It seems every topic these days that has implications beyond my meager, individual existence has become warped by the political machine, and any stand one takes in the debate gets them hero status with some, Public Enemy Number One with others. To say that all semblance of civil discourse left the building quite some time ago would an understatement; I don’t think it was ever there, at least for as long as I’ve been around.
A lot of these are issues I care about; it’s hard not to care about them, since they usually involve people I know, or affect my life, or touch on my philosophical,
religious, or scientific beliefs on the workings of the universe we inhabit.
Or–yes, I’m human as well–I simply like to prove others wrong. But lately this reason has taken a back seat to my growing perception that logic and reason are not welcome in the current debate environment. And if logic and reason aren’t welcome, then frankly I don’t give a damn.
There are already numerous studies out there that posit a biological difference between those who purport themselves as liberal or conservative. While the authors do a decent job of stressing that these findings are NOT to be taken as canon, it also isn’t surprising, and it explains why discourse on topics that invoke passionate responses is in a logjam: we bring different assumptions and motivations to these discussions.
A favorite quote of mine (source unknown) :
You can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.
While its specific application is true–if someone accepts a platform on emotion from a heavily-biased radio talk show, they won’t be convinced otherwise by a calm and reasonable fact-based discussion–more generally speaking it can imply that unless two people are on the very same page, they probably won’t agree perfectly on an issue.
Back during Lent, I voluntarily chose to start avoiding chiming in on hot-button topics for multiple reasons. First, I’m a scientist, so I approach these discussions from as disconnected and objective a position as possible; as per the previous quote, unless the other person is doing the same, the discussion will degrade very quickly. Second, I’m a hypocrite, so #1 sometimes won’t last for long before it devolves into a shouting match, which isn’t fun. Third, these debates are exhausting, and that’s also not fun.
Lately, I’ve been gravitating somewhat reflexively toward the same thing once more: avoiding hot-button debates, particularly over Facebook. They’re dirty, they’re complicated, and the internet is a crappy crappy place to have a reasonable debate of ideas, so I’ve been pulling back once more. Of course I have strong opinions:
Global warming? It’s happening. Deal with it.
Evolution? Not a myth, or the opposite of creation, but scientific fact.
Gay marriage? About damn time.
George W. Bush? Good human being, terrible leader and president.
Barack Obama? Good human being, theoretically good president, practically C+ president.
Net neutrality? If you’re against this, you literally have no idea how the internet works.
Taxes and budget cuts? Of course I don’t like higher taxes, of course I don’t like national debt. But cutting things that do genuinely good work–throwing out the baby with the bath water–is a terrible, terrible idea, and I’m willing to pay higher taxes to keep this from happening.
Vaccines? They work, and they don’t cause autism. GTFO.
GOP candidates? The only one who stands a reasonable chance of winning (and, through no coincidence, isn’t a few fries short of a Happy Meal) is Mitt Romney. But of course he’s flip-flopping now to pander to the Tea Party.
American Exceptionalism? Great. Except when it isn’t. Which is quite often.
USA and religion? We’re not a Christian nation. Our Founders were not Christians. Christianity does not have exclusive access to the truth in this country.
Education? The one and only silver bullet there is, and ever will be.
Immigration? It’s what made this country great, from its inception up to the present day, as we’ve harbored the brightest minds of every generation. Cutting off that spigot is among the worst things we as a recovering nation could possibly do.
Disagree? You have every right to. As I have every right to debate you on it. This does not make either of us anti-American or terrorists. If you believe otherwise, you are anti-American.
But I think I’m finished. It’s fun in a sort of cathartic way to whine and rage and moan on the internets, because it gets you attention. That can be fun, but as I mentioned, it’s also exhausting, which–at least for me–makes it not fun. I don’t enjoy dealing with the inevitable emotional rage quit of those who have absolutely no clue what they’re talking about but compensate by maxing out the decibels.
For those two of you who frequent this site, you may be thinking “I’ve heard this before”, and you would be absolutely correct. So you would also be completely justified in asking “What’s different this time?”
I don’t have a good answer. It’s entirely possible (with some nonzero likelihood) that I will get riled up enough sometime to post here about Today’s Hot-Button Topic complete with frothing mouth and shaking hands.
But my point–if I have a point–is that the utility of making such posts is, effectively, zero. Those who agree with me don’t need convincing (even if the occasional “RAH RAH RAH” is fun), and those who don’t agree with me most likely aren’t open to being convinced otherwise (back to my very first point). The remaining possible benefits, therefore, are the cathartic effects of venting and getting subsequent attention. Neither of which particularly interests me.
What does interest me, however: