Cordial political debate for results

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2022-08-19T05:52:54+05:00 Atle Hetland
It is easy to criticise other people; we all do it and to some, it has become a pass time, not really with any purpose. We like to criticise people in power, too, such as politicians, not always knowing quite knowing enough about the policies and actions in question, and alternatives that they might have had. Politicians themselves are certainly good at criticising each other; it is part of their work, but often they go over the top, using language and descriptions of opponents and what they do quite above and beyond what is within acceptable debate rules, and also what the opponent can justify with facts and figures.

Narratives and facts are often tilted. That certainly includes the way Western politicians talk about the Russian War in Ukraine; they say it was not possible to foresee and take preemptive actions. I say it was possible to foresee and different actions could and should have been taken to avoid the war. Now, when it rages, there are still ways of ending it sooner than it seems the parties are willing to, especially since the West facilitates the military of Ukraine in major ways, prolonging the war and not encouraging negotiations to begin.

In Pakistan, I feel that politicians go far too far in criticising fellow politicians, sometimes against better judgement, accusing the opponents of intentions they don’t have. Maybe some of this is fair enough since ‘everybody’ does it. But I believe politicians could reach further with fairer and more cordial debate styles. Some of the things that politicians claim would lead to defamation and other charges in other countries, indeed in the US, which is a country we all still admire.

In my home country Norway, the ‘Arendal Week’, the main summer event for political, economic and social debate, is held this week. I have followed many sessions on Internet, and they have been entertaining and pleasant, yes, indeed when there are poles, disagreement and opposing views between the panels, usually composed in ways so that opinions differ. I have been impressed by the politicians and experts holding the debates in respectful tones, even when they have disagreed fundamentally. But I have been a bit disappointed by the lack of alternative solutions from the various parties.

This summer, the most difficult issues in Europe, including Norway, have been about the high electricity prices, high petrol prices, high food prices, and price hikes on other things affecting people’s purchasing power, even those with thick wallets, well, credit cards nowadays. The opposition parties want the government to give subsidies not only to private households but also to private sector companies when electricity prices are extremely high, risking bankruptcy for some companies. In Norway, those private sector companies that lost much of their income during the corona pandemic, such as restaurants and other hospitality businesses, received government support. Now, companies that are affected by unusually high electricity prices want similar support. It is a dilemma for the government to compensate the companies because it may distort the capitalist model where the private sector companies should be prepared both for good and bad days, also, many companies can push the higher costs over on the consumers who buy their goods and services. This means that it becomes difficult for the opposition parties to criticise the government and ask for too high private sector support that could shatter the capitalist model although it is only a small group of companies in some sectors that suffer from the unusually high electricity prices; the majority of the private sector has a boom, and it is often difficult to find workers for many companies when unemployment is below two percent in the country. But I am sure some targeted government subsidies will be found to help the most vulnerable companies to survive and recover after the crisis period.

Although the current energy crisis to a major extent is caused by Russia having reduced supplies of gas, inter alia, to Germany which has had an economic boom thanks to cheap gas. But it is too easy to blame it on Russia, and Russia responds to the EU sanctions against the country. The politicians should have found other solutions. In other countries, such as Norway, which has had an advantage over other countries due to the abundance of hydropower, it should have been able to have been better prepared for a dry summer and the need for European neighbours to receive Norwegian electricity supplies. The heated political debate in Norway is often unfair against the sitting government since the blame goes back on many governments, civil servants and experts.

And then back to the importance of holding debates at ‘civilised levels’. A couple of years ago, I remember a debate with the then Conservative PM, Erna Solberg, who last year lost the election after eight years at the helm, and her challenger for PM from Labour, Jonas Gahr Støre, who took over last September. The store said in the debate I refer to that his opponent Solberg was indeed a ‘significant politician’. It was true and a polite thing to say, instead of throwing more or less justified criticism at her.

In my article last week, I focused on the importance of the education system giving room for imagination and creativity, so that the next generation can be encouraged to think for themselves and find new solutions to old and new problems. I used a young Norwegian Genius, Haakon Ellingsen (18) as a role model, and also referred to Albert Einstein who wasn’t only a scientific genius, but today also remembered for his encouraging philosophical statements. If we imagine how things could be, we have taken the first steps towards changing the world for the better, said Einstein, and we must always try to do things that are good for others, not only ourselves. Most politicians probably have that wish and intention, at least for voter groups; but the debate styles and work methods must change to reach the goals.

In the future, I believe that many will shy away from traditional party politics because of the often harsh and unproductive debate climate that has become common. Debates may lack truthfulness and honesty, and it becomes more important to beat the opponent with words than reach tangible action plans with good results.

The young geniuses of today may establish companies and come up with new ways of debating and solving issues, such as the young Haakon Ellingsen. Forms of political, economic, and social participation may become different in future, at local, national and international levels. The young people may go for concrete actions such as what Ellingsen is involved in, and polite debates with others, not the harsh debates we often see today in ordinary politics. Many young people would go for cordial debates and work quietly in their IT rooms and on social media. The latter is today often polarised and rough, but that I think is just in passing. In future, debates will be more polite and cordial, provided they are all-inclusive and socially upright. The traditional politicians must follow suit and make an atmosphere for problem solving, imagination, creativity and vision in the parties, and also share space with other organizations and companies.

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