Nothing symbolises the febrile social atmosphere that surrounds us at present more than the epidemic of ‘statue toppling’ that has attended recent protests, in particular those organised around the Black Lives Matter movement. Is this outbreak of de-memorialisation a necessary act of collective catharsis typical of any era, or does it belie a wanton historical vandalism and a rising censoriousness that threatens to define the future? In this debate, ‘Yes' argues that citizens have much more to fear from increasingly visible illiberal leftist intolerance, than they do from the recent outbreak of statue toppling. ‘No' counters that, since monuments matter for their powerful symbolism, their removal is a legitimate way to reflect the changing value systems of an evolving society. In that sense, condemning the memory of a previously valorised historical figure is a symbol of social progress, one that dramatises a determination to leave behind a flawed past from which we have all happily emigrated.
The ‘user image’ of Brexit, a bit like that of Trump, the AfD or, in Ireland, Sinn Fein, isn't the most attractive available on the ‘market’. Typically older, angrier and more dis-advantaged than the average citizen, the Brexit voter is regularly painted as inward-looking and even Neanderthal. Thus, the Brexit act is typically portrayed as one where hopeless nostalgia meets impotent rage. But is this portrayal even a tad simplistic? The ‘For’ side argues that Brexit is a prescient acknowledgement of an inexorable shift in the global balance of power toward the young, thriving metropolises of the East. ‘Against’ suggests that, in fact, Brexit is the wrong strategy, perfectly implemented, the inevitable result of a botched electoral process based on a false premise.
As global migration increases, the ideal form of cultural affiliation has become a pressing issue for many nation-states. Indeed, tensions around conflicting allegiances are at the root of the rise of nationalist movements across the globe. Here, the ‘For’ essay argues that even if it is desirable, ‘multiculturalism’ is a practical impossibility, while ‘Against’ points to the success of Canada’s multicultural experiment as an example of the essential ability of people to accommodate one another’s ways of life.
Do we need to change the players in order to change the game? As the boardroom presents itself as the final frontier in the battle of the sexes, many have called for gender parity legislation and quotas to address the imbalance. But do quotas work? And, will they fundamentally change corporate culture for the better? In this debate, the For side argues interventions are essential to redressing historical discrimination, while the Against side takes the position that using the poison for the cure may not be the panacea progressives hope for.
The debate about the importance of Objective Truth and about what exactly constitutes it is becoming the defining issue of our times. These two essays make opposing cases around this topic. One argues in favour of a narrative-based approach to the creation of meaning in the post-modern world. It sees the search for fact-based truth as a rabbit-hole that is hardly worth entering; in fact, it argues that compelling story-telling, rather than slavish adherence to Fact, is the only way to make sense of our world today. The opposing essay proposes that only objective truth can save us from the consequences of extreme relativism, and that only renewed re-dedication to the search for objective truth can offer a beacon of certainty in a world that seems to have gone mad. The answer, as always, probably lies somewhere in between.
While there’s no question that Climate Change presents an existential threat, whether or not the movement’s adherents have imbued it with religiosity is a matter of debate. Here the ‘For’ side argues that the fervour, blind adherence and occasional intolerance of the Climate Change movement resembles religious practice, which threatens an unbiased application of scientific evidence. The ‘Against’ side argues global scientific consensus ought not be construed as religion, on the basis that the compelling evidence and significance of the threat should impel us to immediate, decisive action.