Regular readers will know that I have been heavily involved in debating at all levels as competitor, organiser and coach. So when this opportunity arrived through an email on Monday morning, those who knew me well weren’t surprised to see me boarding a plane on Wednesday noon for Doha.
This is not the first time I’ve travelled to parts unknown (to me, anyway) to help with debating. In ’88 and ’90 I travelled to the USSR to do much the same. Some people like to go abroad to dig wells, build clinics or other necessary infrastructure. I’m not very good at digging wells so I go abroad to build social and political infrastructure. Debating, at it’s core, is all about Freedom of Speech. And for me that’s the best Freedom ever! In fact it’s so good that it’s too good to keep to ourselves; I think everyone else should have it too.
Qatar does not show up in the lists of the most democratic or free countries out there. Compared to most Arab countries, it is very free. Compared to what we have in Canada, its stultifying. I don’t kid myself that student debate will start a revolution. But I do hope that if that revolution, or fundamental reform, finally comes, then I will have done some small bit to help some of the potential national leaders appreciate the value of verbal combat over martial combat.
I’m only in Doha for Friday and Saturday after almost 36 hours of travel each way. Still, never having been there is a good enough reason to go in my books.
Updates to follow!