“Let’s agree to disagree”

Ruth Clarke (MICRI 11)
Have you ever heard of that very British phrase: “let’s agree to disagree”? It’s basically a nice way of saying that you will tolerate one another and move on regardless of the difference in your opinions. If there is anything that the eventful year of 2016 has taught us it is that this traditional consensus has melted away, the status quo has been broken: in the political world, in the media and even in our interpersonal relations. Change is coming from all directions. In fact this is probably the only thing we can agree on…
The UK is a perfect example of this change. Traditional attempts at taking into account as broad a range of opinions as possible in order to prevent the domination of one single group has been lost. In the North the Independence movement in Scotland is relighting its torch and regathering its support; in the South, the momentum of the populist movement UKIP continues after their Brexit success, and finally; across the water, in Northern Ireland, the recent elections demonstrated that the Unionists failed to win a majority of seats for the first time. Where all three movements appear to be worlds apart, they all contribute to breaking up the foundations of Westminster and disempowering the empowered. Therefore, the breaking force has many faces but all with the same origin. As May begins her tour of the UK in order to try and find some kind of Brexit consensus, we should begin to question how you obtain consensus and is it necessary in 2017?
In order to answer the former part of this question one could look at the role of the media. After all we are living in the post-truth era, where objective facts aren’t fashionable anymore and public opinion can be more easily shaped by emotion or personal belief or even “fake news”. Take for example, the topic of climate change: despite the fact that 97% of climate scientists agree on global warming, the public perception is that only 45% of climate scientists agree that global warming exists. As a result of this, the topic is not prioritised and often gets lost in the agenda. The problem is that where there is no doubt that social media has a formidable power to empower citizens and deepen conversations thus allowing all decisions to be informed ones, the infinite space for information, tweets, articles, photos etc. means there is always room for somebody to disagree, therefore coming to a consensus is likely to never be achieved.

Now to the latter part of our question, is it necessary to obtain a consensus in politics? If the primary objective is to have all interested parties moving forward regardless of what road they’re taking then yes it is necessary. However, moving forward in the wrong direction solely to please all of the interested parties could be more harmful that not moving forward at all, therefore it’s better to think next time we are planning to “agree to disagree".