Dare Converse on Politics, But with Reason, Open Mind

Jul 18 , 2021
By Eden Sahle

A group of us, friends, met over the weekend. Unsurprisingly, the conversation soon veered into politics. What was unexpected was when a friend who has never followed Ethiopian politics started talking about it passionately. We were further shocked over the uninformed conclusions he made and even tried to force us to accept his views.

These days, conversations and relationships amongst adults are becoming increasingly strained. A person that fails to endorse what people say ends up being labelled this or that. Often, many people think they are correct in every way and that others should validate what they say – no questions asked.

Unfortunately, one of the sad parts of bad politics is its ability to get the majority to waste time arguing over which side they are taking and who is accepting their views. Unlike personal wishes to stay neutral, people force us to blend in, speak, think and act alike. This is not only boring but also unnatural as we all have different experiences and views.

What struck me the most about listening to my friend, who tried to compel me to accept his overly generalised and impractical views, was that he felt patronised by my lack of endorsement. The fact that I disagreed with him was a sign that, as far as he was concerned, I were against his very existence. It is not just him. Every time I speak to most people, I am confronted with the usual expectations to align my thinking with theirs and failing to do becomes a source of irritation for them.

This should not be the case. It would help us all if we began to understand others’ views and not take what they say personally even when they disagree. It is diversity – the good, the bad and all sorts of things in between – that made Ethiopians who they are today. But to insist on having the same mindset is to deny the uniqueness of every individual equipped to contribute for the good of the people and the nation with different views.

The consequence of expecting everyone to think the same creates stereotypes and discrimination. It makes those that stand ground with what they believe in and their values to become outcasts. It robs individuals of the right to hold an opinion and prevents them from finding compromises between one another.

It is best to have a new notion. The very fact of having a different opinion should not make anyone an antagonist. There is a will in each one of us that can do and think better if we are willing to let reason reign supreme. No one should force another to come to buy their ideas. This should come voluntarily.

Just as importantly, conversations should never end doused with negativity and disappointment. Somewhere along the way, we should all learn to listen and respect irrespective of the difference in opinion. We share ideas for the benefit of enriching our own experiences, our view of the world and the society around us. We converse and debate to understand better, not to shame and strong-arm the person on the other side of our views. The very essence of conversations is acknowledging there is often a difference between the person we are speaking with and us.

Throughout history, compromises and innovative ideas only came when it was possible for people to debate their views as freely as they choose them. Only when we are willing to admit that we may be wrong, when we are open to the possibility that we could be missing a piece of the puzzle, can we find ourselves wiser than when the conversation started.

We must respect one another enough to evaluate and learn from different views. If anything, this will help us entertain meaningful ideas that deserve to be upheld.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 18,2021 [ VOL 22 , NO 1107]

Eden Sahle is founder and CEO of Yada Technology Plc. She has studied law with a focus on international economic law. She can be reached at edensah2000@gmail.com.

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