By James McDonald
Whan fowk is discussin issues, the conversation whiles dwynes intae a wee stramash: ae side gies thair thochtie on the thing, the ither says “naw, A think this ither thing,” an thay juist rane thair stances. An this is the mair-be-taiken whan it’s polítical issues. Whiles ye’re chancey tae even see fowk argollin for thair posítion. An, whan this happens, fowk afttimes come awa fae it thinkin the same things thay did aforehaund. Whiles, it’s mair the waur: whiles, fowk juist caw ilk anither names, like “yese are juist dunderheids”. An thay end up thinkin thair ain posítion thay awready haed even mair. An that’s a waesome state o affairs.
Sae whit dae we actually want tae be daein? Dae we want tae redd up tuilyies? Or evitin bein naur thaim whan thay kythe? Or dae we juist want thaim no tae kythe?
Obviously, it wadnae be ideal tae evite the argie-bargie anent politics juist by no talkin anent the issues. Inspecially seein as the issues communed in politics is fair important anes. It wad be a fair feck better tae be evitin the conflict acause we speak anent the issues in a greeable, couthie wey. A wey whaur we compt ither fowk’s sides an unnerstaunin thaim an respectin thaim as human beins. An, as the blues muisician Daryl Davis (that we’ll see mair o later on in the airticle) says, ye cannae solve a problem ye deny the existence o an dinnae talk about.
Sae, ma quaisten nou is: whit can we dae tae evite this poustur/seetiation an hae deeper, mair mensefu, mair appen discussion anent thir issues, ’ithout things turnin intae a collieshangie?
Corbyn’s idea o a “kinder politics” is a braw ane by wey o it. An this is the case whither ye think he manages tae walks up tae his ideas or no. Even juist the rhetoric delivers a positive vision o hou society could be.
An, tae turn tae anither recent topic, Stuart Campbell o Wings over Scotland’s comment anent David Mundell an his son (whaur he jokes about wissin Mundell the son wisnae born) wis juist giein him a nesty image. An that’s ma wey o it whither ye think o him as homophobic or no an whitiver ye think on his uise o his blog for investigative resairch. The comment fae the Wings blogger is a ensaumple o a certain kind o comment whaur fowk juist miscaw thair opponents, insteid o giein argiments or solutions. As is exponed in a Newsnet airticle, whan fowk uise this kind o argiment, the writer can be blindit tae the effects it haes on thair audience. An, through the internet, thair audience is aften a bourach o fowk thir days; no juist a bunch o fríends.
For a impressive ensaumple o the conter wey o discussin issues, blues muisicker Daryl Davis manages tae convince Ku Klux Klan wizards tae chynge thair weys an abandon the ideas an practices o thair umwhile organisation. An he manages that ’ithout ettlin at insensin thaim: he juist wantit tae unnerstaun thaim. It inspecially shaws hou fowk’s feels can chynge; thay can abandon auld prejudices whan thay see things in a new licht. He allous fowk tae come tae thair ain conclusions, juist bein the impetus for chynge.
This is a ensaumple o the fact that argie-bargie in politics isnae inevitable. Obviously, politics is mair conducive tae conflict acause it’s a context whaur major issues is discussed, whaur pouer is in the balance, whaur polarisation is rife, whaur judgements are made an whaur laithsome statements is made. But aw that isnae inevitable as we can see in this ensaumple, acause we can sit doun thegither wi fowk we completely disagree wi on important issues an come tae unnerstaun ilk anither.
Anither thing we can see in the ensaumple o Daryl Davis is the approach tae ither fowk’s ideas: we dinnae necessarly want tae be insensin til fowk yer ain ideas, like ye’re the body that kens whit’s whit an like thay dinnae ken onything.
Gif fowk haes positive attitudes, we can wirk wi that; gif thay hae negative attitudes, we can wirk on that sae thay can at least see that wir pynt o view is raisonable. An fowk certainly isnae gonnae hae positive attitudes.
Obviously, bein active in politics involves a fair feck mair than that; polite discussion certainly isnae aw thare is tae it. Protests, staunin for election an votin, amang ither things, haes important places in politics.
An opinions arenae equivalent; ye cannae juist gie equal platform tae facts an “alternative facts”. Or gie equal platform tae hate an equality.
Thare is problems that need solvin in politics. But thay can be energised by skarin vailues an ideas, by haein a weel-hertit vision o society wi howp for a brichter, better futur, ’ithout jamphin. It’s ae method amang ithers.
It’s true that it disnae wirk wi awbody aither; awbody isnae amenable tae chyngin thair ideas like that. Sittin doun at the table isnae feasible wi awbody. Thare is context whaur conflict resolution isnae sae relevant ony mair. Whan war is awready braken out an the enemy’s a dictatorship, wi a mad chiel at the helm, it’s hard tae sit back an lat thaim dae whit thay want. An this kind o irrationality will likely hae a “Monty Python black knight” approach tae defeat, whither it’s Daesh or Hitler.
But maist politic conflicts isnae wars, least o aw wars; thay are peacefu ontaks, whaur ilka side haes the chance tae express thairsels. ‘Ithin thaim, thare’s mair room for appen an polite agreement an differin/disagreement.
Nou, A’ll be the first tae admít that A uised tae mock fowk A disagreed wi politically aforehaund. As a bairn, as a teenager, or even misfortunately as a adult, A’ve haed some interactions whaur ma idea wis juist tae shaw whit ma ain ideas wis, or no even that, an it didnae git me onywhaur.
But juist attackin an mockin ither fowk isnae whit’ll wirk: nae maiter hou reprehensible thay are, sae faur as we’re concerned. The auld lady screichin in the street winnae steek her gab juist acause A tell her tae, acause, sae faur as she’s concerned, her ain posítion is the richt ane. It could mebbe chynge something in the passers-by, but certainly no her.
Sae fowk can hae better discussions anent polítical issues by respectin the ither side o the issue, listenin an unnerstaunin ithers, by acceptin the possibílity that ye’re wrang, an creatin situations wi positive emotions. An this is a braw idea in ony conversation.
For a mair appen an tolerant society as weel as for lang-term persuasive polítical muivements, A finn it wad be in the interest o awbody involved tae be a bit mair unnerstaunin. We can shaw that we hae whit it is necessar for tae be mair mature an responsible.
James McDonald is a Scots polyglot steyin in Réunion. He is keen on different leids, inspecially local leids, an thair forderin, whither it’s Scots, Gaelic, Réunion Creole or ither leids. He wirks in schuils, helpin bairns wi thair hamewirk an giein chess lessons. Ye can contact him on jmcd89 [AT] googlemail [DOT] com.