Thinking rationally to beat polarisation

We are experiencing challenging times. However, there has probably never been as much societal division as there is now in our midst. The young ones, adults and seniors are all adding to this growing polarisation. We are unwilling to accept and appreciate the opinions of others even when they are based on facts and even when we know that they are based on facts. That is as bad as it gets.

The worst is the case of those who happen to be supporters of this political party or that. They change their views and public stance without any, repeat any, change in ground reality. They do so because their leaders said so. Just see who was saying what in the first quarter of this very year, and who is saying what in the last quarter of the year. It is amazing.

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The two narratives have survived. The two sets of activists have survived. All that has happened is a switch between the narratives and the activists. If ground reality is anything to go by, and it should be just about the only thing that matters, the situation was bad back in the first quarter, and it is bad right now.

I do not fault the leaders for bashing their rivals. Rightly or otherwise, this is what they live for. However, it is up to the individuals to be realistic and rational in observing and interpreting the unfolding drama. There is no point in being a blind follower. It does not help the country. It does not help society. It does not help one’s family. And, it does not help the individual either. The lone beneficiary happens to be the demagogue.

Despite a change in government, the situation has not altered on the ground in any meaningful or drastic manner. No country can ever find itself suddenly on the brink of default. It takes years to get to that point. Likewise, the country cannot suddenly become prosperous in such a short time. Those who have increased the prices in the last few months are the ones who were opposing it when they were not in power, and those who are criticising it now were the ones who were raising the prices when they were in power. Is it all too hard to keep track of?

We must think rationally on the basis of facts, and only by acknowledging the criticality of the larger picture rather than focussing on a tiny window and insisting that it is the ‘most important’ aspect of an argument. We must be prepared to listen to the views of others before forming an opinion. It will help if we may listen with the intent of understanding rather than listening only to rebuff. Soon, we will have an opinion based on reasonable thought. The current trend is clearly to pick an ‘opinion’ first, and then to build an argument around it. It is only through rational thinking that we may have a chance of ending, or at least mini-mising the level and intensity of polarisation in society, and to become a better people.

DR AYESHA HANIF

MALAYSIA

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