Things that I think and do
Just imagine for a minute that we lived in a world where everyone agreed on everything. If you find that difficult, imagine living in North Korea – that might help.
It’s still a tricky job though. Imagine Galileo had agreed with virtually everyone else in the world that the Sun went around the Earth. Imagine Hitler had agreed with Chamberlain that he probably didn’t need to invade Poland in 1939 and that being racist and anti-Semitic isn’t really cool. Imagine how boring it would be if Jeremy Paxman agreed with everyone on Newsnight about every topic all the time.
Most of my history degree involves studying groups of people who disagree with each other and discussing their arguments. I might then have to pick a side to agree with, or perhaps invent a new way of disagreeing with the original point.
My seminars on civil rights in America would be really short if white people had agreed that yes, it’s entirely reasonable for African Americans to demand social equality. Obviously in this case it’s not really good form to agree with the racists (nor, I imagine, is it ever), but my point is that disagreements create history. Put more dramatically, they’ve moulded the world we live in.
If Martin Luther hadn’t disagreed with the Pope about priests having divine power, would we still live like seventeenth-century Catholics? What if Rosa Parks had acquiesced to the rather unpleasant white person demanding that she move from her seat on the bus? Where would we be now if my university didn’t agree with students that anything more than £2.30 is an extortionate price for a meal deal in the Union?
Big big questions. There are just too many things to disagree with in the world today for this kind of thing to always work and for change to come about.
Thousands of students disagreed with the ludicrous decision to make us pay almost £10,000 for tuition fees a couple of years ago; did that change anything? Like hell did it. Every time I go to London I disagree on principle that a pint should cost more than £3. That’s not going to make every pub in London half their beer price though. Because, sadly, basic economics and the government don’t agree with me (or students in general, to be honest).
Then again, if politicians agreed all the time we wouldn’t live in a democracy. Surely democracy’s Big Thing is varied opinion and difference – we have two opposing parties, they disagree with each other and we disagree with them. That’s how it works. To be fair, from what I know of Communist Russia that featured quite a lot of disagreement as well, but that wasn’t what was supposed to happen, whereas in democracy it is.
I fear I’m strolling casually into the realms of political analysis, which I’m not qualified and too worried about correction by pedants to do. The point to take from that small digression is that disagreement is what our country runs on. It’s found across the world on, right down to the level of one bloke disagreeing with the extortionate price of a drink in Picadilly Circus.
If we all agreed on everything all the time the world might be a better place. But it would also be a decidedly uninteresting place.