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It is actually a strength when you have a group of people that really support each other

Публикувано от Н. Генкова 24 май 2019


As a debater what do you think the impact of this year’s CCMVE is?

I have been debating for 10 years. It started out as a hobby that I did for myself and then I slowly started realizing that debating is incredibly impactful because it helps you teach not only how to think very critically about events, to look at them with an open eye and form your opinion, but it is also very good because it makes people feel engaged with the world around them. What I like about this year’s event is that we had more than 150 participants coming from 15 European countries they all got together and I think what happened is that not only did they get this amazing opportunity to really think about the world around them, but also learn a lot from each other’s experience. We say the world is globalized, but I think that most of it is that you have the opportunity to go everywhere but for many people it isn’t engaging and they don’t go everywhere, but when they do go they don’t get the time and opportunity to interact with other people. What I like about this event is that not only do we get a large amount of different people, who are here to interact with each other in a very deep and meaningful way but that we also enclose people who actually don’t really rip the benefits of globalization because for instance they themselves come from poorer country or poorer region, so this kind of travel opportunity is very rear for them. I think we are giving the benefits of international communication to a group of people, who not only deserve it but can make most use out of it when they return and that is what I think the impact of it is.

How did debates change your life? How did it help you in your life, not just professionally?

For this event we used the #debatechangeslive and that is because we found that debate for many people who go through debate programs is the most impactful opportunity on their life. You challenge me to say not professionally. First of all it gave me confidence, it taught me that my voice is valued, that I could speak up, it taught me how to speak well in front of many people. As a kid I was teased at school for being quite nerdy and to have kids around me who realize that we have the same passion even if that was a bit of a geeky passion, I had a friend group and I think that just really helped me in my personal life. And finally it allowed me to think very analytically and I think that’s been very helpful getting me through all kinds of situations. It has also made me see the other sides. What I am told frequently is that I am a very caring person and I think I was always caring as an individual I think I was a bit of a brat sometimes when I was younger but I think debating actually helped me see the other side of people and be curious about that other side, so I think it has made me a warmer person.

Do you have any advices for smaller clubs like mine, which is also from a small town?

I myself come from debategroup in which I grew up and saw its peak when I was in high school. It is now quite big and it is quite successful and our year was actually the first year when it became successful and really grew, but we were also in one of the smaller cities in my country-The Netherlands. Actually I don’t think that there is much bad about the group being not very big because it allows for some very good tight friendships to occur and grow, sometimes I find that very difficult in a bigger group. So I think it is actually a strength when you have a group of people that really support each other. I think that what often happens with debate’s groups is that the rest of our school thinks that we are a bit weird and they find debates to be this odd thing as well so I think it is very important to try to beat this odd thing. I think it is always important if you try to sell debate to the rest of the group. I know that there was a school that did teacher-student debate once it was a sort of a joke debate so it had a jokey motion and they did it in front of the entire school. Doing such initiatives or writing about it in the newspaper to show them what debate is, I think that is very good because it shows people that debate actually has a very wrong stereotype. And I think that this kind of expectations need to be shattered to keep it open to all.

What do you say to new debaters to motivate them?

I often find with new debaters that I don’t necessary need to motivate them because those who stick around after the first session, I think they are the ones who will quickly fall in love with this little game. I’d say one thing and I don’t know if it is true for Bulgaria, but some attention goes to debating as if it is sort of a competitive activity, you need to be very good at it, and that is said to be how you get success. I’d say to younger debaters ‘Don’t worry about that, I don’t think that this is where the true value for you is, the true value is in making friends, in getting better at your own base, and not everyone can be a champion because there is one place to give so enjoy what you have and also love debating for the ideas that it brings you’. I think that debate is one of the most judgement-free explorations of things that interest you. The fact that you hear about so many different topics as you increase your research then that you come up with your own ideas and that you can be creative about it. This is a wonderful opportunity to stay in the game because you get to learn about so many new things and I think that is where its value is and as long as you keep enjoying it, just keep doing it.

If you were to judge a speech done by the majority of politicians nowadays what would you say?

I think that most politicians play not to lose in their speeches. I think they are worried to really go in depth and go into details because they are worried they would get called out or they are worried that they will be in later negotiation that is going to change their opinion. As a consequence speeches that politicians make I think are very generic, they only talk in big platitudes like ‘We need to save the poor’ and then they never tell you how because they don’t feel the liberty to tell how. So what I think they basically do compared to a debate speech is they give you introduction and then I miss the analysis behind it. I like it when politicians sit down and explain what kind of policy idea they have and how they think that changes the world because this is what they actually do, but they don’t communicate it as much. That makes me very sad and I think that politicians also carefully negotiate their media appearances so that they don’t have to say controversial things. Тhey tell journalists what they can and cannot say in advanced, instead of just being open. As I listen to a speech I don’t want to take the politician seriously because he/she isn’t giving me the full answer and knows much more then lets on. So I often think a speech more of a performance rather then something they actually mean.

We were talking about nationalism do you distinguish any differences in the way different nations debate?

The topic nationalism we chose is because it is a very current topic because we are thinking about what nationalism means in a globalized world, where people have more contacts. Yet I think people still retain their own unique flavor and I do think that there are quite a large amount of differences. If I take just one example: I come from the Netherlands and we are very close to the United Kingdom so we get to learn a lot about the way people in the UK debate and there is also interaction. The UK tends to like to sound quiet nice but also because they have a great command of English they would speak a million words a second and therefore they can bring a large amount of arguments in one speech and I think that Dutch have taken over that. Now on the university level, which is where I spent most of my debate life, the biggest rivals for the Dutch are the Israeli. Тhey have a different strategy: their English is very good but they have more accent because Hebrew is more removed from English then Dutch. So they couldn’t speak a million words a second and they developed a different way and decided that they don’t need to take many arguments, they just need to take the biggest argument and develop it very deeply. And that is how they win. This creates a fascinating clash of styles. But more to the point you see at high school debates as we all come from different backgrounds we have different assumptions about how the world works. I imagine that a debater from Bulgaria is much more likely to criticize government policies as being ineffective because governments have failed or they might even be corrupt. Whereas if they debate against a person from Sweden, they wouldn’t come up with that argument because they have very high trust in their government. So I think that where you are and where you live determines which arguments you find more intuitive. Тhat is actually what I like about debating because it helps you challenge your views on the world because people who have grown up differently come up with different ideas. 

What is your impression from the Bulgarian debaters?

I honestly haven’t seen too many Bulgarian debaters in my career, but what I have noticed, and that is something I value not just about the people from Bulgaria and Central Europe, there is just brutal honesty. They don’t hide their ideas behind they just say it how they think it is. I really enjoy that and I think that sometimes it goes against the way which I was personally raised, not the Dutch are very direct. But I am very often quiet modest. It feels very refreshing to see that happen.

As a debater what is the most interesting or embarrassing thing that has happened to you?

Once I leaked a motion on a European competition which was terribly embarrassing and I am still ashamed of that. But a funny story is: I once spoke in a drunk debate with friends. The idea is that you need to take a drink whenever you have an argument. I was keeping it relatively up, but my partner was taking a bit more drinks but also has a tendency to then get very shouty. She shocked another speaker so much that that speaker gave her 9 POIs (Point of information=a question) and I thought that was quite funny until I realized that the POIs made no sense. Тhat speaker began answering very confidently whatever was said so eventually that team was declared a winner. 


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