Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Arguing is so tiresome

You know, I'm getting tired of arguing.

I feel like it might just be easier to let people wallow in happy ignorance than to try to show them a little light of truth.

But, the problem is that I care about people and I think operating from faulty premises hurts them.

It's like if I see someone in a survival situation trying to make a fire without matches. I've started thousands of fires that way. If I see someone trying in a way that I see isn't going to work I want to at least give pointers. People generally hate that. I know because I've done that, too.

I've also been on the other side. I was once the guy who had tried to make a fire with a bow/drill... and failed- probably hundreds of times. I had read every description ever written of the making of the kit, and the techniques, and failed time and time again. Then, one day high in the Rockies, I heard a guy was going to do a demonstration on bow/drill firemaking. I swallowed my pride and showed up- an ignorant pilgrim in need of help. I watched him make a fire- and saw him correct the one fatal error in every single description I had ever read- and I had a fire in minutes the very next time I tried. Which was just as fast as I could gather the materials.

But, perhaps I had to be at the point where I was ready for help. (I think I was ready for help years earlier; I just couldn't find it.)

So, the best thing might be to clear a spot and build my own fire without uttering a word. Or, just let objections go unanswered while just living it. That makes me feel a little like I am ignoring my duty, though.



  1. I've wrestled with this too. My current conclusion is that arguing is pointless, even counter-productive. Nobody will change his thinking until he/she is ready to. And by its nature, argument leads to more defensive, closed minds.

    On the other hand, at random moments, people DO become ready to hear new ideas. So please don't be silent.

    Also, government supporters need to hear that anyone who transgresses illegitimately into trying to control, or end, another person's life, may be subject to a very extreme reaction. That's not arguing, it's just stating a fact.

  2. I don't think I'll shut up. I may try to take a different angle for a while.

    It is hard when you hear someone insisting that "2 + 4 = omelet" to not say something to correct them. Yet, I am tired of them coming back with "You're just a silly Utopian if you don't believe that 2 + 4 = omelet!" Or worse.

    In the past I have focused on drive-by commenting where I correct the error and never go back to see how it was received. Perhaps that would be the smart way to go again.

    I try to remind myself all the time that I am not posting comments for benefit of the moron I am arguing with, but for anyone who happens to read the comments from the sidelines. That is why I also try to refrain from pointing out that the moron is, in fact, a moron.

    But on this blog- MY blog- I may not even try to stop arguing if statists drop by to excrete their authoritarianism on me.

  3. I like that term, "drive-by commenting"! I "drive by" quite often. It's usually tedious and pointless to get stirred up over a response to a comment I've made. Once I've read it, my mind won't rest until I've responded to the response, even though I can see clearly that the person is stuck in his fantasy and nothing I can say will get him out of it.

    Every now and then I take a break from the jostling, and as time goes on (63 and counting) I'm tending to shift toward wanting to devote every ounce of my energies to creating beauty, not squabbling in an ugly arena. Arguing about politics is like a contest to see who can spit the most grossly on his neighbor. It's a constant battle not to let one's own basest instincts come to the fore.

    Then again, you articulate a reason to be motivated to stay on the high road, "I try to remind myself all the time that I am not posting comments for benefit of the moron I am arguing with, but for anyone who happens to read the comments from the sidelines." Well put! So it comes down to a trade-off between turning one's back on the toil and trouble and staying as much as possible in the realm of beauty, vs. sounding off and being subject to the slings and arrows of barely literate fools while avoiding responding in kind, though one's very being screams out to do so.

    Are we having fun yet?

  4. I've been working on this, and I think you just inspired me to put it all together.

    I think the problem is that accepting instruction is to accept lower status on the scholar hierarchy.
    Many will accept new beliefs, but only from particular sources. Indisputably higher-status sources - for which there's no point in competing.
    For everyone else, scholar status == perception of scholar status, which means they can 'win' arguments by ad populum.
    Finally, most enthusiastically choose status over learning every time.

    (Specifically, thinking critically about this post, I remembered to ask myself, "Okay, so when is this NOT true? Under what conditions will being told change a person's beliefs? Well...if they see a 'scientific' study in a 'respectable' newspaper, they'll stop eating eggs. Or start.)

    Part of the problem is that public 'schools' are in fact entirely about domination. But since they call it 'learning,' the average person's archetype of 'learning' becomes domination, reinforcing the natural tendency to try to grub for status by 'winning' arguments.

  5. I think you're right. I always try to consider the information more than the source. I guess I try to not believe in the "scholar hierarchy" as a static thing. I may know more about almost everything than another person, but they will know more than me about something, and if I need to learn that thing I'd better not blow them off. I have learned a lot from people I probably wouldn't have listened to if I worried about my status.

    And you're so right about government schools (and those modeled on them).