The Battle of Ideas

The Battle of Ideas

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The Battle of Ideas

Battle is honourable. It was in ancient times and it is today.

It was the towering intellect and magnificent philosophy of ancient Greece that first gave us democracy; the idea that underpins our freedom and prosperity. We’re casually confident that democracy is the simplest and fairest way to do things; it’s obvious isn’t it?

And yet, when democracy was taking its baby steps as the form of government in Athens, those citizens stood alone in the world, always on the brink of destruction as other civilisations with competing ideologies, saw to crush them.

They required some serious zeal to survive. A condition of citizenship for this little Greek democracy was to be soldier upon demand. When invaders came, every citizen would seize his own shield and sword, ready to defend the city. This was a time when combat was necessary and it was honourable. It was an honour to defend their society and democracy. Yes, it was war of bloodshed. But it was also a battle of ideas.

It’s comforting that humans have moved away from such horrific bloodshed. But we are the generation that was born when Fukuyama declared the ‘end of history.’ The belief that Western liberal democracy had won and there existed no competing views for how humans should run society, plunged us into an unparalleled complacency.

Our reluctance to enter any kind of contest is overwhelming. The calls for ‘consensus’ and ‘kinder, gentler politics’ are loud and persistent. Safe spaces and collective groups, where people are protected from being offended, breed in places of higher learning. Mon Droit has spent more time analysing the poor quality of student debate, rather than what is being debated.

It is time for the inheritors of democracy to re-enter the battle of ideas. As much as we’d like our problems solved by holding hands in a happy circle and talking about how marvellous it is when we have consensus, that is not how we get the best. The best arrives when there is a real contest on the political stage, with winners and losers. Heated screaming matches over the dispatch box in parliament surface the best ideas, much to the constant suprise of the intellectual class.

Free markets versus communisim, democracy versus dictatorship, big government versus small government, republic versus monarchy; all ideas fought out ferociously.

But it’s not just politics where we can fight it out. It’s in newspapers like Mon Droit. ‘Readership for good starts here,’ because in these pages you’ll read the best on politics, economics, the arts and culture. Reading and writing is how we will find the solutions to new, dangerous challenges we’re facing. If this is our starting point, maybe the ‘leadership for good’ that USyd so desperately wants will have a chance to emerge.

In the Middle East, a medieval cult runs riot, exporting its message of destruction internationally and reminding us that there Western liberal democracy has far from won. Since the GFC, economists have been sent back to their chalkboards and governments like Australia’s still don’t know how to manage the problem of huge debt and a slow economy. The ‘End of History’ generation watched their parents work full time jobs, but their prospects in the job market are looking far less certain.

Battle is honourable. It was in ancient times and it is today. The challenges are there for the tackling. Intense debate and conversational Odysseys must become common between students. The ideas of the future rest in our hands. With that responsibility, we citizens are mad not to enter the battle, aren’t we?

But it’s not just politics where we can fight it out. It’s in newspapers like Mon Droit.

battle in athens

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