In our political and social media-obsessed modern world, we citizens have become philistines incapable of holding either reasonable or respectable discussions with each other. Outrage is our de facto response to anything someone in another tribe does or says that we think we should not agree with, and our personal politics inevitably outweigh our greater loyalties. Furthermore, we are terrified of being canceled by our own tribe, so we constantly conform and do things we don’t believe in ourselves so that we do not become outcasts. The longer this goes on the clearer it is that something is going to break. Perhaps even civilization itself. And it all falls apart. What I am wondering is this. How have we gotten ourselves here? Why have we as a society chosen to call speaking our minds and stating a disagreeable opinion a controversial act when it is simply human nature to debate and argue.
As diverse as human ideologies can be, modern democracies are generally politically divided into two main categories: those who want radical change and scientific, technological, economic, societal progression, and those who believe in holding traditional values above innovation and advancement. Most believe our social environment impacts our political views, but researchers say that biology can't be ignored. Can genes make us progressive or conservative? The DRD4 gene has been associated with predisposing human political attitudes. Also known as the novelty-seeking gene, it is supposedly related to political liberalism. Individuals with this gene tend to be more interested in other people’s beliefs and views and are exposed to a variety of social norms and lifestyles. Humans are significantly different from each other, they have divergent views for so many more complex reasons other than family, upbringing, and life events.
Society tends to exaggerate political polarization. Of course, opposing views exist discussing any general topic, but turning them into political matters, make the debate aggressive and create uncivil behavior among people. Humans are all so absorbed by the media, political outbursts, conflict, debate that they completely ignore that it is human nature to disagree, argue, and make “questionable” statements. We all have the basic right to speak and that should not be considered contentious.
Something I find more than a bit foolish is how we as a society choose to hate when we simply disagree. We put so much anger toward those opinions we do not “respect” or agree with, it doesn’t matter how radically liberal or conservative it may be, using your right to speak is not an immoral act. It may oppose your beliefs and values, but it does not define the person, no opinion defines anyone, it's simply a thought said out loud.
Anyone who chooses to disregard someone when they are opposed to an opposite opinion is just a coward. We should disagree, argue, sure get aggravated but not hate.
We live in a politically complex and diverse world and school. Here at GZAAT, we have a variety of races, nationalities, age cohorts, and most especially political ideologies and opinions. We differ in our opinions about LGBTQ+ rights, language proscriptions, Georgian and international politics, democracy, economics, and most especially the drinking age. Our diverse views are especially relevant when we discuss controversial topics. Something I find especially irritating and maladaptive is when people feel threatened when such topics come up so the friend/family member/colleague/teacher/etc decides to completely ignore it and move on. Is this a problem? Maybe. Being dismissed, disregarded for speaking your mind during relevant discussions is rarely a proactive and responsible way to deal with differences.
In this school, if the students are discussing human rights or sexual minorities, it can be infuriating when the teacher shuts down the dispute when it directly corresponds to the topic. Although bothersome, it’s understandable why this happens. We make everything so intensely political and people often get bullied for having “the wrong” view by one group or another. While we might have little respect for a point of view, it is wrong to dismiss or disdain a classmate for having a different opinion.
A fellow GZAAT student — Natalia Abuladze shares a few words about a regular discussion/argument in class. She starts by describing the atmosphere in the room: “At the beginning of the argument students agree to be called on and to let each other speak, but as the argument evolves and the topic gets more intense or controversial, everyone starts screaming and nobody lets each other talk and it all gets heated” she continues to speak about the unfortunate incident, “there was this one case where my classmate hit another classmate just because they didn’t agree with their opinion.”
It's interesting to know how teachers deal with their students at times like these, Natalia elucidates: “ it depends on the lesson and the topic because if the topic is too controversial and students have too many opinions, they just let us scream, which is weird to me, but they simply log off and let us deal with the debate ourselves, but mostly they just stop us and change the subject to calm us down”
Some would say, the classroom isn't the place to discuss politics, that it disrupts a peaceful educational atmosphere. Others would argue that school is the very place students should learn to express their opinions freely and learn how to debate in a civil manner at relevant times. Abuladze has opinions of her own “If the topic is related to the subject, sure, but while discussing different political opinions on the lesson, it can turn students against each other outside of the lesson as well, but it's also good because they learn how to debate their opinion and different sides on the topic so it pretty educational and should be done occasionally.”
Political views haven't always had a negative impact on personal relationships; this is something we’ve simply gotten bad at in recent decades. We can learn to do better, let’s see what happens in GZAAT “The argument continues after the lesson and it affects relationships between students. Before finding out about people’s views about certain matters, everyone was pretty good with each other, but after hearing one opposing idea they stopped various relationships. It's just a topic where everyone has different opinions, so it shouldn't ruin kinships.”
We, humans, develop important skills by engaging in debates and listening to the opposing side’s views. We must learn to respect each other while disagreeing and try to not comply with our generation’s (and the previous) reputation for being vexsome, ignorant, and dismissive little brats. When we find that we have a political divide, we should keep in mind there are far more important things in life than such differences, and that having at least two sides in every argument is healthy, vibrant, and entirely normal. Moreover, without such disagreements, none of us would ever grow.
Diego, University of California-- San. “Researchers Find a ‘Liberal Gene.’” Medicalxpress.com, medicalxpress.com/news/2010-10-liberal-gene.html. Accessed 3 Dec. 2021.
Editor: Kato Dadiani