ALL NEWS ITEMS
This, being the 6th debate in the Zoom series, attracted record attendance and delivered a compelling session. The proposer, Bola Anike, presented a measured case for retaining the support of the middle class liberal consensus. She argued that fear of false accusations of racism, leads to decent people disengaging, which helps no-one. As in the Rochdale case of Asian grooming gangs, or the reticence by security staff to challenge the Manchester bomber, it was the stigma of racism that inhibited the logical response.
Too often mistakes are made out of insensitivity or lack of understanding, including unconscious bias. As for those boorish types who indulge in offensive behaviour; they look for ways to upset anyone, and are best avoided.
Accepting there is a level of racism in all societies, Bola noted the great strides made in the UK towards racial harmony over her 40 years as a Nigerian born citizen of this country.
The Opposer Sonal responded in a spirited and passionate way, citing personal experience of outright discrimination in various scenarios, such as exams, assessments and in her career within the medical profession. Persistently she testified that race was the factor which saw her under-valued time and again. From her specific experience she generalised about behavioural intolerance towards minorities in the UK.
The audience then intervened, and given the diverse composure on this night, were remarkably consistent in supporting the motion. We heard that union representation and dispute reconciliation were much to the fore these days, yet tended to show how complex these issues could be. It was largely agreed that to feel victimised is to lose sight of the bigger picture within society.
Bola’s conclusion was that by remaining positive and utterly determined to succeed the rewards will come. She asked us to accept that we are all different. So why not celebrate our uniqueness, and “wear it like a crown?”
The motion was carried by a 2/3rds majority.
This was a debate which met the highest standards, with two excellent speakers. Anthony Harris, a man of good cheer and an IT expert, spoke optimistically of the giant strides made by technology in the areas of car manufacturing, white goods, green energy sources, artificial foods and even light bulbs. His premise was that we can rely on technology to grasp the nettle without a serious erosion of western lifestyles. Giving the example of the international effort to develop covid vaccines with breathtaking speed, he foresaw mankind cooperating to achieve solutions to CO2 omissions and other factors causing global warning.
Opposing was Matthew Bird, who was far less convinced from his viewpoint as Lewes DC Counsellor and Climate Change lead at the Sussex Wildlife Trust. He noted the long term call for carbon capture technology which seems to be failing. The green grant schemes in the UK have been undermined by successive governments intent on sparing the public finances. While China may be leading the world with solar power, it is still commissioning new coal mines and fossil fuel plants at a colossal rate. Even the UK is in the planning stages for a new coal mine in Cumbria. Matthew was scathing about off-setting $7m for air flights ( Bill Gates) and claimed that only behaviour change by all of mankind could save the planet.
Audience members felt that vested interests meant companies rarely acted in the public good, but rather for their shareholders seeking short-term gain. The optimism was renewed by a recognition that young people are passionate about saving the planet, assuming they will inherit one that can be saved.
In March we discuss racist issues, “Racism is too easy a slur” and whether there is enough understanding and good faith to bring about harmonious race relations in our country.
November’s debate was our third via Zoom and attracted an even larger audience, including one Peter Andrews from Canada, his second appearance with us. The topic was “Universal Basic Income is a good idea” which seemed apposite in view of various Covid-19 bale-outs such as the furlough scheme. The speakers Raphael Hill and Paul Chandler delivered the pros and cons with aplomb, throwing light on a complicated subject. Both recognised the many unresolved issues, particularly on the funding side. Raphael championed the concept of a ‘floor’ income, and being universal, no-one would fall through the cracks. This would make it of particular value for those working in the creative arts. Paul, opposing such a scheme, stressed the potential cost and the fact that, as needs were not universal, UBI could never succeed. There were contributions from two thirds of the ‘audience’, and the concluding vote was 46% in favour of UBI, with 31% against and 25% abstaining.
We are hoping to make accessible previous Zoom debates via this web site, with the aim of inspiring greater interest and more participation.
After an unavoidable absence of several months we are delighted to announce that we are resuming activities from September 15th, and will be re-instating many of the debates from our previous programme. As our venue is still closed and is unlikely to reopen for hire imminently we have decided to follow the pattern of many other organisations, and much of the world debating community, by going online for a Zoom debate. We are optimistic that a large number of our members will by now be very familiar with this popular online meeting platform! Details for connecting to the Zoom session will be published at the beginning of September, so check back here regularly for updates, or join us on Meetup to receive emailed event reminders.
We have published a programme through to December 2020, and will decide the venue or online platform on a month-by-month basis as we receive updates from our venue at St John’s. If you have suggestions for topics for our 2021 programme do please make use of our Contact page
Following government advice about social gatherings during the Coronavirus crisis, we have decided to suspend our meetings until further notice. We will let everyone know as soon as ‘normal service’ is resumed, but in the meantime please take care, and stay safe. Trish Penney, Chair, Brighton and Hove Debating Society
Our latest venture, a hands on workshop, attracted 6 MeetUp visitors plus members of the society on March 10th all keen to gain confidence as future speakers. Jean Yates supervised the sessions having divulged some of the ‘tricks of the trade.’ Anthony Harris and Trish Penney were part of the mentoring team. Based on the success of this event, further workshops are likely incorporating the positive feedback received.
The desperate plight of the homeless was described by Patrick Wallace of St Annes Trust in a heartfelt and moving address that affected the audience deeply. In sharing his experience of working with the roofless for over 30 years, Patrick made special mention of young people caught up in this dilemma, and why so many end up on our streets.
That left the task of challenging the motion to Raphael Hill. In his articulate and well-informed response he highlighted several reasons why people reject the help on offer, and that resources in any case are always likely to fall short of demand.
The sympathy vote however, went with the proposer but with the many abstaining.
Our January debate on the topic “Privacy is a thing of the past” was passed by the narrowest of margins – just one vote separated those for and against. The Proposer focussed on the vast amounts of data collected about us all today from CCTV to online transactions. The Opposer agreed but pointed out that with so much data stored it would be almost impossible to identify a single individual in a way that would truly affect their privacy. There was also discussion of whether we ever had privacy in the pre-technology era when so much of our lives involved dealing directly with other people rather than anonymous machines. The audience contributions were as thought provoking as ever, with some recalling how we have all happily acquiesced in sharing our passports or other documentation when needed and others dwelling on the lessons of the “phone hacking” scandal of the last decade. As usual discussions over coffee continued long after he formal vote was taken and a thoroughly enjoyable evening was had by all.
The evening began in festive mood with wine and nibbles provided. This was the context for the Proposer’s good-humoured address on the joys of retreating into one’s private space to escape from an increasingly noisy and intrusive world.
This did little to prepare us for the onslaught that followed. In response the Opposer was at pains to highlight the torment of all those denied human contact due to incarceration, living alone or extreme ill-health. The fault lay in the motion which, in its absolutism, failed to recognise victims of solitude, so pronounced the Opposer.
By the sheer force of logic the motion was lost.
Our November event took the form of a discussion evening on the topic ‘Technology Stifles Imagination’. Discussion evenings are always lively events, with everyone taking the opportunity to contribute their thoughts in the less formal atmosphere than that of a traditional debate. On this occasion the majority of the audience felt that Technology did not stifle imagination, and after the vote had been taken, the discussion continued over a cup of coffee in our cafe.