12 Angry Men; the importance of debate.

At the moment, the Scottish Referendum debate is in full swing. It is both exciting and frightening: we have I think 97% voter registration in the midst of stark divisions, even between friends and family. I have heard people say that they wished the referendum had not been organized because as a country we’ll have to deal with the inevitable after-effects, whatever the result. This is true but the debate is necessary.

For better or worse, we live in a democracy. Many people moan about the poor state of our democracy and that the people are not represented. There is a reason for that: collectively, we’re bone lazy and don’t care enough to make an impact on the important issues. Corporate and military lobbyists creep in through those cracks and bang! We’re selling weapons to repressive regimes, propping-up bad banks, starting illegal wars, and building more nuclear weapons. But we are to blame, no-one else, us. That almost certainly includes you.

In many parts of the world, expressing political opinion often results in one being rapidly deprived of knee-caps, finger-nails, or life. People in Syria are caught in the most horrifically terrifying situation, while in many countries around the world you can be executed merely for being homosexual.

Still. I’m being told the Scottish Independence Referendum is bad news; it’s apparently bad for the country. Well, no, it manifestly is not — we needed a firm boot up the arse. And a country deciding upon self-determination without a shot fired and no blood on the street is a fucking achievement.

Whatever your allegiance for Thursday: debate it, try to convince others, push for what you want, and listen to others. Almost all of my political and social opinions worth having have been obtained by other people telling me I’m an idiot, and explaining why. As recent as a few months ago I changed my mind on nuclear weapons but it was only after someone spending their time to debate with me; rational debate is a gift to be welcomed.

The caveat is that to be effective, your debate must appeal not only to others’ emotional response but be rationally and factually sound. Just like in 12 Angry Men, it is attention to detail and the facts that win the day. And you must respect other people: you are trying to convince, persuade, and reason with people. Hearts and minds were ne’er won with a sledgehammer.

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