There is considerable division within society today, traditional barriers of race, religion and gender still split people into groups, despite numerous attempts to reconcile differences. A typical response to these divisions, especially during conflict is:
“We need to agree more”
Well, ironically, I couldn’t disagree more. We do not need to agree more, we need to learn to disagree better.
When we try to forcefully agree to someone’s perspective, we lose the capacity to think critically. Individuality is denied, and society if nothing else becomes boring. The greatest ideas and inventions were the product of constant debate and struggle, transforming the idea into a better product than the original. Alexander Graham Bell, creator of the telephone in 1876, was ridiculed by companies who described his plan as having obvious limitations and nothing more than a toy. However, Mr Bell debated this perspective, continuing with his project, leading to one of the greatest inventions of history.
When we challenge ideas, we learn. We grow in our understanding and use that to extend the knowledge of others. Nelson Mandela represented the South African people in the pursuit to end the Apartheid Regime. Through his ability to challenge concepts which had become entrenched within society, Mandela became influential in the transformation of South Africa.
However, we need to disagree better. We need to disagree on ideas and concepts NOT on feelings and emotions. When we disagree on feelings, we fall into the trap of attacking individual’s, leading to further division and conflict. We also lose the ability to think logically, meaning no positive or concrete outcome can be achieved. This is evident in the rise of third-wave feminism, an important topic for discussion, however; the utilisation of personal attacks and discussions based upon feelings ruined the credibility of the movement, leading to further tension and division then was present before.
Disagreement should not be discouraged, it is vital to the formation of complex ideas and opinions. However, we need to learn to disagree better, to disagree respectfully on views and not on emotions. Disagreement only leads to division if you let it.