According to Moises Naim, polarization, together with populism and post-truths, is one of the three p’s undermining democratic societies.
Observing the public debate, which is becoming more and more polarized, it seems we are losing our ability to talk with people who have other opinions. Instead, we talk about them.
We try to classify people who have a different opinion than us, with a label. Once this label has been issued, we feel we do not have to enter in debates with them anymore. On the contrary, we try to prevent debates, since this would provide our opponents with an opportunity to share their opinions.
The difficulty however is that the effectiveness of human societies depends on our ability to cooperate and reconcile our differences.
A splendid illustration of this are the Dutch polders.
Although I think the Dutch in general are not shy of clearly expressing their opinions (present company included!), between the 1000-1300 AC, far away from a central government, people involved in creating and maintaining polders had no choice but to reconcile their differences in opinion and conflicts of interests, for the greater good of – literally – keeping their feet dry.
For this reason ‘The rest is politics’ is my favorite podcast.
In case you have not heard about it yet, ‘The rest is politics’ is a podcast presented by Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, two presenters at the opposite ends of the political spectrum. Alastair Campbell is a strong supporter of the Labour party and former Director of Communications and Strategy under PM Tony Blair. Co-host Rory Stewart was a former cabinet minister for the Tory party.
In their podcast, they discuss domestic (UK), as well as international politics. Most of the time just with the two of them, and occasionally with a guest (e.g. Keir Starmer and William Hague).
One of the purposes of their podcast is, according to the description, ‘bringing back the lost art of disagreeing agreeably’.
I think they are extremely successful in this mission, and I am not the only one: the podcast is currently ranked number 1 in the Apple Podcast chart in the UK.
I hope this podcast will inspire many listeners to also ‘start practising the lost art of disagreeing agreeably’. I certainly intend to do so!
PS: I am also looking forward to listening to all episodes of Rory Stewart series on the BBC radio titled ‘‘The Long History Of Argument – from Socrates to social media’.
“We live in a time when argument defines us and divides us. In this program I try to show the long, often beautiful history of argument and why arguing well and truthfully matters so much to our democracies and our lives.”Rory Stewart