Debate as defined by the Cambridge Dictionary means “serious discussion of a subject in which many people take part” or “to discuss a subject in a formal way”.
Oxford Dictionary defines ‘debate’ as, “a formal discussion on a particular matter in a public meeting or legislative assembly, in which opposing arguments are put forward and which usually ends with a vote” or “an argument about a particular subject, especially one in which many people are involved” or “argue about (a subject), especially in a formal manner”.
Merriam-Webster defines ‘debate’ as, “a contention by words or arguments” or “the formal discussion of a motion before a deliberative body according to the rules of parliamentary procedure” or “a regulated discussion of a proposition between two matched sides”.
In simple words, ‘debate’ means where two or more people discuss about a particular subject or topic, in which one or some of the persons talk for the subject where another and some others talk against the subject.
Well, keeping aside all the jargon, as per me, ‘debate’ is an art. It’s an art wherein all the speakers’ creativity shows up when they put their views forward. The way the words are framed and expressed to make an impact and even, in a way, influence the others’ opinions, is all a work of art.
If we want to get our points across the audience, we debate. If we want to make a change, we debate. The reason we have laws for sexual harassment in place is a result of debate. Today everyone, irrespective of race, caste, creed or gender, have voting rights is because of the heated debates that took place in our Parliaments and Assemblies. Even the Indian Constitution was framed due to the debates undertaken in the Constituent Assembly for two years, eleven months and seventeen days.
Just like how an artist uses paint or brushes or other equipments and puts them in use together to create a masterpiece, debaters use words from various vocabularies and expressions, and put them together to frame a sentence or sentences to make their points, be it in proposition or against the subject or topic debated. Debaters are the artists in a debate, who use words to create a masterpiece.
We human beings are diverse in nature. Each person has his or her own preferences, views and opinions. That’s exactly what leads to disagreements between us, which then, results in debating to finally conclude on who’s right and who’s wrong. These differences can be regarding the existence of God, political ideology, political party, food, etc. These differences exist even amongst friends, families, acquaintances and colleagues. And I believe it is amongst friends, families, acquaintances and colleagues that our debating skills lay foundation. This is where we learn to debate at first instance.
But, over the years I feel we have lost that art of debating. I believe rather than debating we are arguing, which is no different than two aunts fighting in a neighbourhood, where no one really gets their points across and the subject matter of the debate remains a mooted point.
May be with so many new discoveries coming to the forefront, people’s views and opinions have developed accordingly. And in this age of technology and information, people have a lot of options to choose from as per their preferences, and voluntarily or involuntarily, these choices of ours do influence our views.
As we surf through the various information, we tend choose one or few to be genuine and consider it to be the truth, even if, in fact, it may just be half-truth. Since we choose one or few amongst the many information available to us, we tend to feel as if we have achieved a great feat by finding information which corresponds with our viewpoint. And when we achieve something, be it money, award or information, we become stubborn and keep a view that what I got, read or heard is right and others are wrong. The same stubbornness has completely changed our attitude from disagreement to contempt.
When we debate we always tend to understand the topic and try to understand the points put forward by our opponents, and then we make our point(s). But, that’s not what I have witnesses in the recent few years. Every argument that I have come across, with the exception of very few, have turned into a meaningless dispute, where people tend to argue about everything other than the subject matter. Even before hearing the point, we have started feeling contempt towards the topic itself. Rather than debating on the concerned topic, people argue and point out how the other is stupid and the counter for that is how the other is a lunatic.
Others might feel different, but this is what I think:-
“I believe we have lost the art of debating. We have lost the ability to tolerate others’ opposite views and to understand. These days when someone has different views than us we find the other person, and even conclude, to be stupid or dumb. But, no one tries to understand why they have different views than us, this is because hardly anyone listens and everyone just hears. And this same behaviour is fueling our anger against others. This anger may be against race, caste, religion or even against the existence of a particular person. We should put a stop to it before it becomes a downfall for all of us.”
– Miss Fujoshi
P.S.: So this is my biased view. Others may have different opinions, but, I only wrote what I inferred from my own experiences.