October 16, 2018

When being Right is Wrong


I like to be right. I like to debate.

Sometimes I forget there are real people on the other side of the discussion, or listening in on the conversation.

I remember way back in my university days an acquaintance expressed concern about the nuclear arms race. Sensing a chance for some fun, I immediately argued that the best solution to end the nuclear arms race was a first strike attack on the Russians. I didn’t believe that. But I thought it would be fun to argue it. I only realized I had gone too far when his face went beet red and he started twisting his glasses in his lap.

I think I am/was built that way. Taking contrarian points of view and seeing what kind of argument I can build. I wrote a paper around that time arguing that Botswana was a major African power. This couldn’t have been further from the truth as this was in the early eighties, when their second largest city had only two paved streets, and diamonds hadn’t yet been discovered in the country. I got an A.

Of course the advent of social media has only increased the opportunities. I have only been unfriended by a few people on social media (that I am aware of), but in most of the cases it was because my desire for a debate overrode my concern for the other people involved.

The same can be said of my writing on Internet Monk. I know of a number of commentators who have stopped contributing because of either direct or off hand comments that I have made.

Maybe I was right in my assertions. Maybe I wasn’t. That is not the point. There was a post earlier this week talking about the difference between “facts” and the “truth”. Whatever the facts may be in an in-person discussion, a Facebook thread, or an Internet Monk interchange, the truth is that there is a real person at the other end. A person with real feelings, a person who may feel more strongly about a particular topic than you do. A person whose experiences may have been different to yours.

I was going to write a different post tonight. A earlier hurtful conversation that I fully found out about today, made me realize that my intended topic might have been hurtful to someone I know. I have left it until I can word it while keeping the other person in mind.

I have appreciated the Internet Monk site because of the respectful discourse that generally occurs. I, for one, am going to try to do my best to make sure that my tone, if not my intent, is respectful of others’ comments. That doesn’t mean that I won’t censure or put my foot down over some conversations. I did find though in a previous series that encouraging respectful debate did actually result in respectful debate. Perhaps we can all keep this in mind as we continue to dialogue with each other here at Internet Monk.

As usual your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Comments

  1. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    The first diamond mine opened in Botswana in 1972 (Orapa), the second (Letlakane) soon after, and the third, Jwaneng, in 1982. So it was a little further along than what you thought….

    Otherwise, generally agreed. 🙂

    I do draw the line though at people actively, and directly promoting hatred, persecution and worse against last sections of humanity. And by hatred I don’t mean political disagreement, religious issues etc. I am speaking of hating / degenerating people because of their ethnicity etc. I sometimes don’t comment on things like that though because I don’t trust myself. It is difficult to be respectful of/respectfully disagree with despicable views (and again, despicable doesn’t mean a different view on economic issues for instance). It would be interesting to hear how people here handle that.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > It is difficult to be respectful of/respectfully disagree with despicable views

      And it is most commonly pointless. Online I do my best to ignore such things, if I cannot resist I try to go with a simple “#whatever”.

      In real life it depends on who else is in the room. If it is just a room full of Barking Boomers [and it often is – this is the Midwest] there is still no point in objecting. Pushing back is only pointful as a way of plowing the road for anyone else in the room who may have something to say but is of a more timid disposition; much like being the first to take advantage of the free coffee and donuts at a conference [again, this is the Midwest, where people will awkwardly sit and wait for someone else to go first]. Midwesternism gives Bullies a lot of license, and it encourages everyone else to just cower through it.

      My canned line for the how-to-respond question: “Is crafting a well reasoned response to an unreasonable objection reasonable? That is a question which requires beer.”

      • Pointless in changing their minds… perhaps. But pointless in reminding them and others that their opinions are neither universal nor unassailable, that there ARE those who will stand up to those opinions – and THEM – on behalf of those too wounded or too marginalized to speak?

        Never.

        I will try to use logic. I will try not to name call. But I will NOT “respect” opinions that call for ideas and actions that harm others and contravene the teachings of Christ, at least if those doing so claim to be Christians themselves.

        We do not live in times where silence is acceptable. These are times to speak.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > But pointless in reminding them and others that their opinions are neither universal

          I am too cynical to even believe that anymore. 🙁 You’ll be put in the disrespectful crank column and written off. You know it is pointless when the sentences start with “Everyone knows…”; or my favorite encounter when an Boomer leaned in to snarl at me: “I know what the people want.” If the PTBs won’t stand up to such things – and there is no, zero, zilch, nada hope of that in my corner of the world – then one needs to be pragmatic.

          > We do not live in times where silence is acceptable

          You’ll risk become hoarse! 🙂

        • Christiane says:

          “We do not live in times where silence is acceptable. These are times to speak.”

          agreed

          Silence is seen as tacit approval these days, but it is the silence that is demanded of me by a Christian conservative woman commenter that I found especially peculiar on a really good blog when the topic of Trump and the separation of babies from their mothers at the border came up. . . . . .

          Several weeks later, this same commenter gave a reference to one of her comments regarding the bona fides of Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, this:
          https://www.dangerous.com/49836/records-show-dr-ford-is-not-a-licensed-psychologist-may-have-committed-perjury/

          so I checked out her ‘source’ and found it to be lacking in credibility big time but instead of confronting her about this, I just typed a ‘basic’ comment advising people to be sure to check their sources when giving information concerning the bona fides of a professional person.

          So . . . . the woman who urged ‘silence’ from Christian people in the face of Trump’s abuse of the border children was also a patron of a site that was unreliable as to its credibility and its agenda. She was caught up in that ‘bubble’ from which few emerge wholely intact with their ability to do their own thinking and to hold to principles where, when Christian people see the suffering of innocents, they intervene to help the victims, not ‘stay silent’ and let the bully proceed without opposition from the Christian witness.

          We cannot remain silent these days, or we endanger our own souls. It’s that important that we ‘stand’ between the evil and the innocent victims, in so far as is possible to do it. Silence would be seen as ‘consent’ by the bully. This is my opinion, having lived through other times when our country was distressed and torn.

          • Silence is not an option, however ineffective speech may be. There certainly shouldn’t be silence in the face of the murder/abduction of Washington Post reporter Adnan Khashogi, nor should there be business as usual with our murderous Saudi allies. I just pray that neither the current administration nor our intelligence agencies were involved in delivering Mr. Khasohogi to his murderers; as it is, it looks like they did not forewarn him of the threat to his life, though they were aware of it. They should not have been silent, and neither should we.

    • Michael Bell says:

      What were the chances that we would get a South African mining expert into the conversation. Oh right, 100%, ’cause that’s what Klassie is!

  2. Speaking of Botswana, I do hope all you wonderful people have been exposed the the delight of reading about Mma Ramotswe (No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency)

  3. Adam Tauno Williams says:

    > a person who may feel more strongly about a particular topic than you do

    Putting on my organizer/advocate hat I would add: Not only “feel more strongly” but Have More Invested.

    It is very frustrating when a group of people are trying to DO something, for them an issue is real and actionable, and there is always the couple of dudes either online or in the room for whom participation is a sport. Whenever answered they just move on to the next point they can think of; in short order it becomes obvious that their points are not the point, they are there to score points. This breeds quite of bit of animosity as those few suck up everyone else’s time and drive people out of the conversation; the real conversation suffers like a creature afflicted with a parasite.

    These days people often like to put this under the umbrella of “partisan”. It is not partisan, it is being a jerk. If a conversation is not for you, not about you, have the courtesy to walk away and let the people who have skin in the game have it.

  4. Richard Hershberger says:

    I don’t care for the poem. It is too abstract. I can easily imagine an audience feeling deeply moved by it, without having any inkling that it might have implications for, for example, immigration policy or LGBT rights. And if someone were to raise this point, they would complain about him politicizing this deeply moving song.

    Contrast this with Jesus, who was quite specific in both word and deed about how to interact with despised groups. This is part of the problem today. His specific examples are now mere abstractions. We need a history lesson to understand who the Samaritans even were, and should a Roman centurion show up for dinner, that would be the coolest thing ever!

    • Michael Bell says:

      For the sake of brevity, and because it didn’t really fit the topic, I had skipped verse two. Which takes it a little more into the specific.

      “And in accord with his belief
      He gives him money for relief
      To help the needy and to help mankind
      Or is it just to satisfy his mind
      He’s so generous with his property and wealth
      But not himself
      And he is called
      A Christian.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > without having any inkling … if someone were to raise this point,
      > they would complain about him politicizing

      Yep.

      This is the fatal flaw in the notion that Art can confront people or induce “uncomfortable conversations” [buzzword alert]. It doesn’t, and doesn’t. Prejudice is rarely self-aware enough to be so assailable.

  5. Love without truth does not have a message worth hearing. Truth without love does not have an audience to hear it.

  6. Susan Dumbrell says:

    A story of love and sharing as it happened today.
    I wished to attend the Funeral of an old dear friend.
    I can drive my car but had to park two street blocks away from the Funeral Home.
    I am ‘certified’ disabled so hobbled my way there on my walking stick.
    On entering the door a person behind said ‘hello Sue’.

    You may care to put a biblical slant on this.
    This young man does my gardening.

    ‘Can I help you down the corridor to the Chapel, here take my arm.’
    He found us seats together and we shared an Order of Service sheet and said the prayers and sang the hymns together.
    I know this young man to be a committed Christian and his help to me was Christlike.
    May Ben be blessed.

  7. Or self-righteous, which has become your strong point. Don’t let the fundamentalist boogie man get you because we know he is responsible for all that is bad and Evangelical Christianity.

  8. rhymeswithplague says:

    ‘I have appreciated the Internet Monk site because of the respectful discourse that generally occurs.’

    My two cents worth: Sometimes it ain’t all that respectful. Some will now disagree. Vehemently.

    I comment less and less because of them.

  9. I think the 24/7 cable TV and the internet social sites have harmed the give and take of a sound, nuanced , give and take communication. There are talking head panels, internet platforms and “news” outlets that promote a soundbite , argue based presentation that is more a defensive posture of each side of the “truth” than thoughtful , fact filled , analysis of a topic. It is entertainment The attention span is five minutes so communication is built upon that “fact”.
    One of the things that is missing is that sometimes we have put our own opinions and views above or equal to those who know more than we do. When Mike the G Man and Klasie K.. speak on matters in their field , I give them great credence and trust. Chaplin MIke, when he speaks of dealing with people at emotional and hard times , I listen and really try to learn . Mike Bell , like this article is honest and not an advocate or a zealot and deserves serious consideration for his viewpoints. That does not mean I agree with them on every issue or that in other areas other than their field they command more gravitas than other sound opinions.
    I just hear too many canned talking points from many of my friends and even though I agree with many of the talking points beyond the talking points that is little depth of understanding on their part, that is why people avoid close examination of their views or do not want to civilly discuss them.

    So communication, facts, and truth all are part of the same discussion. If you ask most people my age, if they can still hear, who was the youngest President of the USA , the majority would say ———————————————————————————————————————JFK and that would be their truth based on their facts as they believe them. Many would argue the point until shown the “fact” and then qualify , rightfully , why the believe what they believed.

    T. Roosevelt was the youngest President but not “elected” but the massive TV coverage and the myth of JFK has taken over the truth.

    Like Superman I am for truth, justice and the American way except when the Superman movies are sent overseas than the American Way part is dropped of Superman’s motto or the American flag removed from the moon landing and facts are changed. In full disclosure Superman is fake news but it is a fact the American flag was planted on the moon and a USA flag patch worn but many people will not get that fact or truth.

  10. –> “I think I am/was built that way. Taking contrarian points of view and seeing what kind of argument I can build.”

    I had a friend ages ago who was very much like this. Pretty much in every setting we were in, he just liked to be argumentative. At first it was kind of engaging, forcing me to think and articulate counterpoints, but then it became kinda tiring. Most people don’t like people who like to argue and be provocative 24/7.

    My wife and I talked about this person’s argumentative spirit quite often and began to theorize that we weren’t sure he even believed in what he was arguing, he just enjoyed taking an opposing viewpoint and arguing.

    I got a chance to test that theory once while at a party. About an hour after arguing/debating him over some issue, I approached him and said, “You know, I think you’re right. I see it your way.”

    He immediately picked up the opposing view (the one I had used an hour earlier) and began debating the issue with me!

    I didn’t hang around him much after that.

  11. I have never been one to be contrary just for the sake of being contrary. And the older I get the more I try to avoid contending with others unnecessarily. I will do so if I see gross falsehood or truly evil or hurtful behavior or words. And even then it’s mostly to make clear my distance from and disapproval of it, not with any hope that the other party will change, because that is exceedingly unlikely.

    I don’t understand people who try to be contentious just for the sake of argument. It’s exhausting and I think it’s a waste of time. For me, it brings to mind a home bible study leader at a large church we attended for a while years ago. He would start almost every study with a baited question about some hot-button culture war issue in an obvious attempt to stir debate and contention. All it did was get people riled up. It never had anything to do with the substance of the study. I hated it. We didn’t stay at that church long.

    • –> “He would start almost every study with a baited question about some hot-button culture war issue in an obvious attempt to stir debate and contention.”

      LOL. That would be awful.

      I lead two Bible studies, an adult one on Sunday morning and a men’s group Saturday mornings. I usually have warm-up questions, but they’re pretty innocuous.

      Best question I ever asked, based upon the fun stories I got in response, was: Does anyone have a good story about an encounter with snakes? Oh, gosh…you should’ve heard some of them!!!

  12. I barely comment at all because of the “respectful” discussions that aren’t.

  13. Christiane says:

    In the middle ages, in England, there is record of a nine year old boy hanged for stealing a loaf of bread . . . . fast forward to the early 1930’s and a fourteen year old black child is electrocuted for a crime in the south of our country;
    and in our present day, by lawful command of the President of the US, infants and young children were taken away from their parents at the border and kept apart from them, to the great suffering of both parents and children . . .

    Do people have to be ‘trained’ to be humane? Or is there within us enough left of Eden’s grace to know the difference between good and evil, no matter whether good is called ‘wrong’ of unlawful; and evil is called ‘lawful’ therefore the right thing to do???

    The ‘I was just obeying orders’ defense of the Nazis at Nuremberg trials is one example of ‘the law’ resulting in the murder of millions, including women and children, even infants. . . . . .

    What terrible things do people have to do to train the young not to have feelings for the suffering of others? What terrible ‘gospel’ is taught that permits people to feel contempt for those less fortunate than themselves?

    And what of ourselves? We all come to that place where a decision must be made that concerns the lesser of two evils, or maybe we abstain from choosing and pay a terrible price in doing so?

    Or sometimes we are faced with a ‘moral dilemma’ where our decision-making tests us to the core of our consciences and no one wins in the end.

    ‘confusing’ or ‘clarifying’ what is right and what is wrong . . . .

    Our Lord, knowing ‘the law’, did not tell men NOT to stone the woman taken in adultery; rather He confronted them with a moral dilemma, by telling them ‘let him who is without sin throw the first stone’ . . . . . and then He wrote something in the sand and they then put down their stones and walked away sadly . . .

    another classic example of clarification of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ comes to us from literature, this:

    ” Aslan said,
    ‘Son, thou are welcome.’ But I said, ‘Alas, Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash.’ He answered, ‘Child, all the service thou has done to Tash, I account as service done to me.’ Then by reason of my great desire for wisdom and understanding, I overcame my fear and questioned the Glorious One and said, ‘Lord, is it then true, as the Ape said, that thou and Tash are one?’ The Lion growled so that the earth shook (but his wrath was not against me) and said, ‘It is false. Not because he and I are one, but because we are opposites – I take to me the services which thou hast done to him. For I and he are of such different kinds that no service which is vile can be done to me, and none which is not vile can be done to him. Therefore, if any man swear by Tash and keep his oath for the oath’s sake, it is by me that he has truly sworn, though he know it not, and it is I who reward him. And if any man do a cruelty in my name, then, though he says the name Aslan, it is Tash whom he serves and by Tash his deed is accepted.”
    ( excerpt from ‘The Last Battle’ C.S. Lewis)

    some thoughts on a topic that will never be clear enough on this side of the veil, no

    • Christiane says:

      one last thought . . .

      whoever said ‘unkindness is the greatest sin’ came mighty close to getting it right

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