PC And the Art of Non-Disagreement.
I had lunch with my friends at Azalea Estates today. My friends are a table of World War II vets who, for better or for worse, are retired academics. I find that interesting on many levels–that they fought and won what was perhaps the greatest ideological conflict in the history of mankind and returned home to become college professors. My friends are a true testament to the nature of war–the last resort and the natural extention of politics.
We were discussing the election, how things were looking for either candidate. Two of the men are Kerry supporters, one is a Bush supporter, but we don’t hold it against him. And the topic turned to the most recent debate between the president and the senator. We all spoke our minds about who we thought won what points, but we all generallly agreed that it was a tie on the issues but Kerry looked more presidential. After all, he didn’t have to interrupt Charles Gibson in an almost farcical, South Park Prime Minister sort of way. “Can I respond to that? I wanna respond to that.” In the end, we decided that both men gained an equal number of ‘points’ and the debate was a wash, a tie in which there was no clear winner.
The topic then turned to the nature of disagreement and how we’ve changed as a nation and as a people. I related a story about a mailing list incident I had. The exchange went something like the following:
ME: America has turned into a hellhole of a nation, a godforesaken cesspool of a populace taking marching orders from the likes of Bill O’Reilly and Rush Limbaugh.
HER: You shouldn’t insult Americans and America like that!
SOMEONE ELSE: Well it’s TRUE!
HER: Yeah, but he could have said it in a non-insulting way.
After taking a minute to gain my composure, I replied that the very act of disagreement in and of itself is an insult. While we can mask the sting behind any number of niceties and politeness, play coy about ‘agreeing to disagree’, and condescend to our epistemological opponents, we still are, in essence, saying that we are right and they are wrong–which is, frankly, insulting. I simply chose not to mask myself behind “some people are so misguided.”
The whole incident inspired me to come up with a brief list, three ‘rules’. Guidelines that, if you will, will hopefully spare the feelings of whomever the idiot across the table from you happens to be. So take them to heart, live by them, and we’ll all meld into that gray mush of the melting pot.
1.) Do not attack your opposition. Instead, politely inform them that they are misguided.
You can’t be serious! That’s just plain stupid. 2+2 does not equal five. It equals four. Any idiot with an in-tact hand could tell you that!
I understand why you would think that. After all, you were misguided by the teachers of “new math.” 2+2 almost equals five. But it’s actually four. Awe…look! You figured it out on your fingers! Way to go!
2.) Do not call your opponent a name–even if the name is a monosyllabic word, the definition of which they epitomise in their stupidity. Instead, use euphemisms and be cheerful as you correct their mistake.
Dumbass! That isn’t a CAR! That’s a rock! You’ve got two eyes and a brain, try using them sometimes will you?!
Awe! That’s cute. You thought that the rock was a car! It’s okay. I mean, they are both big, hard, and sometimes ugly. But cars have windows and rocks, while they may be shiny, don’t. So that’s a good way to tell them apart in the future. After all, hon. You can’t drive a rock!
3.) If all else fails, don’t walk away in silence. Walk away humming. At least the rest of the world will know how superior you are to your opponent.
I just–You can’t–Agh!!!!!!!!
I must confess. I miss the old days. The days when ‘polite’ behavior didn’t dictate what was right. “We pledge our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor” wasn’t ordered that way accidentally. You can bet your ass they prioritized that list. “Lives” was the least of their concerns of the three. When the Duel went the way of the do-do, so did truly polite society. It was okay to disagree with someone, but watch your step. If you did it the wrong way, they’d pop a cap in your ass. Ah…the good ole days. Fuck progress man. Wanna be my second?