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Have We Lost Our Ability to Debate?

Abortion, marriage equality, politics, and gender wage gap. These are just some of the polarising debates that saturate our society today. But why must such issues become nasty, brutish points of argument?

It would be fair to say that most people don’t have a divine right to say: ‘I have the answer!’ It would be foolish for one to believe that their opinion is always the correct one. It can even seem quite comedic to suggest that people always believe they’re right. Surprisingly, this isn’t a joke. People do in fact walk around all day believing that they have the correct opinion on abortion: ‘I’m protecting a woman’s right to choose from religious dinosaurs,’ or ‘I’m protecting the unborn from stupid liberals.’

There are countless debates going on today which demand the attention of the people, and fortunately for Irish people, we usually get to vote on what we think is best (when the topic comes to a legal standpoint anyway). We can thank our political system for safeguarding this democratic right. Even though the public have the freedom to decide on issues regarding key legislation, such as abortion, marriage, divorce etc., it would be bizarre to suggest that the people are going to choose whatever choice is objectively correct. The Irish people are not (for the most part) scientists holding the truth to whether a human life should be allowed to be aborted at 12 weeks. The vast majority of us will vote, and hold opinions, via our conscience.  

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So, if we’ve successfully established that we don’t have all the answers to these questions, and it’s only what the majority thinks that really matters, then who holds the answers? Does anybody hold the answers as to whether abortion is wrong? If we should sack the government? Whether moderate racism is just? From my perspective, pretty much all of these objective answers don’t really exist. Here’s why; the truth behind these conscientious debates lay always with majority. Unfortunately for the minority… you’re wrong. Your opinions aren’t valid, and you should keep them in the past. Politely, shut up. Brutal, right? Well it’s time to wake up and see how the world really works.

A topic such as abortion can never really have a right answer. The subjective opinion can only ever be just that. One can never truly be right or wrong, but one must side with what most people believe to be morally correct. If everything in our world is based on subjective truths (let’s leave out the natural sciences for sake of argument), then how do we know if any of us are right? Well, we don’t really know.

Western civilisation has achieved a societal norm that most of us are unknowingly quite grateful for: ‘The individual is sovereign.’ This statement reverberates around the developed world. One can pretty much live their life as they want to, within the constraints of the law. If we take this statement as truth for a moment and look at where the individual stands in a democracy; they have the right to have their voices heard. However, this rule doesn’t promise that you will always get what you want. The majority rules and one must respect that. You may believe you know what’s best, but unfortunately for you, that doesn’t matter. In a stable democracy, the majority wins.

Taking all this into consideration; none of us are ever truly right, everything should be considered subjective, we all get a say but the majority wins. This all suggests that the average John Doe would understand that his opinion is only that. This suggestion remains false, so I will attempt to argue why we should change the status quo.

We must try and understand the other, rather than react negatively to their contrasting opinion. Without recognising that your opinion is just that, you can fall into the trap of assuming that you are indisputably right. This may not be the case, and we must not persecute those with other beliefs because of this. ‘Pro-Choicers’ mustn’t treat ‘Pro-Lifers’ harshly, and vice versa.

There is a poisonous atmosphere surrounding polarising debates across our society, and we must attempt to be fair and accept other people’s views as they have a right to have and hold them. We can never truly say who is right and who is wrong. Granted, one can safely say that most of us concur that slavery is bad. It doesn’t take much to argue that particular motion, but it’s important to remember that this remains a general consensus and not an undeniable fact. Agree with this article or not, it’s only my opinion. It seems like it would be best for one to try to understand those with opposing views and create a dialogue, screaming and shouting at the other side won’t solve much at all. Remember to hold your opinions confidently, they define who you are, but for the sake of productive dialogue, don’t overestimate your knowledge of the divine truth.


Conor Capplis – Features Writer

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