It takes two to tango

  • In diverse Nepal, it is natural that different lifestyles shape different world views
- Sarans Pandey

Feb 4, 2019-

There are a lot of things you can do alone, but it takes two to tango. The phrase from a 1952 song by Al Hoffman and Dick Manning, while intended as a romantic usher, has since been voiced as a precursor to any successful relationship that is predicated on communication. Ronald Reagan, for instance, used the line to explain how the Soviet Union’s reluctance during the start of the 1980s posed a predicament to foreign relations. 

The very nature of communication requires the parties involved to disseminate information, while simultaneously ingesting some. The purpose of such an exchange is to improve comprehension of any topic that’s under discussion. Seldom, if at all, can two individuals taking part in an interaction be expected to have the same level of perception, intelligence and acumen as the other. 

Although the advent of social media platforms was supposed to aid discussions on critical issues of society, the reluctance of the participants to engage with civility has created a roadblock for progressive dialogue.Facts are distorted, the narratives misconstrued, and to round it off, there’s the frailty of human attention that refuses to dig further than the click bait titles. As a result, not everyone has access to the right information. Those privy to the truth resort to condescension, and those without it, to ignorance. Deliberation of public issues under such circumstances turns personal and leads toa never-ending spiral of disrespect and abuse. 

Public sphere

The advent of the internet and social media platforms, some thought, would bringinto life German philosopher Jürgen Habermas’ idea of the public sphere. Habermas categorised the public sphere as an autonomous area independent of the government and dedicated to rational debate among the citizens. And while social media platforms do meet most of the requisites for fostering public opinion, scholar’s like Jodi Dean remain far from convinced. Such an arena requires equality, rationality,decency and civility, most of which are absent in online deliberations. Research undertaken by representatives from Seoul National University, IE University and the University of Pennsylvania suggests that relative to face-to-face discussion, online deliberation generates more negative emotions, and is lesslikely to result in consensus and political action. One of the reasons for the lack of civility is because the participants aren’t acquainted on apersonal level and, therefore, don’t deem it necessary to show respect orotherwise empathise as they would when talking to an acquaintance.

There is only so much that an individual can grasp with clarity, before he or she requires some guidance to further make sense of the topics in discussion. In society, there are individuals from different walks of life, each specialising in acraft of their choosing. When people cross borders to comprehend an alien concept, oneside needs to acknowledge that learning, along with naïve curiosity, requires impartiality and patience; and the other, that teaching, along with superior graspof the subject, requires humility and empathy. That way, people who know lesscan, at the end of the interaction, go home with something more. 

This, by any means, doesn’t suggest that there is only one correct or superior school of thought per sector that people should gravitate to. Within the space of political science, for instance, one can choose to be a communist or a capitalist, or anyother delineation as per his or her rationale. But it does, however, suggest that people should at least know the correct version of the ideology that they represent, or think they represent. Discussions within the realm of science and mathematics, which rely on objectivity, are relatively straight forward. But other aspects of society, like public policy, political inclinations, or religious beliefs, tend to be a battleground of avariegated set of ideas and emotions. 

Vain endeavour

In a country as diverse as Nepal, it is only natural that different lifestyles shape different world views. Trying to establish superiority of ideology by chastising a concept different than what you preach is a vainendeavour. When it comes to subjective elements, there is no such thing as right or wrong. There are merely alternatives that have different consequences. 

But that being said, empirical evidence and trends do provide strong indicators of theideas that work better and those that require adjustments. Everyone has the right to choose affiliations based on their rationale; but they can do it without disregarding, or being disrespectful to, what’s on the other side of the fence. 

You never know what you can learn by partaking in an honest and unbiased deliberation—that is, if you are willing to listen. After all, it’s all about ideas. And the beauty of democracy is that every idea, no matter how absurd it sounds, gets a chance to be heard, and then a chance to be proven wrong.

Pandey is an undergraduate student at Macquarie University, Australia. 

Published: 04-02-2019 12:17

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