Every day on social media, the news, or in my daily life marks the beginning of a new blame game between opposing political perspectives. Liberals vs. conservatives, Democrats vs. Republicans, or in my home country, the BJP vs. The Congress—Who will win the public opinion today?
The gulf of polarization between political rivals is steadily increasing in India.
In the summer of 2020, the death of George Floyd, a victim of police brutality, took the internet by storm. Amid conservatives shaming rioters for inflicting physical property damage and progressives debating the validity of defunding the police, the true problem of institutionalized racism was lost. It was then that I realized what the true danger to our humanity was: political polarisation.
Political polarisation can be defined as the increasing divergence of political belief systems to ideological extremes. As a young child brought up in an Indian, democracy-loving household, I was raised to believe that I was privileged to live in a country where the difference in political expression was permitted, and so I believed that democracy was without its flaws. History serves to be an example of the merit of democracies over autocracies and for the most part, democracies in contemporary global politics have resulted in prosperity. Hence, with all the successes of the democratic model, it can take time to uncover the inherent imperfections within this system.
One of the world’s most pressing issues is the ever-increasing threat of climate change. This is a global issue that extends far beyond the means of political parties and figures and yet, it is these same bodies that prevent us from arriving at a needed resolution. In 2019, when Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez proposed the Green New Deal, it was immediately shot down by the opposition. Crucial discourse got lost in debating the ethics of “taxing the rich”, instead of solving how to compensate for those who will lose their jobs in the period between the enactment of the deal and the creation of new jobs.
That begs the question, what is the solution to this systematic flaw?
Listening. It sounds simple, and yet we all have a difficult time doing so. We live in a world where listening is harder than combatting gender inequality or world hunger. It may sound idealistic, but change starts with small actions. I urge you to listen to your peers, even if they have a contrasting opinion. Peace will never come about if we continue to remain adamant in the opinion that our viewpoints are absolute.
So the next time you get into a disagreement over social media, the news, or your daily life, don’t use the time to mentally prepare your next argument, but rather to listen.