June 11, 2009
SPEAKING TRUTH TO PREMISE
I may come off forceful and set-in-my-ways here on the blog, but I assure you that I'm not like that in real life. I rarely speak my mind, especially not in polite company. I never reveal my true opinions and values to strangers. It's part of that dilemma
I've been writing about for five years:
When we get emails like this, or when our co-workers praise Fahrencrap 9/11, what is the proper response? I can't help but think of a passage from The Demon-Haunted World:
Imagine that you enter a big-city taxicab and the moment you get
settled in, the driver begins a harangue about the supposed inequities
and inferiorities of another ethnic group. Is your best course to keep
quiet, bearing in mind that silence conveys assent? Or is it your moral
responsibility to argue with him, to express outrage, even to leave the
cab -- because you know that every silent assent will encourage him
next time, and every vigorous dissent will cause him next time to think
Sagan ends this section with "Figuring out a prudent balance takes
wisdom." I just don't know what to think anymore. On the one hand, I
think that some people will never see what I see, no matter how
articulately I might lay it out, and it's not worth my sanity to try to
beat them over the head with Truth. On the other hand, people are going
to be voting next month based on bullcrap like this email forward on
the draft, and unless we make a serious effort to counter the media and
the junk science, we run the risk of losing President Bush.
And I'm starting to wonder if maybe I oughtn't dip my toe into impolite waters. If maybe I should start speaking my mind in public on occasion. Because five years hence, I still feel as frustrated and impotent as I used to. I still walk away incensed and wishing I had spoken truth to premise.
Yesterday I heard two separate diatribes against The Rich. They were offhanded things, premise things, deemed uncontroversial by their speakers. Both assumed that their listeners would chime in and agree that the world is economically unfair and somehow the scales need to be righted. I never chimed in with anything, just tried to ignore both interlocutors and change the subject quickly. But looking back, I wish I'd replied.
No, as a point of fact, I do not believe that, since we are all created equal by God, it is a travesty that most of the world's wealth is held by so few. Nor do I believe that our current economic crisis was solely caused by greedy CEOs. I also don't believe that your boss should have to give up his Mercedes because you think he doesn't do as much work as you do. Nor am I horrified at the thought of someone making a "three-digit salary" (It was obvious from context that this person meant "six-digit," which leads me to conclude that, really, you might want to rethink your argument that you deserve more money than your boss.)
Absent actual evidence, I am not inclined to automatically assert that The Rich don't deserve their money. I will not side with you in thinking that life is unfair and you know how to fix it. I do not share your delusion that you are a better arbiter of how much money people should make than the free market is.
I think next time I might cautiously speak out and see how that feels, because I remain dissatisfied with my long-standing policy of avoiding controversy and thus having to suffer through others' treatises on How The World Should Work.
What I really ought to start doing is following Sean Hannity's lead and wide-eyedly asking, "So what you're basically saying is 'From each according to his ability, to each according to his need' then?"
And point out that you, with your fancy cell phone and comfortable house, better watch out you don't reap what you sow, because I am sure there is someone else in town who thinks you don't deserve your five-digit salary. Those who fall middle-class should tread lightly on the class envy issue, for they have more riches than the majority of the people on this planet.
I will update the first time I speak truth to premise. Gulp.
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Preach it sister! I've started doing the same and I have found that people are more ameanable to bringing down the level of rhetoric to something resembling reasonable discussion. Unless of course there is no actual thought process and they are just parroting a sound bite from TV or the Net. Then they change the subject.
Posted by: Mare at June 11, 2009 09:08 AM (HUa8I)
Cassandra at VC had an interesting discussion somewhat related to this - about politeness. I usually don't say anything in these sorts of situations because I'm trying to be polite. But in reality, I get angry because I feel that others are not extending the same courtesy of polite behavior to me.
And why am I not deserving of polite behavior, anyway?
Anyway (I do have a point here), one of the commenters pointed out how well the Brits handle this sort of thing with their ironic/sarcastic replies and I thought, "Well, yes! That IS a good way to respond and get the point across without being a total asshole!"
The problem is that one actually has to be good at it... Practice, I guess.
Posted by: airforcewife at June 11, 2009 09:26 AM (NqbuI)
I don't know if you heard this at work or not but if you did you might comment on the fact that a place of business that teaches arts and crafts is only possible in a society that has some people with enough time and leisure to take advantage of it. Without having a certain level of income a business such as that could not be supported.
I got into an accidental facebook battle with friends of a niece yesterday. They are your age or older and think socialism is the way to go. You really cannot argue with people who make their politics their religion. I didn't mean to, but a flame war was started and I just backed out and apologized to my niece for getting involved. at all. One of them actually stated he thought socialism was the only human way to be. Okay. He is getting what he asked for and very pleased with it. But I could not stay silent, I know how fascism got started in Germany. Hitler was put in place by the National Socialist German Workers Party, socialsm by any name, and they thought it was just awful I would say so. Hitler was a fascist and a dictator; so he was, but he started out a socialist. Facts are facts.
Posted by: Ruth H at June 11, 2009 09:58 AM (hBAQy)
I tend to evaluate the usefulness of piping up before doing it. (Notice the "tend," LOL...)
Is this person actually going to think through what I'm considering saying, and is it worth going there with this individual? Do I know enough to lay down the right case for what I'm thinking & feeling? Am I in a good enough mood not to get all unpleasant about it and thereby obscure *what* I'm saying by *how* I'm saying it?
If not, then I tend not to pipe up. (I promise, there have actually been times! ;-) )
Also, in a FB example, I don't comment on "so-and-so became a fan of Obama" because that's a happy thing - for them. Building instead of destroying.
I feel strongly that we're entitled - and should be encouraged - to express our opinions and thoughts in a "fan of" way; building the right
things will overcome building the wrong
things, eventually. If, OTOH, they post an article or note that unfairly *attacks* something, (e.g.: how Glenn Beck is a lying racist encouraging massacres at immigration classes), or wants to have a discussion, I tend to pipe up, especially in defense of something I feel very strongly about.
The issue also makes a difference. Injustice and issues essential to defending our God-given rights induce me to more courage and dialogue than purely political discussion. Fair criticism is okay; disagreement is okay; but when there's something dishonest or outright destructive of our liberty, I have a hard time letting it stand. And I don't think I *should* let it stand.
But I still try to be civil. At least I think I do... ;-)
Posted by: kannie at June 11, 2009 11:55 AM (5XpA4)
Posted by: tim at June 11, 2009 03:41 PM (nno0f)
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June 03, 2009
One of my great pleasures of blogging is knowing that there are a few of you out there who read Atlas Shrugged
because of me. For those of you who haven't gotten around to it yet (and there's one in particular, and you know who you are...ahem), may you find your motivation here: Randâ€™s Atlas Is Shrugging With a Growing Load
The hard-money monologue of Randâ€™s copper king, Francisco
dâ€™Anconia, used to sound weird. Who even thought about gold in
the early 1990s? Now, Dâ€™Anconiaâ€™s lecture on the unreliable
dollar sounds like it could have been scripted by Zhou Xiaochuan, or some other furious Chinese central banker:
â€œPaper is a mortgage on wealth that does not exist, backed
by a gun aimed at those who are expected to produce it. Paper is
a check drawn by legal looters upon an account which is not
theirs: upon the virtue of the victims. Watch for the day when
it bounces, marked, â€˜Account overdrawn.â€™â€
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I'm not sure if you mean me, but that damn book calls my name an awful lot. I have it on audible.com and on paper. And yet still....
Posted by: wifeunit at June 03, 2009 07:41 PM (t5K2U)
I like Amity Shlaes a lot, but when she refers to railroads as:
"an industry that is, today, almost irrelevant to the U.S. economy"
she is entirely wrong.
Without the freight railroads, the economy would be crippled, and within a few months people would actually be starving.
Posted by: david foster at June 04, 2009 11:54 AM (SpkYG)
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June 02, 2009
) Megan McArdle wrote A Really Long Post About Abortion and Reasoning By Historical Analogy That is Going to Make Virtually All of My Readers Very Angry At Me
. But she was wrong: not only did it not make me angry, I thought it was the most interesting thing I've read about abortion in a long time.
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I've never seen those analogies before, but they really do stand out.
I generally shy away from discussing abortion, even though my own views on it have changed radically over the years and I would be interested in the discussion. The thing is, as M.M. illustrates - at base one's beliefs on abortion are based on an un-provable intangible.
I think it is a baby. Period. But someone else does not. Period. I can't prove that it is a baby, just that it will become a baby. And they cannot prove that it is not a baby, just that it is not yet fully developed.
Once you come down to that base belief - it is or it isn't - it's like trying to argue for the existence of God. I believe in God, wholly. Someone else may not, and quite frankly the times I have "felt the hand of God in my life" is just not evidence that will stand up in court.
I do have more to say, but I'm going to sort it out in my head.
Posted by: airforcewife at June 02, 2009 12:00 PM (NqbuI)
Dr. Tiller's murder has upset me for a whole host of not entirely obvious reasons. This piece helped me gain some balance on the whole debate raging in my head. Thank you for sharing.
Posted by: Val at June 02, 2009 04:17 PM (5btL/)
This article didn't make me angry either. Thanks for linking to it, Sarah.
As a linguist - and like McArdle - I've been thinking of abortion in semantic terms for years. The conflict over abortion is a conflict over meanings. What does person
mean? Where do we draw the line between person
Semantics are not objective. There is no inherent reason that the word person
has to mean what you or I think it means.
The trouble is that our society is based on subjective words which are the building blocks of our laws. And laws affect human lives.
People often use the word semantics
to imply that an argument is trivial: "That's just semantics!" But in reality semantics can be a matter of life or death.
Posted by: Amritas at June 04, 2009 02:32 PM (+nV09)
Thanks for that link! It's a great write-up, and I really don't comprehend her commenters' wrath ...
Posted by: kannie at June 04, 2009 07:58 PM (5XpA4)
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June 01, 2009
THE 15 ON THE BUS
I am very late in bringing this up, but I still wanted to say it. During the last episode of 24
, they finally catch the bad guy and realize that there is no evidence to charge him with and that he will probably get away with all of his bad deeds. One FBI agent wants revenge and turns to Jack Bauer for advice. He says the following, which I think the writers of 24
did a beautiful job with:
I can't tell you what to do. I've been wrestling with this one my whole life. I see fifteen people held hostage on a bus, and everything else goes out the window. I will do whatever it takes to save them, and I mean whatever it takes. I guess maybe I thought that if I save them, I could save myself.
FBI Agent: Do you regret anything that you did today?
No. But then again, I don't work for the FBI.
Agent: I don't understand...
You took an oath, you made a promise to uphold the law. When you cross that line, it always starts off with a small step. Before you know it, you're running as fast as you can in the wrong direction, just to justify why you started in the first place. These laws were written by much smarter men than me, and in the end, I know that these laws have to be more important than the fifteen people on the bus. I know that's right, in my mind, I know that's right. But I just don't think my heart could ever have lived with that. I guess the only advice I can give you is: try and make choices you can live with.
I think that's a pretty good discussion of the gray area in the interrogation debate
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As far as torture goes (and your recent mention of how to break a terrorist)
I recommend the following methods for "breaking" a terrorist:
1. Establish with them that you don't care one bit if they live or die.
2. Convey the ideas that you don't see them as human.
3. Make them understand that you control every aspect of their life and well-being.
4. Rule #1 becomes their challenge: to convince you that the need to live.
That's how you mentally break anyone.
Much faster methods (better and far more effective than waterboarding) include the use of hammers.
My favorite method (and this'll likely make the weak-willed queasy, but has proven overwhelming success) uses time fuse. Time fuse burns at about 1 foot every 40 seconds. The fuse is wrapped around legs, arms, torso, anywhere really (even around the neck or head, but it's best when it can be seen.
The fuse is then lit,
and no questions are asked until it comes within a few inches of the skin. Tell them you will extinguish the fuse when all your questions are answered truthfully, and you know the answers to some questions, so you'll know if they are lying.
Then you just wait.
Being burned slowly, with the ability to make it stop simply by asking questions, while understanding that your captor does not care if you live or die, making your (truthful) answers the only key to survival (and to stopping the pain)... from what I understand, this is an incredibly effective technique. Not that I know anyone who has actually done it, mind you.
Posted by: Chuck at June 02, 2009 07:57 AM (meX2d)
More to the point, you either accept the use of torture as a valid method of treating an enemy, or you don't. You can't quantify it rationally with exceptions.
You are either for abortion, or you are against it. The crowd who says "it's murder, but okay if the mother is in danger, or a victim of rape/incest/whatever, or the baby is X", are now rationalizing what they just called murder.
Okay, I guess you can do it, but it's hypocritical, and worse, it causes us to use lawyers to determine when and if someone needs to be tortured. Who decides if the scenario is a "ticking bomb," if the target justifies torture, etc?
Captured terrorists should be tortured until all usable information is extracted, and then either killed or lobotomized before release.
Posted by: Chuck at June 02, 2009 08:04 AM (meX2d)
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