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The Death of Intellectual Debate: A Call to Rescue Dissent in Democracy

The Death of Intellectual Debate: A Call to Rescue Dissent in Democracy


March 17, 2024


In the halls of academia, where ideas once flourished and debates sparked the flames of progress, a haunting silence now lingers—a silence that echoes the demise of intellectual discourse. As someone who witnessed the vibrant exchange of ideas firsthand during my tenure at the university, I know that the absence of such debates in recent years is a bitter pill to swallow.

From 2001 to 2011, I had the privilege of organizing countless events at the university―public lectures, international conferences, and symposiums―that served as platforms for scholars, academics, and intellectuals to converge and share their insights. These gatherings were more than mere gatherings; they were crucibles of knowledge, where current and long-term issues were dissected, analyzed, and debated with fervor and intellectual rigor.

However, in the wake of my dismissal in 2011 and the subsequent upheavals brought about by the pandemic, the once-thriving landscape of intellectual debate has withered. The university, once the epicenter of intellectual exchange, now stands as a hollow shell of its former self. Moreover, while there may still be remnants of debate scattered across various platforms, they pale compared to the vibrant discourse that once permeated the Aula.

The consequences of this intellectual vacuum are profound and far-reaching. Without a robust platform for intellectual debate, policymaking lacks the critical insights and perspectives only intellectuals can provide. Issues as pressing as tourism development, climate crisis mitigation, economic diversification, and healthcare reform are left to the whims of politicians and bureaucrats, devoid of the rigorous analysis and dissenting voices essential for informed decision-making.

An anecdote from a recent interaction during a live podcast is a stark reminder of the dangers of this intellectual void. The host, in a flippant remark, suggested euthanasia as a solution for elderly care, sparking outrage and controversy. However, beneath the shock and indignation lies a more profound truth―that society is at risk of descending into moral bankruptcy without a robust intellectual debate on ethical and moral issues.

We must reclaim the mantle of intellectual debate, not merely as a nostalgic longing for the past, but as a necessity for the survival of our democracy. We must confront the uncomfortable truths, deal with the complex challenges, and engage in the rigorous exchange of ideas that are the lifeblood of progress.

To rescue dissent is to breathe life into democracy―reaffirming our commitment to free speech, critical thinking, and open dialogue. It is a call to arms for intellectuals, scholars, and concerned citizens alike to rise above apathy and indifference and reclaim our collective voice.

The road ahead may be anxious with challenges, but the stakes are too high for complacency. Let us heed the call to action and rebuild the foundations of intellectual debate upon which our society depends. In the absence of dissent, democracy withers, and with it, the promise of a brighter future for generations.

Miguel Goede

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