPakActors because they are working in Bollywood industry but nobody condemned the attack that took place on Indian soil. After a huge wrath that took place across all media channels, there were some artistes who condemned the attack and maintained their stand for peace. But the point is that would this bring any change in the Indo-Pak relations or erase the tension that is present at the border. Banning Artists is a decision that has to be taken by the industry but is it going to bring any change in the lives of the family members of the soldiers who lost their lives fighting for the country. We can easily name the Pakistani actors who are working in India but do we know the identities of the real 18 heroes who martyred in the Uri attack. Can we only prove our patriotism by boycotting the ‘Ae Dil Hai Mushkil‘ actor or the actress in ‘Raees‘?  Its very unfortunate that this incident took place but what it really uncovered was the vulnerability of the minds of people towards burning issues.

The credit for the changing format of debate also goes to our favorite news channels which earlier were supposed to give information to the viewers but now they are playing a role in imposing their own opinions of the viewers. The media channels that boast of showing hard hitting journalism and calling themselves self-proclaimed voice of the nation in the daily 9 p.m. debates have forgotten a simple fact that TRPs are just a mere number and will face the light of a dramatic fall one day but the impact these one sided opinions that are showcased on these channels will make a long lasting impact in the mindset of the coming generations. The debating culture is getting so misconstrued in the nation that the very purpose of being a part of a debate is lost. If the situation continues to remain the same, then definitely it won’t be too long to say that “Whether you debate or not, Who gives the shxt?

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