Padmini Manivannan thinks it’s important to discuss and debate things that make you feel uncomfortable. Especially if they make you uncomfortable.
About a week ago, on a fine Sunday afternoon, the winds ceased ripping into people’s hair and decided to pursue calm for a day. It was perfect because the same day I had planned to meet a friend from school. It had been nearly nine years since I had seen her and a trio of us had made plans to walk around this idyllic city, the beauty of which we only seem to realise when we show visitors around. I thought it might be awkward since we were meeting after so long, but we were quickly absorbed in deep discussions about the political system, the economy and what not.
We must really be getting old.
But in all honesty, it is something that has been on my mind for a while. Some of the things that have fuelled all this internal debate are the elections to happen in India and the excessive nationalistic sentiments surrounding them; so many of the things happening in the US, with lunacy occupying the White House and the things that enabled it; trailblazing female leadership and all the opposition surrounding it. And Brexit. To be fair, I don’t feel that invested in Brexit yet. I’m here for the cartoon strips though.
It is always good to think about these things, but nothing ever comes to fruition or becomes part of the mainstream (or fringe) discussion until you talk about it. Discuss, debate, disagree. Explain your point of view logically and listen to what the other person has to say. In the afternoon out with my school friends, we had diametrically opposing views, but I already realised I had a lot to learn because my friend was able to debate the same thing from a viewpoint that I wasn’t accustomed to thinking in. And I loved it! I don’t mind being proved wrong because I learn something new from it each time. And it is important to discuss and debate things that make you feel uncomfortable. Especially if they make you uncomfortable. We need to bring out our differences in opinions and yet co-exist.
It might also be why I like studying science. The entire foundation is based on facts and figures but there is also so much room, not just for discussion and debate but also for dissent. Some of the biggest motions of dissent and revolution were based on scientific discoveries. Heliocentrism by Nicolaus Copernicus and The Theory of Evolution proposed by Charles Darwin are examples that come to mind. As Brian Martin writes, dissent maintains a vigorous culture of questioning and free discussion; the sentiment rings very true in times like this.
But the world can only move forward with careful consideration of the facts and all its implications. The researchers and the public should be wary about giving credibility to potentially damaging beliefs.
Padmini Manivannan is a Master’s student studying Signals and Systems at TU Delft and hails from Chennai, India. She loves doodling in her free time.