Unity by dictatorship of thought? Let's value our divergent points

The tension that exists between "what is" and "what could be" is the source of the sparks of innovation that propel us towards the development of transformative technologies, social reforms, and cultural renaissances.



18 Feb 2024 07:34am
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Malaysia is a country that is both multiethnic and multireligious. When we talk to an audience from around the world, we are proud of the diversity that we represent.

But diversity is not limited to the clothes that we wear. Any group of individuals, regardless of size, is anticipated to have a variety of ways of thinking.

Confronting someone who does not share our viewpoint can be a highly unsettling experience; for this reason, we like to have a unified line of thinking. The most straightforward approach to achieving cohesion is to have those in positions of authority dictate what we ought to think.

Recently, an American scholar was subjected to harassment even before he arrived in Malaysia. For having the audacity to contradict the sentiments of the general public, a few filmmakers were charged in court for wounding the religious feelings of others.

Instead of disputing whether these actions are valid, I am curious about the possible ways in which one can assert the truth without having an idea challenged. A parallel can be drawn with the notion that courage is not the lack of fear or that iman (faith) is not the absence of testing.

The development of society is not based on a single point of view; rather, it depends on the robust interaction that differing points of view enable. Not only do we become closer to a more profound comprehension of the truth through heated disagreements, but also through the quiet conversations that take place.

The existence of divergent points of view serves to stimulate innovation, cultivate empathy, and ultimately pave the way for the development of more complete answers to the complicated problems that we are currently facing.

It is possible for a community that is characterised by competing viewpoints to appear divided and turbulent at first glance. This is an argument I have heard from those who believe democracy leads to instability.

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Nevertheless, underlying this seeming disagreement lurks a mechanism that is vital for the progress of society, and that mechanism is the process of challenge and refining. Ideas are put to the test, scrutinised, and either validated or reconfigured. In this crucible of public conversation, assumptions are called into question and understanding is deepened, which ultimately leads us to a version of the truth that has been thoroughly scrutinised from a variety of perspectives.

Take, for example, the process by which scientific breakthroughs are achieved: through the use of hypothesis, experimentation, and critical review. Differences in theoretical perspectives and variations in the interpretation of facts are essential to the progression of knowledge.

To a similar extent, in the context of societal discourse, opposing opinions serve as hypotheses that, when subjected to rigorous debate, lay the groundwork for a conclusion that has been thoroughly proven. When it comes to the development of collective knowledge, this process may be unsettling and even controversial, but it is essential for progress.

In addition, appreciating other points of view fosters empathy and produces a society that is more accepting of diversity. People are able to develop a higher ability to comprehend and empathise with others when they are encouraged to engage with perspectives that are different from their own.

The concept of empathy is not limited to only being courteous or tolerant; rather, it is a constructive force that facilitates cooperative problem-solving and a recognition of our common humanity. When we are still questioning the loyalty and contribution of different races in 2024, empathy will bring Malaysians together.

Last but not least, divergent points of view encourage innovation by posing a challenge to the established order.

It is possible for civilizations to conceive of new possibilities when individuals have the freedom to express thoughts that are not conventional.

The tension that exists between "what is" and "what could be" is the source of the sparks of innovation that propel us towards the development of transformative technologies, social reforms, and cultural renaissances.

Nevertheless, in order for divergent points of view to be constructive rather than harmful, there are a few requirements that need to be satisfied. There must be a context of mutual respect, a commitment to civil conversation, and a desire to listen to and take into consideration opposing points of view among the people.

Additionally, it is imperative that the integrity of the facts and evidence be maintained. Although individuals may hold varying perspectives, the intentional manipulation of facts undermines the basis upon which healthy debate is built.

Getting to the truth is not accomplished by eradicating our differences; rather, it is accomplished by dealing with them in a constructive manner. The societies that are vibrant, robust, and adaptable are the ones that facilitate the expression and discussion of contrasting viewpoints.

The search for truth, whether it be in the sphere of science, politics, ethics, or any other area of human endeavour, results in the greatest possible outcomes when a multiplicity of voices are able to participate in the conversation.

Therefore, let us value our divergent points of view as the stepping stones that they are. As we traverse the complexities of the world around us, it is imperative that we keep in mind that it is frequently through our encounters with adversity and contradiction that we are able to achieve clarity and make progress.

It is in this convergence of viewpoints that we come closer, as a group, to a more complex and all-encompassing comprehension of the truth. May we then continue to welcome the interchange of ideas, for it is precisely in this convergence of perspectives that we arrive at this point.

Syaza Shukri, PhD, is an associate professor and the current Head at the Department of Political Science, IIUM. The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of Sinar Daily.

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