Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Death of Debate and Discussion

I've decided to put a pause on my usual haranguing of the Nigerian system (and yes, the Black World Order in general) and focus on topical questions  - still in my areas of focus such as human/economic development, renewable energy, political/social reform - that can encourage debate and constructive discussion. The one thing that I continually decry in the black community is the slow death of the debate.
This is something I've observed with my friends both in North America and Africa, as well as with the black communities in North America and countries in Africa. Oh, we meet and we talk, but usually we're shouting over one another and most importantly, we aren't listening to other people's points of view and discussing them in a non-threatening while still critical manner. For our societies to take full advantage of the diversity of thought, energy and drive of the young black professional, these are attributes that we must imbibe and display. If nothing else, we can be an example to those generations who've gone ahead of us.
To those who deride debate and discussion as a "waste of time", choosing instead to follow their "action-packed plans", I say to you - action is important and will be part of the overall educational, social and economic emancipation of the black race (be it in Africa, the Caribbean or North America). However, just as the pen is mightier than the sword, so are debate and discussion over rabid action, which is usually designed to do no more than draw attention to a cause. Where debate and discussion fail is when the true aim of a movement is compromised and subsumed for the sake of an individual or group's selfish interest. In the race for economic and social development in Africa, many technocrats abandoned their ideals and people-oriented plans when presented with fat contracts and juicy appointments. In the race for the social and economic advancement of African-Americans, many community leaders abandoned the needs of their constituents for political offers and distinguished posts - most of which came with the price of silence in the face of economic inequality and social injustice. In the Caribbean, the story wasn't much different.
Far be it from me to suggest that we don't play our roles in nation-building and equipping future generations of people of African descent to take their rightful place in the global polity - I just urge that we continue to debate and discuss the issues that will enable us to achieve the real aims, dreams and hopes of all our kith and kin rather than relying solely on the crumbs handed down from the elite whose interests - at best - are to maintain the status quo.


  1. i totally agree...however, talk is cheap, so i can understand why people ditch debate & discussion especially if there's no accompanying action.

  2. The synopsis- we as Black people need to talk, debate & discuss in a healthy and constructive manner- is spot on. I'd be concerned if many were to disagree with that synopsis. Consider the alternative- being mute, of no opinion and with no ability to articulate a rebuttal- this a bleak existence indeed.

    That being said- there are always reasons to talk- and my only ask would be that people actually know what that reason is when opening their mouths :). The first and most important reason is to be heard. This is a skill that needs to be developed, practiced, and nurtured in our children. As parents we need to have conversations that stimulate thought and constructive debate. Children from a young age should be encouraged to give their opinion- even if initially it is "diddo". If we do not feel comfortable to speak our minds in the comfort of our own homes- it is likely that we will not speak in a classroom of peers, auditorium of strangers, or a boardroom of decision makers.

    As we mature our thoughts & speech should tie to an objective. The objective may be to drive awareness of a given issue; influence a partner to join a cause; convince an investor to have confidence in our project. These are all actions that can be taken based on our debate & discussion if we are clear on what we want at the end of the day.

  3. @Funkola, I hear you. A lot of times, actions are taken due to the frustration with debate/discussion, rather than an as a result of it. That's the paradigm that should shift so that action can be the butter to debate's bread.

    @Tanya, it's important to have people speak intelligently, and you're right about the need for developing that skill. Also, some people's talents lie in action, not speech - there's nothing with that. We just need enough of both...

  4. I believe that one thing you said is very correct. That we need to LISTEN. Before we can have a debate, we as Black people need to work on listening and actually digesting what we hear and having an open mind to it. Many Black people are very stubborn, even when they are wrong, or especially when they are wrong. In such a situation any sort of attempt at debate is futile. Black people tend to argue, not debate, which are two very different things that some people tend to confuse. Such a misconception should be rectified..
    I also agree with the statement of encouraging intelligent expression of thought. That also is an area we fail in.. Though I think before anything else the task that should be tackled is the art of listening.
    The question is 'How can we encourage Black people to open their ears, and in turn, open their minds?'