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.