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One of the first things I did after seeing the depressing election news this morning was check to see which of my Facebook friends ‘like’ the pages of the Conservatives or David Cameron, and unfriend them. (Thankfully, none of my friends ‘like’ the UKIP page.) Life is too short, I thought, to hang out with people who hold abhorrent political views, even if it’s just online.
This marked a change of heart for me. Usually, I try to remain engaged with such people in the hope that I might be able to change their views through debate. (Admittedly, I don’t always engage constructively with them. Sometimes, late at night, when my brain is too tired to do anything fancy and I spot an offensive tweet by a UKIP supporter, the urge to murder them in 140 characters is too difficult to resist.) Did I do the wrong thing? Should I have kept my conservative friends?
I’m not so sure. I am attracted by the view that we should all keep the debate open, discuss our political views, take other people’s views into account, and revise and improve our own as we all benefit from this dialogue. I’m attracted by the view that there is such a thing as progress in politics. But—depressingly—I’m far more sceptical than I was yesterday about how much of a difference we can make with political debate. There are several reasons for this.
One is that, in much of British culture, people are uncomfortable with debate about politics.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.