Thanks to social media! These days, as it is claimed, the ability to argue, frequency and intensity of arguments has increased. Recently, some events around some national universities in Delhi, Kashmir, Hyderabad and some orders of the government also point to this observation.
So, rhetoric apart, what do you think about the place, importance, and role of debate and argument in your society, friend circle, or at the work place? In the time that you think about it, I will attempt to build a case to investigate it logically. I think, for simplicity people can be clubbed into 3 categories, as is generally done to map people’s opinion, namely- already decided(having firm conviction), neutral, & have not thought ever! And the importance, role and intensity depends on the manner these people encounter some arguments. These categories ain’t mutually exclusive, as a person with firm conviction about food(veg/non-veg), might be neutral about sec-377 and would not have ever thought about FDI in retail. Also, the response of people depends on the media and surrounding amid which an argument is made, for example a person badly hit by note ban may take a completely opposite stand in peer gathering. Also, media is very important so much so that in social networking sites a person might have altogther different stand on an issue when compared to real life experience; eg- those advocating ban of pellet guns in kashmir in social media might be easily spotted ready to use a real one for parking spot in locality. To make matter worse people might posses different opinion in different language, like to hit the real issue you need to argue in local lingo(pnjabi, bhojpuri etc-just for reference) otherwise in english the argument is more socially acceptable flavoured.
As if this was not sufficient, the role of arguments depend on the category (above mentioned) of person, s/he belongs to at that moment (as this is variable). Those who have firm opinion, or they frame opinion just to cover up their vested interests, their argument is just mockery. And interestingly, our esteemed Parliament is best place to watch such a show. Here, one need not to analyse the merit of argument rather the side of table(opposition/treasury) and the numbers decide the kind and variety of arguments; eg – FDI, Indo-US deal, Aadhar and so many issues just confuse people rather than explain the issue. Similarly, when issues of reservation, caste, religion, marriage etc. are discussed, this section of people do their very best to undo the very purpose of argument. Incidentally, this section dominates the institution which ‘matters’.
The second category – the neutral one- they are interested in knowing, but because of myriad of factors are not able to make a decision. This section of people is most used (or misused). The political economy of our country depends on this section of people. I am not trying to potray an inferior picture of this section, as proposed earlier, this section is interested to know and try its best to arrive at best possible conclusion. The arguments are highly valuable for this section of people. As India is being fattened by its middle class, so is this section. Unfortunately, this section doesn’t have direct access to first hand knowledge, and the arguments through media, Parliament and other institutions are having the limitation (discussed above). No need to emphasise the importance of this section; political analyst are tired of analysing Brexit, Trump, Modi-fying effect etc. However, just for precaution this is the most dangerous section also, provided it gets an opportunity to argue in free & fair way.
The last section – which ‘really has not thought about it’ – is rising in India. Very important issues in our society go un-discussed. Or undue focus is paid to trival issues – like ‘impact of Rahul Gandhi standing in ATM queue on Indian Politics’! This section includes the well off, educated youngsters also, with better resources at hand. This situation can be analysed from the fact that there has been a sharp rise in youngsters emerging as opinion creators through platforms like stand-up comedy, YouTube, poems etc. in India; and is like that for bollywood in ’90s. As bollywood has lost that opportunity by not engaging in some sort of serious work, I hope this section won’t loose the opportunity. We need some serious thinkers, opinion makers, on issues of general importance. India is one of the very few country to have ‘think-tanks’ of use corresponding to its economic might and population size and related diversity. In our argument landscape, the issues of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka or lives of our diaspora or foreigners in India is completely missing. We are satisfied with discussion around women safety, demonetisation etc. only.
I don’t know whether you have thought about the question I asked at the beginning of the essay – about the role of argument in your friend/peer group; however, for me it’s very limited in present situation. However, don’t dismiss me as pessimist because I believe in you and many of your friends to engage in some meaningful arguments.