The Art of Disagreement

I’m trying to be more active on Twitter these days as, first, the place is just so entertaining, and second, it is helpful with my profession. Although I’ve had an account for years, I got around to use it seriously only since last February, when JNU fracas bubbled up and spilled over primetime news. It was in those days I joined the almost daily ‘debates’ and saw for myself how intense and contentious Twitter could be. Before joining, I had loved to call  Twitter’Facebook for those who cannot write more than 140 characters’. In a way, I loved and hated Twitter in equal measure for what it was.

While it is often fun to interact with people on Twitter, especially those with more intellect and experience than me, there is barely any constructive discussion, and as often as not the people who are engaged in a conversation come with their own pre-concieved notions which they are reluctant to compromise with. Even worse, they think disagreeing with somebody is a bad thing, something which has no place in the society.

I am not committed to any ideology. I do not think any ideology is perfect or anywhere near it for that matter. I neither support the Left nor the Right. Political Centre does not suit me either. The only time I have participated in that mainstay of democracy, elections, I gave my vote to NOTA, for the simple reason that I did not find a suitable choice in the motley list of candidates. But that does not mean I despise politics. On the contrary, I take a lot of interest in it, and that’s one of the prime reason I use Twitter even after so hateful and rancorous it has become.

What I notice on Twitter is there is almost no appreciation of dissent. Here, I don’t mean just dissent against the state. I mean dissent in its literal form. It’s considered a big thing if people disagree. The argument between two dissenters usually ends in abuse and insult. Even the best of us are susceptible to this degeneration. Hardly anybody understands the art of disagreement. Everybody peddles their own narrative, other’s opinion be damned.

What we (and that includes me) need to understand is that disagreement is okay. It’s not an issue. If your worldview doesn’t match your adversary’s, you don’t have to go to great lengths in convincing them how you’re on the right side. You do not have to fling cusswords at them –  it won’t bolster your argument. They may be right in their place, you may be right in yours. Present your arguments with facts in a calm manner, let them present theirs. If they don’t, ask them so that they can support their argument. But if you don’t reach at an agreement, let it go.  As they say, let’s agree to disagree.

In this manner, I think we can make Twitter a much better place to have conversation than the cesspit it currently is.