Politics is intimately connected to dispute, debate and some notion of self-government. In essence we can conclude that deliberation, rather than simply voting, provides the key aspect of democratic decision-making.

As an example, the many talk shows on our radio stations are welcomed fora for the public to ventilate and punctuate point of views. However, we would like to see an improvement in the reasoning, tolerance and civility currently exhibited on these shows. In so-doing, we should never crucify a messenger because we disagree with his/her point of view.

For if we pick only to expose ourselves to opinions and viewpoints that are in line with our own, research suggests that we will become more divided and set in our ways. But if we choose to actively seek out information that tests our assumptions and our beliefs, maybe we can appreciate where the people who disagree with us are coming from. There is also the need to go beyond what we hear but to listen, research and to look at both sides of a story before we come to a conclusion. In addition to that, we must be aware that there is a cost for failure to instigate and sustain quality press conferences, discussions and debates.

The submission is that when we fail to demand answers from our leaders for reasonable questions or to accept senseless answers to critical questions; when we choose to turn a blind eye to light or fail to accept education about critical issues of the day; when we choose to be silent or to stifle our voices and opinions; then we know that real democracy is unhealthy. When we allow our own understanding and knowledge to be deactivated thus allowing politicians, interest groups or leaders to judge and reason for us, then we are in trouble! The consequences of this include deception and abuse of power to name a few. Therefore we should appreciate the effort of those who expose the wrongs and substantiate the rights, understanding that this results in divergent views.

As a matter of fact, people with varying perspectives, experiences and ideas are time after time found to be more effective at solving problems and creating visions than groups with homogeneous opinions. We should also realise that incessant discourse in the intellectual space facilitates discoveries of corruption, dishonesty and deception which are most abundant in murky governance.    Therefore, as a nation we must encourage public discourse, thereby demanding more answers and encourage public fora.  We could embolden Lion Club among others to foster more debating and reading clubs in schools aimed at creating a new environment of civilized public discourse.

As an example, if we consider the constant accusations about our leadership, an objective person would be happy to get to the bottom of what is relevant and meaningful as in- keeping with law, commonsense and national development. But with the nonchalant and sometimes arrogant reactions from our captain as per questions to certain national issues, some of us are tempted to conclude that this is an insult to the crew of intelligence and objective thinking.

We have a duty to be circumspect in our social engineering, because our acceptance of shallow reasoning and conclusions may hurt us somewhere in our history. As a nation we must avoid an image that we do not value truth and the process of seeking truth. We should show that we accept responsibility to articulate a position as close to the truth as one can make it, using to the best of one’s ability, available evidence and the rules of reason, logic and relevance. We should listen openly, recognizing always that new information may alter one’s position. We should do our utmost best to promote discourse in civility, even in our most passionate disagreements.

The machination of this process-debates and discussions- necessitates the continued existence of a free press; i.e., news services and broadcasters that are free to constructively criticize or encourage the government of the day, drawing attention to its achievements as well as its misdemeanours. A truly free press would therefore keep the populace adequately informed to participate in meaningful discussions.

Accordingly, let us hope that we move from appearances, slogans and image and seek and thirst for substance and content. We should show that we appreciate empirical data, statistics and truth, and to call a spade a spade. For the improvement in our educational attainment should not only be reflected in our certificates on our walls, but a manifestation of reasoning, knowledge and vision.

It is true that we do not have the material wealth as a nation, but we can pride ourselves on reason, logic, truth and dignity- qualities which we can develop without formal education. Therefore the next time you hear the messengers, remember they have an important place in our society!

J.F.