Student - December 13, 2012

The last discussion

This is the last time Jillis Herweijer and Marlies Bos will cross swords on this page.

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In the new year we shall be launching a new feature. In their last For & Against, Jillis and Marlies do not debate a current issue but give each other a bit of straight feedback. They look forward to continuing their sparring on the website.
Jillis: Marlies and I have discussed a wide range of topics in this feature over the past year. We never seemed to see eye to eye, which made it easy. What struck me was how often Marlies bases her arguments on ideals, both Christian and environment-related. That's fine, of course, but it did make her standpoints pretty predictable. That makes it easier to touch a sore spot. Which can also make it fun.
I think it is a pity Marlies tends to want to impose her ideas on everybody and in so doing ignores the fact that there are other people who may see things differently. I favour freedom of opinion for everyone and I think everyone should be able to live by their own principles, within the limits of the law. Marlies sometimes thinks things are 'uncivilized' or 'egotistic', not seeming to notice that sanctifying your own opinion is pretty egotistic too. But at least she has an opinion and thinks about all sorts of issues. I applaud that wholeheartedly, particularly since not many women are inclined to want to talk about politics and social issues, let alone enter into debate about them. Also, Marlies responds to the substance of what I say. A rare gift, as I have noticed this year on the website.
Marlies responds: Nice to read that my Christian faith and my idealism come across clearly in what I have written this year. That was my biggest hope when I started. I am curious what you mean, exactly, by 'imposing your own opinion on others'; is there anything wrong with wishing people would think and act differently on certain points? I think everyone does that to a greater or lesser extent. If you don't do it, I'd like to know what your aim was in writing these pieces. 
Marlies: I enjoyed being able to discuss things with Jillis this year. It was interesting to see how and why he had a completely different take on some issues.
One of the things that have stuck in my mind is his 'liberalism', as he often calls it himself: the idea that people all have their own responsibilities. I can agree with that up to a point, but in practice it doesn't always work, seeing that we are all on the earth together and we are jointly responsible for it.
I also noticed how unsubtle he could be, tarring all the people in certain groups with the same brush. An example was the proposition about charities: he mentioned a couple of (quite justified) criticisms of some charities and then carried on as if they applied to all charities. That is an easy way to score points, of course.
Lastly, I did notice quite some cynicism at times. An attitude of: guys, stop imagining we can change the world, because we can't. In a way, I can see the point, all the more because I don't believe we human beings are capable of creating a perfect world either. But I do think it's a pity: even a little bit of 'world improving' is worth having.
Jillis responds: True, my pieces can sound unsubtle at times. Partly because you have to formulate your opinion in very few words - that make it difficult to go into the nuances. And I certainly do like to provoke a discussion by expressing myself a bit strongly. And yes, I am often quite cynical when it comes to idealistic talk. That is realistic thinking, rather than cynicism. However, you seem to feel the same way, so we do agree on something after all. 

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