In everyday life, I consider myself to be a peacemaker. Like a trial judge, I am less interested in advancing an agenda than ensuring that each side or idea gets fair consideration. Although I know I can’t help but editorialize, one of my main goals in writing is to give a similar treatment to popular topics. Oftentimes, two opposing sides speak right past each other and they resort to a combination of hyperbole and volume in an attempt to “win” rather than justify their own point of view. For an example, we can turn to comedy:
This clip is from Dylan Moran’s “Monster.” As soon as the refrigerator door is mentioned, it becomes clear that the woman is not really interested in discussing and resolving a particular problem or misdeed; she just wants to express that she is angry at the man. Any attempt to answer her individual concerns will be fruitless, because she doesn’t actually care about any of the issues she raises. They are just verbal chaff and flare that give form to her emotion while hiding the reasons behind it.
Continuing on, the discussion about pheasant is essentially the reason that I can’t stomach almost any form of news reporting today. The problem isn’t an issue of fact checking or editorial spin; people will say and print things that aren’t even coherent or possible. As Dylan Moran asks, exasperated, “What does that mean? On any level?” I believe this is at least partially the result of a wealthy, secure, technologically-driven culture which routinely separates actions and consequences. People simply don’t respect the fact that the two things are linked, which hinders them from making good decisions. I would say more, but Jim Gaffigan has the situation well in hand.
People talk right past each other in these two ways all the time. The first is the preferred method of demagogues who like to go for the throat ad hominem style. They tend to use hyper-focused soundbytes and slogans set up false dichotomies to silence their opponents. You typically can’t disagree with them without being labeled an “ist” of some sort…racist, sexist, fascist, etc. The second is the realm of the academics and elite. You would recognize it from the introduction to any college-level class on anything outside of the hard sciences. They tend to level a lot of vague assertions that anything you say or believe is founded upon some discredited racist/sexist/Eurocentric/ethnocentric/colonial theory from the days of yore and then console you because it’s-not-your-fault-you’re-ignorant-but-let-me-help-you-understand-how-things-really-are. They are often impossible to disagree with because the nature of the language employed commits the speaker to few if any tangible, discreditable claims.