Carvajal: Drowning in shallow waters

·2 min read

“Discourse” is a spoken or written exchange of ideas/experiences on any particular topic. It is “constructive” when done for a positive purpose or result such as agreement on a problem’s solution.

We are nowhere near agreement on the definition of our core national problem, much less on its solution for the self-evident reason that our current political discourse is anything but constructive. In fact, it is downright destructive.

We instead promote disagreements by arguing as if our interpretation of the issue and its solution is the only correct and useful packaging of it. Thus, we pre-judge and off-handedly dismiss alternative packages that bear no resemblance to ours. Yet, economic, political and cultural problems are generally and invariably complex. They do not admit of a singular packaging or interpretation.

We may not admit it, but we are not big on philosophy and have a reputation as shallow thinkers. Possibly because of this, all parties in the current political discourse, especially their respective social media trolls, argue more with their emotions than with their intellects. They heighten disagreements by outdoing one another’s loudness and anger as they trade stereotypes, insults and bad-mouths.

Many fail to see that they demonstrate mental shallowness by arguing from an absolutist or fundamentalist standpoint. Steven Fesmire, philosophy professor at Radford University, Radford, Virginia, USA, describes a fundamentalist or absolutist as someone who holds that there is “only one single right way to diagnose a moral or political problem” and “a single approvable solution to any particular problem.”

It is easy to see how arguing from an absolutist or fundamentalist position does not lead to any useful solution of the problem under discussion. An absolutist or fundamentalist ends the verbal exchange only if he/she is able to impose his/her package on others. This does not solve anything because imposing your idea and experience package only serves to drive others away and into a silent but grudging if not hostile place.

A discourse is constructive when all sides converse, not argue, to search for common points of agreement on an issue and go on from there. Very basic is for all sides to accept incontrovertible facts against which there can be no argument. Self-evident and proven facts brook neither intellectual nor emotional denial.

This country had better get on a constructive discourse to keep its head above water and breathe political fresh air. That or it drowns in the shallow and murky waters of an ugly exchange of prejudgments, insults and put-downs that serve only to drive away creative alternative diagnoses and solutions of its problems.

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