The Lost Art of Democratic Discussion

If you’re like me, one look at that complex title should be enough reason to hit the exit button on this tab.

But what if I told you that that sweet line of alliteration (Democratic Discussion) were the 2 words needed to make your political decisions easier, or make discussions on those ‘taboo’ issues more.. enjoyable?

That’s the way Harvard political philosopher, Michael Sandel puts it anyway. He describes our current political discussions as ‘shouting matches’ and the live presidential debates as ‘ideological food fights’ that amount to nothing. Imagine that, like the scene out of Hook, a bunch of immature kids who ‘never grow up’ throwing tantrums and food at each other.

And well, he’s not all that far from what we are dealing with in today’s political climate.

Look at the last US presidential debates held back in 2016 between Trump and Clinton, some valid points raised – sure. But the way in which the conversation was handled was nothing more than high-school melodrama at best.

The problem with this kind of behaviour however, is not that it mis represents a party, a person, a demographic, or an event, but that it undermines the sole foundation of our country, and many like ours. It strips away the very essence of democracy and it opens up a wide, scary trap of communist thinking.

In order to understand what I’m saying, let’s strip it back to basics.

As explained by the Australian Museum of Democracy (Yo, there’s a museum for this, who knew right!?)

Democracy in its simplest holds these fundamentals:

  • Freedom of election and being elected;
  • Freedom of assembly and political participation;
  • Freedom of speech, expression and religious belief;
  • Rule of law; and
  • Other basic human rights.

In essence, democracy is about the people sharing opinions and beliefs in attempt to find the best governing body for said people.

Note, this does not mean we have to or are forced to agree with each other, in fact, almost the opposite will grant true democracy. However, this cannot be achieved if we have the likes of Trump and Clinton throwing food at each other from across the table instead of dissecting an issue, bringing forward their perspective, and backing it up with reason. 

But why not?

If we lose democracy, as the people, we lose our freedoms and our rights. Our nation becomes one of cloned ideology instead of individual opinion and expression, governed solely by the party in power and not by the people who are being served.

So how do we solve it? Well, it’s as simple as changing the way we enter discussions at work, at school, at uni.

Michael earnestly believes that underneath the layers of all these verbal fist fights are deeper questions of justice.

When you think about it – it’s true! Take any of your latest arguments, and the question of ‘justice’ sits at the core of your discussion.


Should same sex marriage be legal?

Is justice given in favour to those who follow tradition, or to the progressive thinkers?

Should marijuana be legal?

Is justice given to those who need it for good? Or restricted to protect those who will use it for bad?

But how do we even begin to consider how we should decide who receives justice?

The philosophical superstar, Aristotle, suggests that deciding the justice of any thing begs the question:


What the heck is it’s purpose?

Two prime examples of this theory in action occurred this week in the realm of racist remarks in the media. The first sees our beloved Apu written out of the Simpsons TV series, and the second sees Megan Kelly sacked from her role as a morning talk show host.

Should they have both been sacked? Well, let’s ask the question.


What is the purpose of the Simpsons?

– It is a satirical comedy TV series made at the expense of all humans, in order to find commonality amongst us.

What is the role of Megan Keller in her morning talk show?

– She would have you believe that it is to intentionally bring up controversial issues and spark conversation. Did she achieve this? Yes.

When looking at the purpose of the roles played by both Apu and Megyn, it becomes harder to justify the rather harsh consequences placed on them. Perhaps, if one asked these questions before blindly pandering to appease the society of political correctness, the verdict would have resulted differently.

Point being, whatever the question is, and regardless of what you believe the answer to be, in order for us to remain a democratic society where all opinions and beliefs are respected (whether you’re wrong or not 😉 ) and a one ideology party isn’t blindly followed, this question of justice, and who deserves it must first be answered.

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