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Debates and TV panels - All Heat and no Light!
No one has exclusive right to Truth. Everyone can see only a part of the Truth. Truth is the sum total of every ones partial experience of truth.

“Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise.” - James Surowiecki, The Wisdom of Crowds

“I am very cautious of people who are absolutely right, especially when they are vehemently so.” - Michael Palin, Diaries: The Python Years

India has a long tradition of debating, right from the Vedic period, Argumentative Indians that we are! In school and college debates we are asked to speak in favour of or against a motion. The choice of speaking for or against is mostly not with the contestants.

The purpose of this binary exercise is to prepare us for public speaking and do some out of the box thinking, to try to reason out the opposing point of view. In real life nothing is so black and white. The world is a spectrum of thousand shades of gray.

In my company, we had to make a presentation to the management team, to justify a project we were proposing. Next day, we had to make a presentation of why my own project was not justified. This analysis of pros and cons of the project enabled us to look at things with more open mind, rather than blindly pitching for my point of view.

We could then optimise the project details. It is said, that Debates generate Heat, whereas Discussions generate Light. That is very much so with today’s prime time TV panels. Each panellist has only one brief - ‘I am right and everyone else is wrong’.

Shouting and bawling crushes reason. The anchor is bawling, too. Everyone is talking and nobody is listening. Anchor tries to put words into the panellist’s mouth. Mayhem prevails. Nobody emerges as the winner. All are losers. The participants should heed Rev. Desmond Tutu advice - “Don't raise your voice, improve your argument".

Watching, I am more than confused than before. In search of high TRPs it’s only the channel which is laughing all the way to the bank. So, I have stopped watching these money-spinning prime time fiascos. On the other hand, the more sedate Lok Sabha and Raj Sabha TVs are worth listening.

On similar subjects, the same participants present their points of view cogently and so do the others. Their behaviour is more mature. No shouting and other histrionics. At the end, the listener is in a better position to build one’s own opinion. Why this difference between public broadcasting systems and the commercial channels? TRPs, I suppose!

I think how we perceive the world or any issue depends largely on our background and its biases, education, direct experience and what we read or hear. No two persons are likely to have had the same ingredients, which go to form our knowledge base and opinions. It would be a very dull mono-cultural world, where everyone thought and lived the same way. Such monolithic, autocratic cultures do not allow for independent thinking, dissent or creativity and decay sooner, than later.

Discussion and Dissent are the hallmark of any progressive Democracy. Neither in Science nor in Society are there any final answers. This is the law of the Universe and is replicated at every stage in human affairs, too.

In Physics, depending on how we look at it, Light behaves as a wave form. If we change the methodology, Light appears as a Particle. Both methods are very valid. What do we make of it, for this Duality faces us everywhere? All Eastern philosophies accept this duality in Life and Nature.

Similarly, in any debate each point of view has a grain of Truth, which depends on our background, direct experience, etc. A very simplistic example: A foreigner who comes to India and is more obsessed with our chaos, filth, beggars and touts, etc. is likely to go back with a very negative impression and not encourage friends to go to India. Another foreigner who is more inclined to notice our very colourful culture, great heritage, hospitality, our great philosophies and religions and imposing monuments, will go back deeply impressed and encourage others to visit our country. Both the views have grains of Truth in them.

Rather late in life, a realisation dawned on me. Once after retirement, during my morning walk, I happened to be talking to my group, on the parallels in Physics and human affairs. A very elderly distinguished looking personality in spotless white stopped and eaves dropped on what I was saying.

He broke in gently and grabbed my hand. “I am taking you home”and walked me up to his apartment. His breakfast table was already laid. Over breakfast, he asked me to give him a write up about what I was telling my friends. In the evening with the write up I went to meet him. ‘Now explain’, which I did. He started incorporating in his lectures, examples I used to give him from Science. He made me edit his books and translate some.

He would continue to load me with ancient literature, and used to ask me what I picked up from them. In one book written around 4th century, I found something which made a great impact on me: The book explained that Jainism has three basic tenets. One of them is ‘Anekantvad’. Literarily it means - many angles. Its basic premise is:

No one has exclusive right to Truth. Everyone can see only a part of the Truth. Truth is the sum total of every ones partial experience of truth. Uncertainty Principle in Physics or Observer Effect seems to be saying the same thing!

Editorial NOTE: This article is categorized under Opinion Section. The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of In case you have a opposing view, please click here to share the same in the comments section.
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