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Esther Linares Bernabeu, Researcher at Institute for Culture and Society (ICS), University of Navarra, Spain

The political discussion on the pandemic: everyone hears, no one listens

Fri, 13 Nov 2020 20:17:00 +0000 Published in El Confidencial Digital

Welcome to Groundhog Day, the movie we will be starring in for the next few months. It seems that we have gone back in time, or rather, we have made no progress at all. With the arrival of the autumn cold, the echoes of confinement have resounded again and we already have a new state of alarm on the table, accompanied, this time, by other concepts such as curfew or perimeter lockdown. At final, we are back to a status of exceptionalism that is becoming less and less exceptional.

Of course, as it could not be otherwise, the autumn has also brought us old conflicts that reflect the partisan and individualistic interests of the political class . The recent negotiation for the extension of the state of alarm has given a good account of this. During the almost six hours of discussion in the parliament, the deputies have exposed their position, trying to persuade the rest of the hemicycle, with the intention of influencing the vote, without considering the option of mediating and bringing positions closer to the civil service examination.

Watching the speeches of the different political representatives, I have realized that everyone hears, but very few listen to the message of their interlocutor. Dr. Luis Cortés Rodríguez, in his book Cómo conocer mejor los discursos políticos, says that the parliamentary speech , in which confrontation and the desire to convince the rest of the listeners abound, the linguistic and rhetorical mechanisms of argumentation and persuasion (intensifiers, contrasts, rhetorical questions, irony, attenuators, etc.) take precedence. However, in their eagerness to convince and win the support of the affinity groups, more than one forgets to pay attention to the message emitted by their opponents.

Although some talk about "saving Christmas", others about the unconstitutionality of the Royal Decree and others about bending the curve, I am convinced that, if they listened to each other, they would see that their positions are not so far apart and that they share more opinions and ideas than they themselves believe. In fact, we have seen how everyone praises the work of health professionals, everyone regrets the issue number of victims killed by COVID-19, everyone is aware of the effort being made by the Spanish people as a whole and everyone compares Spain's performance with that of its European neighbors. Curiously, in the same way, we see how the words responsibility, humility, cooperation, unity and consensus are constantly repeated throughout the different alternations in office to appeal to political support.

However, these ideas of solidarity and joint action fall on deaf ears. The health crisis that the country is going through shows us that our political representatives are not even capable of building bridges at such a critical time as the present. I guess it is always easier to identify and highlight the failures and mistakes of the civil service examination, than to adopt a positive and empathetic stance with respect to the speech and ideas expressed by the political rival. I think it is time to listen, dialogue and mediate. It would be good if you would stop navel gazing and learn from others who have already taken a step forward, as in the case of the exemplary agreement carried out between the autonomous governments of the communities of Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla y León. Why are you not able to talk without looking at your political colors? Undoubtedly, dialogue is the most basic form of social interaction and the best way to resolve political conflicts. Now, more than ever, we need a political class with a reflective, cooperative and self-critical speech .