If anyone has been reasonable enough, they may have noticed that when it comes to political or religious debate, there is rarely anything like “winning the debate”.
By Michael Mupotaringa
Usually, a 1 000 exchanges later, one ends up in the same place they began. It is circular, exhaustive and almost always a waste of time.
No matter how many people cheered their jibes at the “opponent”, as long as they have not convinced the opponent they have basically won the fight and lost the war.
Let us explore possible reasons why in this article.
Is political allegiance always a question of logic?
No matter how much logic a viewpoint may carry, an opponent will tend to find a way to trash it or ignore them in retaliation. The trick is always to isolate the facts that confirm a bias. The primary reason lies in that political and religious decisions are emotional.
A presumption we can consider is that only very few may be making political or religious choices logically.
Human beings support politicians emotionally first of all and then support that stance logically by isolating facts and opinions that support that bias and ignoring any contradictory information. Some would call this the “Texas sharp-shooter fallacy”, where there is an analogy of a shooter first shooting an unmarked plank and then drawing the target where most bullets pierced.
In terms of judging a story about somebody pledging allegiance to something, people tend ignore anything that reflects otherwise.
So in essence, while they may consider a friend who opposes them as uninformed or uneducated, the friend may merely be selectively inclining their opinions to defend a position they made emotionally.
Notably, from a good observer’s eyes people tend to re-share posts that confirm their biases.
Occasionally if they don’t agree with the article they will share it, but include a caption that asserts their position of disagreement.
In other words someone who thinks marijuana should be legalised is likely to re-share a post that defends that viewpoint and not re-share any article that says otherwise.
A certain man called Joe had a good friend called Mark. They discussed various topics. On one Sunday Mark sent Joe a video on a certain viewpoint he once independently mentioned about a certain politician.
His caption was; “These people are echoing exactly what I was saying”.
Of course he was happy that he got online and found a video, which agreed with a view he has been trying to sell to Joe.
In response Joe asked; “Fair enough, but would you have shared the video if it were contradicting the view?”
The moral of the story is everything has its antithesis online or in a book somewhere if one searches wide enough.
When one is trying to make a point heard by people who support The Fruity Party while they themselves support The Candy Party, no amount of insults by them will win over the opponent. Condescending, intolerance and refusal to listen objectively to the other side, among other anti-social mechanisms of conversation, will reinforce the emotions that originally brought The Candy Party to its thinking.
The same is true when tables turn. It is better to appeal more to emotion than to logic.
One has more chances of convincing people, who have not made a public statement or action to endorse a candidate by using logic than they have of convincing a person, who has shown some form of allegiance whether in the form of social media posts or possession of a card that represents their party.
The power of commitment
Whenever an individual publicly supports an idea, they identify with that idea, meaning it is their identity.
When the idea they stand for is attacked carelessly by a friend, stranger or journalist, they will feel attacked personally, whether they admit it or not. They will tend to consider it an attack on their very identity. Sometimes they may yield, but that may depend on the amount of commitment previously shown.
A person who already wears a T-shirt with inscriptions of an idea, or their leader, is least likely to back out without a fight. They already identify with that political organisation as a culture. It is not accidental that the word culture contains the word “cult” in it.
So what is the best way to win
When a debate is already going in circles, it is best to conclude it respectfully without an urge to insult or belittle the person whose views differ.
Sometimes the best way to win is to let people be. We should not be dying to convince people out of their beliefs, especially without sincerely understanding how they came to those beliefs.
Political tolerance is a mature approach that all political leaders advocate in Zimbabwe when the media asks for their stance. However, what some of them instigate may indirectly promote otherwise.
Respect is earned. One cannot force anyone to respect your viewpoint. However, one can encourage tolerance by primarily tolerating the views of others.
At the end of the day if all people viewed the world the same then humans would technically be the same person, at least ideologically. The different political views held by the populous are an exhibition of diversity of thoughts and interests.
There is no need to have feelings of hatred, but rather let us challenge each other out of love. If anything unites us, it is the need to have a progressive and better Zimbabwe.
What we may disagree on is who can provide that best and reliably in the best interests of the majority. Well that can never be proven by a Facebook debate. It can only be proven by a free and fair election.
Michael Mupotaringa is a writer, Digital 2D Animator and Hip-hop artiste from Bulawayo. Feedback @Mcpotar on twitter.