Hamel: Controversy is the fruit of conversation


Columnist Peyton Hamel encourages individuals to engage in controversial conversations to better society and education. 

Peyton Hamel

Controversy is the fruit of conversation, the core of the apple. But we are too narrow-minded nowadays to productively use controversy to our advantage. (By productive, I mean to persuade someone else to understand to align with a desired viewpoint.) Controversial discussions usually shouting notions or disgruntled facial gestures.

Is it true we are incapable of endorsing productive, controversial discussion? I hope not.

We pigeon-hole our thought narratives into straight, linear burrows that limit our thinking and problem-solving ideas. Our burrows extend beyond regular discussion; it inhibits science, politics and social justice. We are either too focused on touting a certain viewpoint or scared of harming another that we forget that that the solution to the problem is the focus.

We need to learn to diversify our discussions to enhance productivity in science, politics and social justice. Is our progress stagnated?

We are limiting ourselves.

If we cannot effectively communicate to each other, then there is no point in discussion at all. Examining scientific issues will contribute to a more accurate vision of sciences, which broadens to other areas of study, according to M. P. Silverman’s publication “Raising Questions: Philosophical significance of controversy in science.”

Controversy contributes to social attitudes as well:

“More trusting in society.

More politically confident.

More socially integrated” and more.

Every controversy possesses its own spectrum of opinions; that’s what makes democracy work. Yet, we are too focused on extreme opinions to derive a resolution through our superb capability of problem-solving. Maybe we are too headstrong in our opinions to calmly have a productive conversation concerning such controversies.

Why conversations would you be able to handle calmly?

Abortion. Legal or illegal?

Mental health. Legitimate or illegitimate?

Immigration. By the number or by the qualification?

Racism. Institutional or individual or anywhere at all?

We do not have to live in a world that swears by dualist dichotomies, the yin and yang. Moderate areas exist for these purposes. However, moderate solutions do not always mean they are the most effective solutions. 

It is true that you need to stand for your opinion, but it is also true that you need to consider your community and those that would be impacted by the controversy. What if a woman was raped and got pregnant? What if someone who did not receive academic accommodations in high school or college because their mental health was not deemed legitimate? What if someone who immigrated from Vietnam was forcefully deported back to Vietnam, but didn’t speak the language? What if?

We need to ask these questions to increase the quality of our community and nation as a standard for the whole, not for the individual. Imagine if we lived by moderation instead of if we lived by extremes. How the world would feel a little bit warmer than it did before. We might end up appreciating each other a little bit more, too.

Break the script.

Engage in controversial discussion, but do not succumb to the abrasive nature of binary politics. The only way we can improve as individuals and as a nation is if we engage in controversy in a productive, beneficial manner.