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Substantive Discussion/Debate (or lack thereof) - Eitan Halevy [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

[ website | Approaching Emunah Shlemah ]
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Substantive Discussion/Debate (or lack thereof) [Oct. 8th, 2009|12:48 pm]
[Current Location |Noqdim - Home]
[mood |Frustrated]
[music |The Baal Shem Tov's Melody - Tim Sparks]

This is probably a bit exaggerated. I'm writing out of frustration.

I've noticed a trend about most public 'discussions' which go on these days about pretty much any issue. The trend is to debate meta-issues instead of the real issues. For instance, both sides will claim to be 'democratic' (or some other 3rd thing which everyone agrees, in principle, is good), and then the two sides will argue whether the proposal is democratic or not, but never actually discuss the merits and de-merits of the proposal itself. In other words, the question 'will it work,' or 'is it right,' is rarely asked by either side of the debate, and if it is asked, only time for a facile, sound-byte response is allowed before the other side starts with ad-hominym attacks because they are probably not prepared to engage in a real discussion.

One good way to sideline the real issue, that being why you think the substantive position the other person holds is incorrect, is to claim it to be a 'rights issue.' In my opinion, the abortion debate in the US (whichever side you take), has been hijacked by the question of whether the issue conforms to the constitution's idea of rights or not. The thing is, the answer will depend on the substance of what one believes about the issue. But instead of engaging in discussion about that, both sides dig down in hyperbole and epithets and wave the constitution as a flag to rally around.

In issues surrounding Israel, at least within the Jewish community, 'Zionism' is often used the same way. Forget which position is actually correct. Which one of us can lay claim to being 'Zionist?' I find that this tactic is particularly misused by J-street (and the like) who spend a lot of energy convincing us that they are, in fact, Zionists, but not a lot of time convincing us why their positions are correct. It becomes a rights issue: that they are free to voice their opinion, that they are excluded from the majority club, etc. Then both sides argue about whether they can and/or should be excluded. Nobody even mentions the real, substantive arguments, because the whole thing has devolved into a 'rights' debate, a debate about freedom of speech within a community (which if anything suffers from too much of it!), instead of the messages both sides really want to communicate.

I long for the day when someone will argue with me, not by saying that I'm saying/doing something 'offensive,' or something 'left-wing' or 'right-wing,' or 'un-democratic,' but just tell me I'm doing the 'wrong' thing, and then trying to convince me why with real arguments.