May 17, 2007

what is political oppression?

It's one of the prickliest questions of the national resolution for this year. If we're trying to justify violent revolution because of political oppression--or not--we have to be certain what it is.

That's not always easy.

I've hinted at some potential calling cards in a comment elsewhere: "...keeping people from voting, or forcing them to vote for a particular candidate, or prohibiting certain political parties..." But that's just a start.

For example, Amnesty International would include harassing or arresting dissidents.

Wikipedia's entry interprets its sister phrase ("political repression") broadly:
Political repression may be represented by discriminatory policies, surveillance abuse, police brutality, imprisonment, involunatry [sic] settlement, stripping of citizen's rights, and violent action such as the murder, summary executions, torture, forced disappearance and other extrajudicial punishment of political activists, dissidents, or general population.
Clearly, the affirmative is at an advantage with a broader definition, allied with a proportional or tit-for-tat definition of justice.

The Neg, then, could argue for the importance of the word "political," which implies a political purpose or focus of action, precluding actions against the "general population," which could include genocide and shift the debate too far toward the Aff. The resolution doesn't cover mere "oppression" (as it did the last time this topic was in play). A too-broad definition makes "political" meaningless.


Emmett said...

Ok, I'm not entirely sure what the background of this entire conversation is, but I think it has to do with some shadowy debate group you're involved with. Either way, I'm going to jump in:

I think it is worth challenging the "violent" section of the statement, rather than dissecting revolution or political oppression.

Take a good look at From Dictatorship to Democracy. Sharp points out time and again that only non-violent revolution can be an effective tool for fighting political oppression.

Jim Anderson said...

You're right--high school debate it is. And in Lincoln Douglas debate, all definitions eventually come into dispute. Of course "violent" is also challengeable, but pacifism and nonviolent resistance are just part of a vast philosophical smorgasbord of options.

Good link, that. Thanks for sharing with students all over the country, even if you didn't realize it.

Engima said...

I personally frown on the use of different definitions between affirmative and negative cases, generally that is. Just like the value premise and value criterion, they should be neutral and relative to both sides.

That said, when it comes to defining things such as "political oppression" or "violent revolution", you may consider the use of philosophers to aid in your definitions.

Anonymous said...

On neg, you should never let Aff get away with slanted definitons. that being said, it saves so much time to just agree to definitions if they're reasonable. that's an incentive for the Aff to use reasonable definitions, especially to save time in the 1AC.