Vanity and difference…

If I’ve learned anything over the past week, it’s that no matter how genuinely respectful your tone, no matter how much practice you’ve put into avoiding becoming a didactic ass, no matter how much you yourself may be a stakeholder, no matter how much the extent of your empathy, no matter how much you’ve read on the topic, no matter how much charity of interpretation you’ve already extended to parties who’ve otherwise been denied it, no matter how many times you’ve kept quiet so someone else could have their say, and no matter how much good faith has been invested in your inquiry, some people are always going to regard the fact of your opinion differing, or you’re coming at a question from an unfamiliar angle, as condescending. For some people, anything less than silence or uncritical agreement is going to be treated as condescension, not because it’s actually condescending, or politically suspect, but because you’re dealing with narcissists and their enablers, and your differing assumptions, no matter how tentatively stated, and no matter how small the difference, are in disharmony with their particular articulation of a set of protected beliefs – their brand.

Egos get conflated with causes. Cronies get conflated with activists and allies.

People forget that the specifics of their protected beliefs are works in progress – works often by other, un-cited people – and that these protected beliefs only came about in the first place because people were afforded the (often rare) opportunity to criticize and disagree. And still, there was always the opportunity of a greater authority figure taking that opportunity away, while the lesser, often self-appointed authorities engaged in smears and shaming.

If you’ve given one of the latter-day versions of these authority figures a narcissistic injury, good grief you’re going to pay for it. Or at least, that’s the commitment some people will adopt, albeit behind a tissue-thin veneer of denial.

~ Bruce

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A short mention – Neil on debate versus dialogue

Last week, Neil posted a brief little gem on the difference between dialogue and debate. I’d just like to expand on this a little, because it’s something that’s been going through my mind a bit of late, what with what this Rousing Departures thing is all about…

Neil ponders a few distinctions surrounding the adversarial nature of debate versus the cooperative nature of dialogue, and the idea that debate can stimulate dialogue. At the risk of being adversarial (or am I being cooperative?), I’m not so sure it’s entirely that clear-cut. It can be clear-cut if you want; you can have debate-and-that’s-that, or debate I think, can be far more integral to dialogue than in just the role of stimulating it. I guess it depends on what you mean by ‘stimulate’.

All I’d like to say at this point, is that at base, I think debate is best viewed as being a bit like a particle collider. You have two cases wound-up and fired into a direct collision with each other, the various statements, assumptions and arguments being broken down into their base components according to their respective strengths. What you are then left with is the job of interpreting the results of the collision, which requires some kind of team.

I think I’m going to use this analogy again sometime in the near future.

~ Bruce