Why "The Brisbane Dialogues"?
Incivility and intolerance are rising. Society is polarising between the two main political tribes and and at the same time fragmenting inside individual echo chambers. Rational discussion in pursuit of good policies, or to advance knowledge and understanding, is becoming increasingly difficult or impossible. Social relations and individual wellbeing are suffering.
Even in relatively laid back Brisbane, where we like to think that basic commonsense and decency is relatively intact, social cohesion and progress is weakened and perhaps even threatened by these trends.
So a small, eclectic group of ordinary citizens decided to do something about it, and at the same time just stir up more public discourse generally, on important, non-parochial subjects, in a wholly independent, non-aligned, intergenerational, pro bono way.
Can civility be saved or restored? Can we remember, or learn, how to conduct difficult discussions and disagree well? Can we make discourse enjoyable and enlightening again? Can we move beyond entrenched positions to find common ground and agreed solutions?
We don't know, but we agree completely with Former Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson, who believes that of all the many problems facing the country today, the inability to talk to each other calmly and rationally is the greatest and that "We have to do better. We owe it to our children and grandchildren."
And we do think Brisbane is a great place to start.
Note: Since starting out, we have discovered that there is a whole genre of "civil discourse organisations" in the US developing in response to the same issues and concerns, so we are not alone. And of course, there are many good institutions and groups in Australia who conduct civil discourse of one sort or another in the process of pursuing their various functions and missions. We stand on the shoulders of giants.