Fr. Roy Cimagala .
ESPECIALLY in discussing highly contentious issues, like the political and social ones, all parties involved should try to be both delicate and tough. This is how we can conduct our discussions in a way that is positive, fruitful and constructive.
We need to be delicate because more than issues, what are involved are persons who should always be respected and loved in spite of our differences, conflicts, mistakes and offenses. We have to try our best to understand them and to treat them as best as we could.
We just cannot think of how valid and strong our views are without considering the people who have different opinions. We just cannot push our views by bullying our way around. What we should strive to do is to calibrate the presentation of our views such that the others can appreciate them properly.
Thus, more than digging deeper in our views, what is more important is to know how the people are, so that our views may be accepted. Especially in matters of opinion, we have to listen to the other side always, because no matter how different theirs are, no one has the exclusive possession of what is true, good and beautiful. Everyone has something to offer.
And we also need to be tough, because no matter how much we try to be nice and charitable, we cannot help but commit mistakes and offenses in the process, and we just have to resist being too sensitive. More than that, we have to be pro-active in understanding others and quick to offer forgiveness when we get offended somehow.
In a sense, we need always to be sport. In discussing issues, we may have to compete intensely, especially in matters where no position or view can be considered as absolutely correct since it is all a matter of opinion, but that competition should never undermine the charity that ought to be lived by all.
This may require that we study the issues well, trying as much as possible to cover all possible opinions that they may trigger.
That way we would be ready to react properly when such different opinions come out in the discussion.
Besides, it is always possible that we can learn new things in the discussion and should be quick to acknowledge whatever validity the different arguments may offer. We have to be open-minded and not too attached to our views no matter how strongly we feel about them.
Courtesy and basic good manners should always prevail in the discussion. Insults, name-calling, anger, resentments, grudges and the like should have no place in the exchange of views. We can be forceful in promoting and defending our views without having to resort to these things.
Politicians should follow this fundamental rule and lead the way in giving good example in this department. We should make acrimonious political debates a thing of the past. Let’s open a new era in our political discussions that is marked by charity and selfless pursuit for what is most beneficial to the common good or at least to the majority of the people without disadvantaging the minority too much.
Perhaps one concrete way of improving the current state of our public discussions is to review the way Public Speaking and Debate is given as a subject in the schools. In those occasions where I attended the samples of the subject, the students seem to be trained more to score points than to seek what is most beneficial to most people, if not to all.
That subject has to have a solid foundation on ethics that would precisely teach courtesy and good manners, before the students are trained to think and argue their points.
I even notice that in a local noontime TV show, this kind of public speaking and debate is promoted. I am afraid this is giving a bad influence on our society.