No human has agreed completely with those around him. Given our individuality, everybody holds different views about the world. Carefully-argued disagreement has led to compromises essential to some of the greatest accomplishments in history. However, dissent that simply provokes a quarrel threatens the future of a civilized society.
The Founding Fathers of the Constitution drafted an important and lasting document. They had to outline the first system of government in the world that offered democracy to a significant portion of its citizens. The fact that these principles continue to run the country two centuries later is a testament to the success of their achievement.
The Founding Fathers had extensive debates over the role of the new government they were creating.
Federalists wanted greater influence for the educated elite, while their opponents, the Anti-Federalists, valued the opinions of the masses in government.
Both sides respected the other’s arguments and reasoning, since they outlined their positions with moral evidence rather than attacked their opponents.
The Constitution rested on many compromises which arose from these debates, revealing the significance of these disagreements. Anti-Federalists denounced the initial draft of the Constitution as creating a dangerously powerful national government. Their disagreement led to the compromise of adding a Bill of Rights to the document, which ensured that the federal government could not infringe on liberty or property.
Disagreement between the Founding Fathers was instrumental in creating a balanced and lasting document that would serve as the outline of many other democracies in the following centuries.
America today is becoming increasingly polarized. The media often paints one political party as a great evil, and the public continues to consume these claims. All this language has resulted in deep dissent within the country – between politicians as well as in the general public.
During the presidential debates and continuing today, Donald Trump denounces his opponent as “Crooked Hillary.” He also condemns Obama’s accomplishments as President. Trump thus perpetuates quarrels that serve no productive purpose for the American government. Along with right-wing media, Trump’s dissent rallies his supporters against the enemy – liberals. This rhetoric prevents people from recognizing the merits of opposing arguments and beliefs.
On the other hand, many liberals have organized large-scale protests against the President. With the rallying cry #NotMyPresident, they refuse to recognize the legitimacy of the President or his actions. Many automatically believe any Trump supporter is stupid.
These actions result in an America divided into two factions that acknowledge their opponents’ views only as opposition. Such quarrels have also stalled the proper functioning of government. In the legislature, politicians now vote almost exclusively with their party, refusing to recognize the arguments of the other side. The parties themselves are ideologically aligned, meaning that a politician is now forced to hold mostly liberal or mostly conservative positions.
With the growing disparity between opposing politicians’ views, compromise is nearly impossible to achieve. Such political dissent prevents a unified and successful democracy. Exacerbated by the media, growing dissent in America threatens the country’s future as a successful democratic society.
Orwell’s 1984 portrays the drawbacks of a society where reasoned disagreement is impossible.
The Party completely controls the people of Oceania, who are unable to act on their human emotions. The Party implemented Newspeak, a language where it is impossible to formulate a thought critical of the Party. There is no word for liberty, freedom, and many other important notions – so any attempt to argue against the current way of life is futile. Winston spends years trying to complain about the Party, but all he can do is dissent. He is unable to put forth logical arguments, so the Party ultimately converts him to just another reverent citizen. Since nobody is receptive to opposing viewpoints, Oceania’s society will remain in its current state.
Goldstein’s book exposes this sentiment by describing how the Party will have perpetual control over its citizens once the society shifts entirely to Newspeak. This future cements the inability to disagree and along with it the chance of changing the system. The Party will forever suppress basic human emotions of joy and sadness when coherent disagreement is impossible.
A democratic society rests on the ability to disagree, while dissent threatens its future. The Constitution, a great accomplishment in human history, endures today due to the reasoned disagreements between its founders.
However, America’s future is threatened by unproductive dissent that produces quarrels. 1984 warns us about the despair of a society where disagreement cannot exist. There is no progress in Oceania controlled by a Party unreceptive to change. It is important to encourage disagreement so that society can continue to advance and thrive.