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Controversies, Discrepancies and Differences in Intellectual Discourse -Article


Differences of opinions and divergent views are integral part of any intellectual discourse and they should be encouraged to generate healthy and meaningful debate on matters of local, regional, national and international interests. Having different perspectives about an issue is natural and it is only by working through those different views that we come to term and develop a common understanding of the issue. Diversity, be in ideas and views, culture, or society, is a strength if used wisely. However, very often an intellectual discussion is, unfortunately, turned into a controversial debate mainly because of the discussants’ inability to work through diverse views, opinions and arguments presented in the discourse. Sometimes the discussants are so rigid in their own ideas and views that they do not even try to understand other’s perspectives. They think that they are always right and others are always wrong, and therefore they fail to understand and appreciate other’s perspectives. This is how controversies and discrepancies arise in an intellectual discussion. My intention in this brief article is not to criticize any particular individual or intellectual discussion, but to discuss how and why differences, controversies, and discrepancies occur in an intellectual discussion.


Most controversies, discrepancies, and differences usually develop when we want to see things the way we want them to be, rather than seeing them the way they are. Very often, we try to mold a situation the way we want it to be, instead of changing ourselves in order to develop harmony with the situation. We want a sunny day change into a rainy and a rainy one into a sunny, instead of changing ourselves to be able to enjoy and appreciate both the sun and the rain. We do not get tired of complaining about what we do not have, instead of celebrating what we have. We hold others responsible for our own failures, instead of reflecting on where we went wrong and why we failed. Very often, we see a problem in a person, an institution, or in a social phenomenon rather than exploring if the problem is with our own attitude and the way we look at and construe the person, the institution, or the social phenomenon. Self-assessment is almost non-existent in our education and training and therefore it is not seen in our attitude and practice. The famous Chitrali proverb captures it well, “taan gerdani sanjeero no poshi khuro gerdani drowo te khashap”. Our list never ends when we start counting the weaknesses of others but never take a pause and put ourselves into their shoes and then see ke ham khud kitne pani mai hai.


From an academic point of view, most controversies and differences occur when a piece of knowledge about a person, an institution, an event, and/or a social phenomenon is accumulated through mere speculation or information based more on opinions than on solid evidences. If a piece of knowledge/information about an individual, organization, event or a phenomenon is acquired and constructed through systematic research or critical analysis of the facts supported by hard evidences, it becomes a more legitimate piece of knowledge which is objective and convincing, and it therefore leaves little room for discrepancies, controversies, and counter arguments. It may not be possible to carry out systematic research to prove or justify each and every bit of information, but it is quite possible to minimize controversies, discrepancies and differences by qualifying statements, avoiding fuzzy generalizations, and not giving the ‘final verdict’ about a person, organization, event or a social phenomenon. Most of the intellectual discussions and debates in the electronic and print media in Pakistan often reflect loyalty, fidelity, and empathy towards an issue on one hand and unrestrained emotions, one-sided stories, allegations, and cynicism on the other hand. The focus in such discussions and debates is more on defending one’s own stance and position than exploring the root causes and developing a common understanding of the issue under scrutiny.


Controversies and discrepancies also emerge when we take rather a vindictive approach to defend our position and view point in an intellectual debate. In doing so, we sometime cross the professional and ethical borders by criticizing people rather than criticizing their ideas, approaches, philosophies, and point of view. Personal attack on people also stems from the fact that we cannot control our emotions while taking part in a debate. I do agree that writing itself is an expression of the writer’s emotions, deep feelings, experiences, and wisdom but any writing meant for the public use should serve the purpose of generating new knowledge or adding to the existing knowledge base rather than serving the purpose of expressing the writer’s own emotions, feelings, like and dislike. Our very approach to writing on any issue should be rationale—not emotional. If a writer takes a neutral approach to discuss and debate around an issue, it becomes the issue of everyone who reads it, but if the discussion on the issue is revolving around the writer’s own stories and interests only, not many people would be interested in further exploring the issue. It is therefore important to keep in mind while writing for the public domain that the writer detaches himself/herself from the topic of discussion in order to provide a more objective and biased-free account of the issue under discussion.


Much of the controversies and discrepancies can be avoided in an intellectual discourse if the writers can make sincere efforts to explore ‘both sides of the coin’, instead of dwelling too much on narrating any one side of the coin. It is always desirable to begin with the ‘glass half full’ than starting from the ‘glass half empty’. It is important to paint a balanced and complete picture of a person, institution or event under discussion in order to fulfill the intellectual, technical, and ethical dimensions of an enlightening discourse.
 

Dr. Mir Afzal Tajik
Arkari, Chitral.

04 June 10.

 

 

Controversies, Discrepancies and Differences.... -Comment 1

 

Dr Tajk has rightly commented on the issue which our society encounters today.  It is a thought provoking, simple and interesting article.
 

Musa Ali
Dain, Ishkoman District Ghizar

21 June 10

 

 

 

Controversies, Discrepancies and Differences....Comment 2

 

I really appreciate Dr. Mir Afzal Tajik who has pointed out very important points regarding so called intellectual discourse. I personally accept some of the writers and analysts who have capacities to analyze any issue or concept keeping in view the cultural sensitivities and contextual realities. Unfortunately this ground is very open to each and every body who jumps over the ground and starts to open his / her own frustrations and personal dislikes with some illogical, judgmental and irrational arguments. They consider themselves equal to those writers who are well known and have capacities to analyze any concern in a better way. It is just like the story of the comedian poet Ghulamuddin who presents his poem in a high profile mushaira where all the remarkable poets are invited. He come in front and says , Ghulamuddin Iqbal se bara shair hai

Everybody laughs when a person situates himself in a higher position than Allama Iqbal. People are waiting for the next verse. Then he gives the justification of his superiority by saying that

Ghulamuddin Iqbal se bara shair hai
Wahan Bang-e-Dara hai Yahan Kuch bi Nahi Hai.

Here I am not going to criticize the new writers who come forward with the zeal and enthusiasm to improve themselves in this important field but I can make request to all the writers to use their knowledge and experiences for the betterment of society rather making misconceptions and exaggerations about anything which definitely create misunderstanding among the people. I also request to Chitral news administration not to encourage those elements by giving them opportunity in various intellectual discourse. I do hope the article written by Dr Tajik will play crucial role in the academic as well as the mental development of our educated group of people.

Ali Akber Qazi
London, U.K

24 June 10

 

 

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