Never invite me to a debate. If it’s for a conversation, a chat and even an unpretentious roundtable, that’s fine. I’ll be happy! But not for debate. Because I’m a bad debater.
Actually, I hate debates – as participant and spectator. And the hotter the worse. You will agree with me: there is something profoundly ridiculous about the act of gesturing, quoting So-and-so, making air quotes and raising the tone of voice in an attempt to convince your “adversary” that he is wrong. And there is something uncomfortably perverse about the act of watching this grotesque spectacle.
And yet, that’s exactly what people like. love. Heretically worship. So much so that we say to hold debates in the “public arena”, where the gladiators of rhetoric can even use a finger in the eye and kick in the lower parts (all symbolic) to crush the opponent. People (that creepy abstraction) love the foul puns on the opponent’s name, the arguments
ad hominem , the logical tricks, the parade of fallacies, the lying or misrepresented quotes – in short, the entire obscene arsenal of contemporary debaters.
When it comes to debate, I see myself more like the Ferdinand bull of classic cartoons – but without the innate talent to go horn and trampling the bullfighters. I spend my days there, or rather, here under this tree, smelling the wildflowers, reading Jones Rossi’s latest collection of poems, and playing irresponsibly with the bees. If I get stung, I run to the computer, write pretentiously well-drawn scrawled lines, and as soon as I put the full stop in the text, I go back to the ritual of sniffing the flowers under a tree. Leave me.
I’m such a bad debater that even when I’m right, that is, on 99, 9% of the times, so I find myself debating with someone I’m going to act French and hoist the little white flag. It doesn’t matter the subject. It can be politics, religion, behavior, culture, sport. In just seconds, I fake knockout just for the other to be happy and wear the tacky belt of reason. Do you want to call me an ass? of an imbecile? Make yourself comfortable.
Actually I don’t just fake the knockout. During those thirty seconds I really change my mind. I become a PT member, if I am debating with a PT member; I become an atheist, if someone is trying to convince me of the non-existence of God; I go on to defend the most indefensible behaviors in the world; I say I’m a fan of Regina Casé; and I even recognize that Athletico is a good team. All to avoid the rain of droplets on the other side.
Not that my convictions have fragile foundations. Far from it! After a certain age, the greatest danger is to have convictions that are too solidly founded and that never submit to the beneficial corrosive effect of reflection. So I try to maintain a healthy level of malleability. But you can rest easy. After the regular thirty seconds, I always regain what I consider common sense. And if I consider it common sense, it’s because it’s common sense. I prefer to say that what happens in those thirty seconds is rather a glimpse of reality seen through the eyes of others, during which I almost (almost!) understand how anyone can be a PT, an atheist, a fan of Regina Casé and an athletican. Almost.
I don’t understand the usefulness of debates. In theory, they would serve to give people elements so that they could form their own opinion, allying themselves with this or that side of the dispute. In reality, however, debates are just distractions that invariably humiliate debaters and audiences. The debaters because the “winner”, if he has character, will feel sorry for the defeated. The “defeated” because he spoke nonsense or succumbed to the superior arguments of the opponent. Or because he insisted on the mistake.
And the audience because, far from forming his own opinion from the arguments used as sharp blades by the debaters, enters the public arena with an opinion already formed. And he exposes himself to the victory or defeat of others as if it were his own. Worse, I’ve never known a single debater who was a good loser, accepting the outcome of the quarrel. The audience, even after a beating of arguments, will always claim to be victorious or the victim of a great injustice – to be avenged in the next debate.