India needs a Debating Culture (Part 9)

Verbal Duels

“Time spent arguing is, oddly enough, almost never wasted.” – Christopher Hitchens

I watched Hamilton shortly after its release on the Disney app a few months ago. It is an amazing experience – even on TV. It grips you from start to finish, telling the story of Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers of the US. And what a story it is! Set as a rap musical, I was a bit wary of whether I would understand the words. I shouldn’t have – the subtitles help and the diction is also very clear.

The one thing that struck me was the “duel”. Both Hamilton and his eldest son are killed in duels. The duel was a contest between two people with guns to settle a matter of honour. Even as I was watching it on a TV screen, I was gripped by the drama. Two people standing face to face with guns – having to decide whether to shoot directly at the other person or let it pass. A moment of life and death.

When I was thinking about debates, my mind went back to the duel. Could the debate be the verbal duel? Instead of shying away from views different to our own, could we engage in a public debate (duel) with the other person – where the force of ideas and the power of reason would decide who carried the day? And these would be broadcast live via mobile apps, much like video games are now streamed to an enthusiastic audience on platforms like Twitch.

Tiktok created stars out of ordinary people via song and dance. Could a new debating culture create celebrities out of people who could wield the power of ideas and words? Could schools and colleges be a good starting point?

Tomorrow: Part 10

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.

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