If we don’t resurrect the “The Dying Art of Disagreement” – says renowned American journalist Bret Stephens – the polarization of our society will reach unmanageable heights. And he explains how we should stop this poisonous process.
About Bret Stephens
Bret Stephens is an American journalist and political commentator, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 2013. A former contributor to “The Wall Street Journal,” he is currently op-ed columnist for “The New York Times.”
He has authored “America in Retreat” and has been featured as a speaker in the 2015 Munk debate, “Has Obama Made the World a More Dangerous Place?”
“The Dying Art of Disagreement Summary”
What you can see above on the image below the title is an old work. In fact, an excerpt from a 1437 engraving by Italian sculptor Luca della Robbia. It represents Plato and Aristotle having a discussion.
The topic is not important.
What is, in the opinion of American neoconservative journalist Bret Stephens, is the fact they are having a dispute. And, even more, that out of this dispute some the greatest ideas in human history were born.
In “The Dying Art of Disagreement,” a lecture delivered at the Lowy Institute Media Award dinner and published as an op-ed article in “The New York Times” on 24 September 2017, Stephens claims that the only way to salvage our civilization is by resurrecting this type of debate.
In his opinion, the political polarization happening in the United States during the past three decades is due to three very specific reasons.
The first one is the general problem: people have started seeing disagreements as something inherently negative. It is, obviously, not: only through disagreements, we can reach higher truths and really move from our positions.
However – and this is the second reason – identity politics has hijacked the schoolrooms. Consequently, many people with different opinions are routinely labeled as bigots, and many more are simply afraid to talk, so as to avoid such epithets.
In fact, according to recent surveys, almost half of American students find “heckling” students acceptable, and up to one fifth think that violence is a fair measure to silence a contrarian with fundamentalist or dogmatist views.
And the media further reinforces this – which is the third reason why disagreeing is a dying art. Namely, instead of promoting discussion, different media are strictly favoring one side over the other. The result: true enough – but untrue – news and worldviews.
And it’s time to put an end to that.
By teaching our children the values of free speech. And by allowing those we don’t agree with to say what they have to say.
And disagree with them afterwards.
Key Lessons from “The Dying Art of Disagreement”
1. Disagreement Is the Road to Progress
2. Public Schools and the Media Reinforce Stereotypes
3. Dare to Disagree
Disagreement Is the Road to Progress
“I disapprove of what you say,” reportedly said Voltaire once, “but will defend to the death your right to say it.” This is the only healthy way to live your life. And the only way humanity has ever progressed. Aristotle and Plato, Hobbes and Locke, Keynes and Friedman – they all developed their philosophical systems because of disagreements with their predecessors, and between themselves.
Public Schools and the Media Reinforce Stereotypes
Public schools favor egalitarianism and they try to shut down everyone who thinks differently. In fact, it doesn’t matter if that someone is a respected thinker in the vein of Roger Scruton or Jordan Peterson. What it matters is that nobody should be against. This creates a polarization which is mirrored in the media. And, unfortunately, in society as well.
Dare to Disagree
“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked,” writes Chomsky. “So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”
In other words, free speech presupposes disagreements. If there are none of the latter, there is none of the former.
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“The Dying Art of Disagreement” QuotesOur disagreements may frequently hoarsen our voices, but they rarely sharpen our thinking, much less change our minds. Click To Tweet In recent years, identity politics have become the moated castles from which we safeguard our feelings from hurt and our opinions from challenge. Click To Tweet What makes our disagreements so toxic is that we refuse to make eye contact with our opponents, or try to see things as they might, or find some middle ground. Click To Tweet Free men and women do not need to be protected from discomfiting ideas and unpopular arguments. Click To Tweet No country can have good government, or a healthy public square, without high-quality journalism — journalism that can distinguish a fact from a belief and again from an opinion. Click To Tweet
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