In an age of populism, discussion and debate remain crucial


The world has entered a new age, no longer are people apathetic about politics; but, they refuse to comprehend or understand any argument counter to their own beliefs.

 

One prime example of this is the EU Referendum that would not have occurred without the constant challenge of political norms and beliefs by the media, MPs, pressure groups and political parties. Moreover, the rise of populism in Europe and the US is another case. People who were formerly apolitical or had been voting for the same established parties much of their lives, now enthusiastically embrace unconventional candidates who express themselves not as politicians, but as friends of the people, with goals and policies shunned by more traditional politicians.

However, electoral victory for a political issue or candidate should not entail the dismissal of other arguments against the main narrative. In fact, the world is experiencing this great upheaval because individuals challenged the set norms — Brexit and the electoral victory of Trump being prime examples. Others must be able to voice their opinions and express their discontent with the political framework. The essence of democracy, after all, being healthy debate as one of the foundations of a democratic state.

But in our new political climate we seem to find that any debate which is against this populist movement is either perceived as individuals complaining about their loss, or worse; rejecting the democratic will of the populace. But there remain many that are not satisfied with the rise of activism, and they too have the democratic right to challenge the new order and have their grievances heard and represented.

These people should not be dismissed; rather, their opinions and aims should be acknowledged. Moreover, supporters of the new order need to allow others the space to debate, without accusing them of being the elite or not respecting democratic values. We must remember that democracy itself permits everyone to express their opinions, without the fear of ridicule or bullying by others who fail to agree with our views.

The world is embracing a new order, this should be respected. But others should be allowed to challenge and hold this new order to account — a right which too must be respected. Clocks cannot be turned back for another result. But that doesn’t mean that all those who disagree with it are bigots and racists; such an attitude only goes to discredit those representing the new order.

Two opposites do not have to agree, but they do have to respect that the other side exists. Otherwise, what was the point of establishing the new order if it proves to be as dogmatic as the old one?

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