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Morning Pages 20.0 - The Annals of Young Geoffrey: Hope brings a turtle [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
Young Geoffrey

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Morning Pages 20.0 [Nov. 8th, 2007|07:26 am]
Young Geoffrey
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Maybe I'm getting too old for online debates. Or maybe I'm just out of practice. Or maybe I should have found some kind of debating society back when I was in high school. I always dismissed formal debating as kind of silly, because it seemed to me that the whole point of a formal debate was to win the debate rather than to discover what was actually true. What I didn't really accept, though, is that I was (and still) am, very unusual in that I would (really!) rather lose an argument if I am in fact wrong, than win it simply through the quality of my rhetoric.

Perhaps my puratinism was a mistake; being able to skillfully defend one's position does not of necessity imply one must therefore forget how to say, "Oh. You're right. I hadn't thought of that."

Yesterday, one of you guys posted some comments about Naomi Klein's latest book, The Shock Doctrine. I disagreed with his analysis and said so. One of his his friends took up the battle and I found myself in one of those meandering debates, where each rebuttal seems to somehow stray further and further from the initial topic, without the latter having been resolved.

Anyway, my interlocutor at one point included a line to the effect that, the Arabs are not ready for democracy - too tribal, too clannish, etc. I ignored it as an irrelevance to the what we were ostensibly discussing (Klein's book and her thesis) but awoke this morning with possible rebuttals running through my slowly-rousing mind like so many cars on a foggy freeway at the start of rush-hour.

Worse, I felt that I had betrayed my own principles by ignoring what was, in fact, an essentially racist slur in the guise of cultural analysis. (Note that I am not suggesting my antagonist is "a racist", but rather that his analysis has been slanted by over-exposure to "our" propaganda and by the natural preference for assuming that one's own side is the good side. How much more comforting it is to assert that "they" are not capable of running their own countries than it is to accept that "we" have never let them try.

It wasn't so very long ago at all that similar things were said about women, about the Irish, about blacks, about (North American) Indians, about the Jews, &cetera (though with the latter also usually came a paradoxical soupçon of fear; but I digress). In short, a justification that invariably accompanies oppression - "Maybe we're oppressing them, but only because they're incapable of ruling themselves."

Long story short, through my desire to keep the discussion on-topic, I ignored the proverbial elephant in the corner and in so doing tacitly allowed him to subtly change the subject. Which means I need to back and call him on it. Sigh.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: movementpattern
2007-11-10 02:06 am (UTC)
Well...

Arguing on the internet is like having a competition to see who can hammer more nails into their head. Even if you win, you're an idiot.

(And I've done the same thing.)

Anyway, I agree about the whole stupidity of believing in any form of a white man's burden.

I find living in a city where many people have ancestors from different places but look and talk and dress the same can make one realise WE ARE ALL JUST HUMANS.
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[User Picture]From: movementpattern
2007-11-10 03:16 am (UTC)
I find living in a city where many people have ancestors from different places but look and talk and dress the same can make one realise WE ARE ALL JUST HUMANS.

I was not meaning someone is not human/moral/whatever until they appear/act like us, but "given that someone can have any genetic background but learn any language or set of customs, people are not 'racially' pre-wired".

I also didn't mean living in a city will automatically make you more open-minded, or that, you must live in a big city to be open-minded, but "being around a lot of people with different backgrounds may give you perspective".

Just in case there was going to be a flame war... :D

I haven't read this other person's comments, but he may be arguing that Arabs "aren't ready" not because of their genes but because of their culture... harder to argue against. One could shrug one's shoulders about many people who "aren't ready" for things others figure are more advanced. One might say many Canadians just "aren't ready" for a native Prime Minister... not that it makes it right- people have ideas, and many seem to go with what's considered normal.

This is getting long, so I'll post an entry.
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