Monday, 12 August 2013

No, I did not watch

the election debate in full. I saw some of it. I saw enough of it to know that I did not want to see more. What I saw was pretty much what I expected of both sides. 
Election debates make me cringe. They are never going to be serious intellectual debates. There is no time for that and that is not what people are there for anyway. Election debates are about selling yourself (and thus your party) to the voters.
We had debates at school. I can remember doing the first debates in the primary school. My father, who was my teacher at the time, set them up. His purpose was to try and give students some confidence about speaking in public. They were nice country kids and speaking in public was not their idea of fun at all. 
We had "morning talks" as well and, apart from my brother and the bank manager's son, the talks by the boys would invariably begin, "Mr...., girls and boys I want to talk about when we went 'rooing. The girls would often talk about kitchen activities or the football dance. Listening to many of them would be painful indeed, hence my father's efforts to get them to debate. 
We would, unlike election debates, have three on each side. In primary school we were given some help with the arguments. In secondary school, and we had moved yet again by then, the first debates were organised by other teachers. The rules were fairly strict. There were no notes (our present recycled Prime Minister please take note of that fact) and there were time limits. Marks were given for the points made, the way the argument held together and was organised between the three members of the team, our appearance and our delivery style. 
I loathe speaking in public but I was never able to avoid the debates.
At university I was twice peripherally involved in the Jessup Moot but never involved as one of the speakers. The rules there were very strict. It is, after all, an international competition. It took the students a month of intensive preparation. One year the final Australian debate took place in the High Court. The students involved are now no doubt successful barristers. I have not followed their careers. I can remember them as being fluent but the arguments were still lacking in depth. It seems there is no time for depth in debating.
So, what's the point? I suppose it is fun if you like that sort of thing. A late friend of mine belonged to what I think was called a Penguin club. They did public speaking and debating exercises. He loved that sort of thing. 
And let's not forget the great debating societies of Oxford and Cambridge universities. More than one politician has honed his or her skills in those venues. 
But, I am not that sort of debater. I love words. I like (perhaps too much) writing them but I do not want to spend hours in preparation for a few minutes of speech, the words of which will be washed away in the wind of artificial applause. 
I am not sure what good last night's election debate did. It depends which report you read who "won" the debate. 
I suspect the reality is that nobody won anything. 

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