From international conflict through to Twitter battles, it appears as though tension and clashes have become integral to our everyday. JCU student Katherine Oakland explains why diplomacy is important and how we need to learn more about the art and skill of listening to people who we disagree with.
Opinions are scary things. More and more in this world we favour ignoring opinions that oppose our own in favour of living in a perpetual echo chamber. It can be hard, sitting and truly listening to an opinion that you disagree with, or to put your differences aside to work with someone. But that’s what drives change in the world, and diplomacy is the vehicle of that. Working together, not tearing people apart, is what makes true change in the world.
Topics such as gender equality, freedom of expression and the rights of indigenous peoples can spark such fervid passion that ignites into deadly conflict around the world. Violence, silencing of free speech and even killings can occur between those of separate views — just look at Charlottesville, where protesters and anti-protesters got so violent that a woman was killed.
So what is diplomacy? It can defined as the art of dealing with people in a sensitive and tactful way. We have been practising diplomacy for centuries, so why now have we fallen so out of tune? We’ve become so militant towards those that oppose us that we’ve stopped to think about diplomacy. A diplomat can change the world for the better, without violence or fighting. Free speech and diplomacy are intrinsically linked, and the expression of opinion is so important to a society that functions well.
Is it really what the world has come to, that we punish people for having opinions? Take Google engineer James Damore, who was fired earlier this year for privately releasing a memo that politely argued his opinion. He wasn’t a Klansman screaming about how all people of colour should be slaves, he just had an unpopular point of view. Even though most people disagree with it, is it really right to punish Damore for having his own opinions? That’s really why diplomacy is struggling in modern culture; it requires you to talk to people who don’t agree with you and come to a conclusion that works for everyone.
Maybe we all have something to learn something about being kind to those who oppose us, and make the world a better place for everyone, even those we don’t agree with.
If you would like to gain an appreciation of the role of law in social, economic, environmental and political contexts, find out more about the Bachelor of Laws. If you would like to develop practical skills in managing conflict, discover more about the Master of Conflict Management and Resolution.
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