On the Importance of Disagreements

Somehow, we know deep down that we don’t like disagreements. We don’t like how someone points out a criticism about our ideas and take a path of deviance in opposition to them. We detest that someone becomes critical of our personality and start being defensive, almost to the point when we subscribe to the view that “the best offence is defense” and start being hostile.

The question, however, to take away from these is why we hate disagreements so much. Is it the view that we should always be correct and the answer always arrives to us? Is it the sense of embarrassment that we feel whenever we’re told we’re wrong? Is it the fact that we can see our very flaws and start hating the imperfect side of us? And those who point these flaws out of our selves and ideas receive the short end of the stick. They face hostility and a certain cold war.

That is the nature of disagreements, the way we humans go about treating it and why we hate it so much.

It is, however, imperative for disagreements to exist. Philosophical thoughts of a society have always been built on bridging the different thoughts based off particular people. We’re often told that the most successful people do not take disagreements personally, but rationalise them and improve on it. These flaws are important in making sure that progress happens, but when we suppress them by taking things to heart, we risk the chances of such progress dying.

My idea, however, lies not in the psychological art of disagreements, but from a more political standpoint. This is so because international relations are built by humans and on human nature. It exists so because we humans want things from each other. We seek a certain agreement on an exchange and conflicts on things we mutually desire. There must, however be a point in which we stop accepting disagreements, especially when it infringes upon the personal sphere of a person.

Then again, the prevarications and manipulation of many politicians have left a dent on conducive and constructive political discourse. Yet when they’re called out on these events, they respond with utter hostility. Playing the victim card right after their initial hostility is a favourite of a certain President in the Big West. Still, this hasn’t stopped many politicians from taking action against people who have remained opprobrious to their political and government methodologies and raising support for other detrimental regimes who would prove useful to them. This makes politicians saints in their own rights and demons from the peoples’ view.

Anna Politkovskaya, a Russian journalist and human rights activist, had been shot dead on 7th October, 2016 after receiving death threats throughout her career. Russian case files mentioned an unnamed Russian politician who ordered the attack on Anna Politkovskaya. What raises more questions about Russian Governmenance and Law would be the nature of Politkovskaya’s works, which focuses on the flaws of the Russian President (and the US’ potential future president), Vladimir Putin and the Second Chechen War, which Putin himself was heavily involved in through an invasive operation against his Chechen enemies.

Perhaps one current leader that tops the list on that fear of criticisms would be Kim Jong Un, the current North Korean leader. With the death of relatives, his own brother and his advisors ordered none other than himself, he has stood out to be the harshest ruler against dissenters and journalists. A headlock on journalism and the press in the country showed that he was a man not to be trifled with especially when it comes to his policies and him as a person. With his rule, disagreements cannot lead to any constructive discussions and progress over the future of his country. North Korea is set on an explosive nosedive.

There are many more examples, including the most abnormal inclusion of the United States now that the Trump Administration has taken over. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, China and Ethiopia have seen their fair share of such disagreements leading to either assassinations or civil violence. With the leaders of these countries dead set on a corrupt state of mind and the politicians of these countries either actively or passively complicit in this, regression might be in store when it comes to the standard of living in these countries. Still, the importance of disagreements cannot be denied because of two main reasons. Disagreements bring together different ideas, allowing the global citizenry to reach a common understanding and ensure that there is an effective check and balance of power and as a whole, disagreements. All of these will, however, not occur without the presence of an observable will to make use of these disagreements to better society either from top-down or bottom-up.

The concept of a convergence of ideas has been prevalent throughout history. Venice became a centre of education during its peak due to a large enough European audience willing to share, argue and come to a common understanding upon certain subjects, creating academic exchange that is reminiscent to college exchange programmes today. The famous Venetian academic and traveller Marco Polo visited Great Yuan Dynasty in present-day China, which was under the rule of Kublai Khan. The Mongol Empire enjoyed an understanding of a wide range of education on different religious teachings such as Christianity, Taoism and Islam due to their openness to different ideas that may seem to be in conflict today. In Japan during the Meiji Period, the tide of Christian martyrs vanished alongside the stain of the Tokugawa Shogunate had on the discrimination on Christians, opening up Japan’s doors to religious acceptance in 1871 as Japanese Christians are allowed to express and practise their faith. Going by these examples, it is to be explained that disagreements allow people to exchange their ideas regarding academics, politics and religion simply because even though people are inclined to defend their views, with the right policy making to ensure the freedom of expression as well as the safeguarding of a community that is educated in acceptance and scepticism, this gives a deeper understanding into different groups of people. This eventually reaches a certain mutual understanding that the people can enjoy. However, this comes at a risk, especially to religions due to the education of it being overly simplified, making it difficult to understand religions properly, but with the right organisations instituted that can ensure this education, this risk can be dissipated. The overall acceptance of free speech may then see academic, political and religious progress as the confluence and the pinnacle of civilisation.

The idea of the free press is in part to ensure that a critical audience is educated out of the general public such that the public can then make more well-informed choices of the people they elect, putting more pressure on the people in power. The focus then shifts onto governors and rulers themselves for the onus is on them to ensure that their policies benefit the people. The idea of democracy, however strong it may be in holding politicians to their promises and ensuring that corruption equals a certain political suicide, still runs the risk of promoting populism as the election rubrics become that of “does that politician suit me” or “does his policies make me feel good”, defeating the purpose of a well-informed audience that does not reason with what is beneficial for the country as a whole. This populism eventually shifts power back to the one in charge as the one in power can then bend “facts” according to his will like a certain president we know. Disagreement thus poses questions to the people about the existence of their perspectives, the correctness of their ideologies in comparison to their opposing counterparts on the other side of the political spectrum and in turn, discover similarities that may bridge the two sides together. Maybe, just maybe, can then people understand the concerns and fears of another person, and seek solace in knowing the goodwill of every citizen for their country to do right and survive right. However, this is as childish as it gets. This still remains idealistic as ever, as America, the UK and France have shown through their ugly sides. There are Trump, Nigel Farage and Marine Le Pen who sought to reinforce the state of nativism, ironically, within their oh-so Western countries. This puts their countries in shame that the ugliness of human nature, the fight for political survival, like good old Darwinian “survival of the fittest”.

In sum, disagreements are important. The SDGs put forth by the UN requires them to exist, for someone to oppose the Assad regime in the UN instead of backing it, for someone to uphold the Paris Convention (among the multitudinous environmental treaties) and for someone to protect the rights to free speech. It is not just the responsibilities of journalists and the common people, but the actual governors and policy-makers to participate in this discourse instead of deviating to corruption. If the ball is in their court, they should hit it straight; hitting it off course only spells trouble. If no one can do anything about public-policy, I’m voting for a crocodile somewhere in Florida to be the change.

If no one can do anything about the state of our expressive freedom, can we all agree to disagree?

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