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Disconnect and outright rejection of arguments are harming public discourse

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Public discourse needs to entertain a variety of differing opinion


There is a widespread disconnect between what the intellectuals ‘think’ and what citizens ‘want’. In other cases, you are not allowed to doubt the sincerity of certain causes. What results is a flawed discourse, that either focuses on peripheral issues or one that is completely, utterly dominated by one side.  This is ultimately harmful to public discourse.

I had recently tweeted about how many ‘public intellectuals’, journalists, academics and more use the “taxi driver”/”maid” motif to further their opinion. This is a tool that these left liberal intellectuals use to ‘relate’ to the ‘common man’. They use this since this is the only sort of interaction that they have with anyone who is not them. There is in fact a widespread disconnect between the ideas and ideology of the intellectuals and that of the common man.

The ideas and policies that are proposed by those in the variety of think-tanks and policy firms and so on, funded directly or indirectly by the taxpayer do not seek to identify the problems that may be of concern to the public. Moreover, many of the policy prescriptions that these policymakers come up with are impractical. They look down from their ivory towers, see a pet cause, and pontificate on it. Why, they ask is government not doing anything about it? Never stop to think it might be the governmental interference could be the problem.

Similarly, the citizens can and do vote in governments that pander to their short term interests, but inimical to them in the long term.

The second and a very disturbing flaw in public discourse in India is the phenomenon of using empathy as a virtuous baton to police and discredit opinion. Do not doubt the integrity of those who protest for a ‘righteous cause’, they tell us.

Claiming to speak for the ‘downtrodden’ and ‘underprivileged’ is a great tool – demanding and ‘protesting’ for their rights a great exercise in morality. We are not allowed to question it; we are not allowed to as much as doubt the goodness of their cause. If you do, they have bludgeons to attack you with, lines that were drawn since the inception of their movement. They will not pay attention to what you are saying, they pay attention to what they want to hear. There is no debate, there is no discussion. Why not, you might ask? It cannot be had because they are utterly convinced of the moral superiority of their side, and the immorality of the opposing one.

There a variety of topics where this particular scenario plays out, both in India and other democracies. This is an extremely unfortunate feature, one that we should actively deter. The consequences otherwise would be the unchallenged triumph of one side – and I believe that is a terrible, terrible result.

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