India needs a Debating Culture (Part 11)

For the Revolution

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.” – Colin Powell

I wrote recently about the revolution India needs.  Here is an excerpt:

If We, the People, are to change India’s destiny in our lifetime to give our children the shot at the prosperity many of us were denied, we have to come together for a single mission – a transformation that gives true freedom to every Indian to pursue life in the way they choose without the overhang of the government. This may seem counterintuitive at first, but a careful study of the causes of prosperity in the Western world will show otherwise. This is the revolution India needs.

What India needs is a people united to create a bottom-up movement to dismantle the corrupt political party system and end the mai-baap Sarkar that pervades our lives. Only then will a new India rise — an  India not steeped in poverty but reaching out for riches, an India not divided by ancestral surnames but united in our individual diversity, an India not searching through history books for its lost glory but powering its way through entrepreneurship to future prosperity.

A revolution might sound disruptive and violent. It is not. Just as technology is helping us buy, learn, connect and communicate, it can help us change our nation. For this a few of us need to first understand that the change is really needed. This is the job of political entrepreneurs. They have to change minds. Only then will the votes change.

The pandemic has shown us how a virus can spread itself from person to person. We need to apply similar thinking about the rules of contagion to spread ideas from person to person. We need to get past the belief that India was, is and will be great. We were not, are not and will not be great – unless we the people actively work to bring about the needed political and economic transformations. This is the revolution India needs – and what some of us have to deliver.

This is where decentralised debating clubs across India come in. They can be the spark that lights the flame of freedom (which every government has worked so hard to extinguish). This is the time when India needs to see new faces and hear new voices. The debating clubs can be the platform for this, the vehicle to give wings to the aspirations of many Indians seeking to do their little acts to change the future in a small way.

Imagine daily duels – not between the anchors in a studio and their handpicked guests, but people like us, using hard research, critical reasoning, well-fashioned arguments and the politeness of the spoken word to change our minds. Is Dhan Vapasi the best treatment for our economic crisis? Is it morally right for a government to discriminate based on religion? What is the right way to free India’s farmers? Is banning apps the right response to China’s aggression? Was the harsh lockdown of April-May the right decision by the government? Should masks be made compulsory in public spaces? There is no limit to the topics to be discussed. What is needed is a mind open to listening and learning.

So, how can a debating culture rise in India?

Tomorrow: Part 12

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.

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