Argumentative Indian is a book by Nobel Prize-winning author, Amartya Sen.
The Argumentative Indian has brought together a selection of writings from Sen that outline the need to understand contemporary India in the light of its long argumentative tradition. The understanding and use of this argumentative tradition are critically important, Sen argues, for the success of India’s democracy, the defence of its secular politics, the removal of inequalities related to class, caste, gender and community, and the pursuit of sub-continental peace.
So far so good. But do we deserve to be allowed to argue? I have observed that in the public domain sometimes discussions are done for the sake of discussion. The level of such talks has reached the nadir; speakers have literally reached below the belt, pun intended. A male candidate talking about a female opposition member has made a statement, “I never knew that she was wearing a khaki chaddi (underwear) all these days.” Can one make an argument worse than this one? Unfortunately, such statements are appreciated by their followers; nobody questioned the candidate while he spoke such vile words.
I am all for freedom of speech, but I would never like to live in an emergency like situation, nor would I like to live under a Hitler or a Mussolini. Everybody loves to argue, but it appears that the art of argument is lost at the altar of the new God, social media. The problem is that even in the public domain, the arguments done in Loksabha or Rajyasabha are more about personal attacks on each other from the ruling as well as opposition parties. Logical speeches are a rarity these days.
Another observation is that social media has created world-class commentators, in thousands. Everybody comments on politics, Indian cricket team selection, whether Priyanka Chopda is pregnant or not! Not only that but there are big fights shown on TV under the names like “Big Fight”, and the same gets reflected on WA groups. On Facebook, people write essays about how Modi is wrong or how Rahul Gandhi does not know anything. It is possible that the writer in every person is waking up, thanks to cell phone and easy to use keyboards in all languages.
About political arguments, the older you become rigid are your views. So on WA groups fighting tooth and nail about your point of view does not make sense. I have known of a few cases where childhood relationships became tense because of such arguments. Another important aspect we forget is that it is not worth fighting on issues on which we have no control. People take Alcohol; some like whisky and some like to drink wine. Some are fond of Beer, and some are Vodka fans. Of course, there are some teetotallers. Is it right that teetotaller calls others drunkards? Can teetotallers be called conservatives? Each person has his/her own way of living life; we should respect the views.
I recently read a poem धूप में घोडे पर बहस (Arguments about a Horse) by Kedarnath Singh. It is fascinating to understand how the poet has looked at the word बहस (argument or discussion).
Three friends were sitting in the Sun (must be winter time) discussing a horse. The first one said that the horse is lovely and the second friend added that the horse is sturdy! The third one said that if the horse is so sturdy then we should not even discuss it. The first friend shouted, “What do you mean we can’t discuss”? The second one said, “Of course, we can discuss.” The third friend looked pleased as he blew the cigarette smoke and said, “But where is the horse?” First one said, “So what if the horse is not there, we can always discuss about him.” The second one said, “I have never seen a horse in ages.” The third one said, “The population of horses is reducing fast”. The second one said, “Why is the population reducing?” The first one said, “That is because horses are being sold.” Now it is immaterial which friend said what. Just enjoy the arguments. “Who buys so many horses?” “We can get this number from somewhere!” “Why, why we can not get the numbers?” Then the first one whispered, “God knows what these numbers will reveal?” Finally, the third one shouted as if coming out of a trance, “Friends, one day we will know the correct numbers and the real story will come out.” After this statement, there was pin-drop silence for a long time. How did Kedarnath know that this will be the future quality level of arguments?
Inferior is the quality of arguments that we have on TV channels and social media. Subjects may be essential for discussion, but the treatment and direction given to subjects are abysmal, sometimes the arguments are nasty. The title of the blog “Please listen to me” is ironical. The word please is never used in discussions these days. In public domain people do and say anything to earn some brownie points.
What is an argument? There are many definitions of arguments, but I have chosen a couple of them.
- a reason given for or against a matter under discussion
- an angry quarrel or disagreement
The argument is a way of life and is used at home, in business, in education, in research besides many other areas. While arguing both sides are expected to be professional and polite, giving respect to each other. In science, the argument is put forth in trying to prove something new which may be compared with an existing method, process or a product. By arguing, different points of view come forward. The idea is to discuss and find the best possible solution or resolution to issue being discussed. But every time it may not be an issue. When two people from opposing political parties argue, they are putting their thoughts in front of us and are trying to prove how their party or candidate is better than the other.
I feel that the maturity, dignity, and style are more important while arguing. Shouting match starts when nobody has a better argument, or it reflects on that person’s culture! The discussion should be talking about the chosen subject matter and unparliamentary words should never be used.
In a housing society committee except for the head, all were young people. This head used to shout to prove his points. In the first meeting after I joined the committee, this person started shouting to prove his point. I told him to speak normally, but he argued that his voice was loud. I told him “Sir, learn to speak softly and then speak, otherwise you need not to speak.” After this incident, he never shouted again.
Now regarding the arguments/ shouting match on social media, above mentioned rules should be followed more rigidly. The groups that are formed are for a specific reason. The groups can be an alumni group, office groups, ex-office groups, society group, and many more. But all these people come together because of a specific reason. On such groups, one should not make unnecessary political arguments; these are uncalled for and counterproductive. For those who are politically minded, should form a separate group and keep on doing what they feel is right. My observation is that all groups 90 to 95% are not interested in such arguments.
Kedarnath Singhji has found it long back the way people argue. He has explained it in a light-hearted manner. So, let us go by his advice and suggestions, refrain from arguing on social media and if you are in an argument, use the word “Please”! Let me assure you good arguments are fun, and they are enjoyable, if done the right way!