Debate: A View

Posted on March 19, 2010


Debate: A View
As published in
Areej T. Fuad


Debate is subversive. Debate is intellectual. Debate is an avenue of cogitation. Debate can be controversial. Debate is either mind-bending or mind-numbing. Debate is epoch-making?

Whatever your definition may be, mine is simple; fun.

It was back in 2005 that I started to debate. My eager hands hoisted as a ‘calling’ from an English teacher was heard one fine Monday morning at the assembly. I was completely clueless about debating at that point. Thinking back on how I was indoctrinated by that teacher about debating, I think I might just poke her in the eye. I suppose most school debaters are thought to memorize texts written by their teachers during competitions-a technique that would only work in Dato’ Wira Cup, definitely not IIU Inter-school Debate Champs. This is an utterly bad approach to debating, albeit it effectively improves your manner, it stifles your credibility to think creatively and critically. As a debater, I believe, it is crucial to be able to think at your feet and present your arguments in your own way, your own words. I hope any relevant (presumably English teachers) individuals who might be reading this article would change their way. That is if my humble writing is effective enough in addressing this matter.

Looking back, I never had fun. I never really thought debating would be fun-despite the fact that I get to meet new people each tourney. Now, I always feel that ‘pissing’ on my opponents is hell loads of fun-even if I’m pretty much screwed up.

As I grow older, perhaps wiser, I realize the artistic value in debating; there are many techniques, skills and ideas that vary in every debater. An art is always appreciated and respected. In debates, you will definitely, at least for once, listen to awe-inspiring speeches. The artistic value of debating lies in the core of the debate itself. It hinges on how the debaters themselves enrich their arguments.

As a learner, impediments or hurdles tend to get in the way; especially when you’re going against awesome speakers that would make you feel like Amy Winehouse after rehab. But I’m glad to say that these obstacles actually help. They make you learn hard (but please be gentle on me ya).

But there’s one thing I can’t resolve; it seems like I keep getting ‘shocked’ every time I return to debating after a long hebetude. Sluggishness, which thwarts me from thinking on my feet, is a disease I can’t seem to cure. Saddening isn’t it. It’s like a mind implosion with an adrenaline rush adding to perpetually existing jitters. It’s rather bemusing how I can’t seem to ‘spew’ my words right even when they’re at the very tip of my tongue. And so I end up sounding like a dunderhead with an addled brain; I don’t make sense. All the bleak words would leak and punish my own thoughts-not only my bemoaning self-and sinks me to the brink of a murky, blurry world. God, all the exaggerations! It is for certain that I don’t have all the facts in the world at the back of my head all the time, but its this antagonizing situation where I can’t seem to argue sharply when I have too. But it only takes rounds of constant debates, probably “100 Plus” ingestion and intense excretion and I’m back in the game baby. At least I think so. I implicitly believe that the most important mission a debater has to fulfill is to make sense. Sounding like a complete idiot with no intellectual pedigree whatsoever is still forgivable you see-unless you’re P.Hil, a genuine dumb blonde.

I mean, your opponents may laugh at you as loud as they want to if your arguments are flimsy-but hey, at least you make sense.

As I said earlier, debate is the right avenue for cogitation. It permits debaters to cogitate on serious issues that have already spurred contentions within the society. It stimulates intense discourses that would enlighten the ignorant ones and make the intelligent ones look less intelligent. Debaters have this great tendency to think that they are always right; an intrinsic value to some debaters that I shall not name. he he. Nonetheless, debaters have certain roles to fulfill in a debate.

Debaters take an active concern in the relevant issues affecting our society today, and through the use of logical rigour attempt to convince people to adopt a certain stance or policy. We tend to address the pressing issues don’t we? Ideally debating should bring awareness to the audience of the implications of a certain issue, the considerations to be taken into account when deciding on said course of action, and the logical structure which ensures we make the best decisions.

Thus debate makes us think about how we can make people in general more happier! No. This is the desired long term effect, darlings-funny how you can table World Peace propaganda in just seven minutes. But at least, it pretty much paints a much prettier picture-we don’t exactly live in the Kingdom of Care with the Care Bears or in a completely utopian world, but heck, a less chaotic scene is highly preferred. Debating to others influences them to adopt such rigour of thought, which allows for a more informed and rational society – and we’re all better off that way when considering important decisions…so populist policies like anti-immigration don’t necessarily get passed easily without realizing that immigration is essential for some countries to survive. It’s so that any rhetoric doesn’t get popular support without considering national security, environmental, or economic implications…

Debating also makes people aware about how important these issues are, so that they start caring. Nothing destroys societies more than ignorance or apathy. Nothing can cripple an individual’s dignity and control over himself like the lack of information – because without that individual’s support , institutionalized racism would still exist, oppressing millions of people, and without the grasp of logic and rhetoric, he cannot affect change, because galvanizing people into action is the key to change, and ideas are the key to people. Thus, debaters are most likely to sound heroic in their speeches …


Of course, cynics(am I?) like me would decry debate as an example-faking exercise for esoteric academics, but deep in my heart I’m rather aware that miles away, people with greater abilities than mine are using them to abolish slavery, or perhaps misusing those same abilities to engender terrorism and genocide…

Be it discussing detention without trial in parliament, or social advocacy (changing laws especially) as a member of the public, the ability to debate means the ability to influence others-that is to change their set of values or beliefs- and thus the ability to wield potent power.

And then you wonder exactly how much power do ideas hold over society? Can something so intangible influence us so greatly in the tangible world?

The answer, as you all would know, is yes.

After all these years of debating, I still see myself as a weak speaker. I suppose experience by years can never really measure to your competency in anything. Some debaters are innately and genuinely, well, debaters. Some may need intensive and comprehensive training but let’s not forget the last group shall we? The insecure debaters. Gosh I sound like I can no longer fit in my size 4 jeans. Pfft.

Alas, herein lays the real problem to these insecure debaters. They lose confidence in their own credibility. Worse, they become skeptical with themselves and this will not only adversely affect their performance but the team as a whole. Perhaps, if you don’t take debate too seriously you may not underestimate yourself. Just have fun.

I keep telling myself that but….

No doubt debating makes you sound intellectual. But it’s like sports when you have it competitively. The real values of debating are never really to make you sound like the next president of the U.S. but makes you think deeply, come up with a rigorous analysis of the issues involved, think more openly (without having to change your own principles) and most importantly , have fun.

At the end of the day, the best team will win but it’s not the end for the losing team. Take it as a serious lesson. But remember, just debate, for the fun of it. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, but as long as you enjoy yourself, a meaningful experience is certainly priceless…

Areej Taufik Fuad is having fun ^_^