Friday, October 01, 2010


Back when I was young and very full of myself, I used to love to debate. I never really got much into the formal kinds, save for one class in college, but it was enough to learn the rules, and understand that for debaters, the process was what mattered. Yeah, you wanted to win, but you also were supposed to be able to do that no matter which side you argued, and there were times when, in the middle of a debate, the teacher had us switch from the pro to the con or vice-versa. If you had the material, if you understood it, then it didn't matter.

I did that for a while in personal and philosophical arguments. 

Then one day I realized that this kind of intellectual masturbation was an activity I didn't want to pursue. From that point, if I was willing to wrangle over something, I took a position and offered it based on what I believed was The Right Thing. 

That went on for quite a time -- and is ongoing still. If a belief isn't worth defending, it isn't worth holding. If you can't come up with good reasons why your way is better for you, you haven't examined it with enough care. (Caveat: This does not apply to matters of faith, whether it be spiritual, or the best beer or football team. One cannot debate these kinds of thing, you believe or you don't, and the old saw is, for those who believe, no explanation is necessary; for those who don't believe, no explanation is possible.)

Then dawned another day, and I realized that passionate defenses of something in which I found great merit were, as often as not, a waste of time and energy because of the opponents the subject drew. Not to say there aren't reasonable people who disagree, and for whom a middle ground might be found, there are, but in some matters, it becomes a pissing match with a skunk. You can't win, and when you are done,  you, your clothes, and the room stinks really bad.

Another old saw: Consider the source.

Those of you who have known me for the last fifteen or so years are aware that I stepped into the keyboard arena for the Silat Wars, high, wide, and repeatedly. Using Edmund Burke's Dictum as my shield -- All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing -- I sallied forth to hack at the ignorant and the stupid ...

Ignorance is easily curable -- all you need is a desire to cure it, and you simply add information Q.S. until it goes away. Simple.

Stupid goes to the marrow. There is no cure. The biggest trick here is recognizing with which one you are dealing. Helping add knowledge and dispelling ignorance? That's a good thing. It adds to the world. 

Wrangling with stupid? Bad idea. Bad. 

One day, in the middle of a back-and-forth with a silat guy who was sure I was wrong and he was right, I had the epiphany: Why am I bothering? What do I care what this maroon thinks?

His opinion is worth less than the hot air he's spewing, and I don't need to waste one more second of my dwindling number trying to show him the error of his ways. So my martial art might not be better than Luigi's down the street on an objective scale, but it is better for me subjectively, and let it go at that. Fuck him very much, karma will get him, and, Hey, have a nice day ...

So I stopped doing it. That opened up time, got rid of stress, and was a victory on every front I could think of. Guy says, "My way is the One True Path™ then fine, let him think so. I don't care, it doesn't affect my life two nits and a picayune. 

Not to say I can't respond to a direct slander or libel, but on matters of faith -- and that's what martial arts are to a large degree, we aren't going to change each other's mind, so let it go.

Something you might want to think about if you wake up at three a.m. smoldering over some boneheaded comment you can't wait to get to the keyboard to straighten out ...


Dan Gambiera said...

"Never wrassle with a hog. Ya gets dirty and the hog enjoys it."

And in the Silat Wars it's not just stupid. Half the time it's the full nine miles of burning crazy.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"Half the time it's the full nine miles of burning crazy."<

I would contest your measure of time here, Dan.

More like 90-95% of the time, by my reckoning. Any voice of reason is easily drowned out by the din of the insane. As it was wisely said on recently; "If you have nothing to say, merely say nothing a thousand times, and it will be believed."

Anonymous said...

Hell, I have a hard time getting people to acknowledge FACTS, let alone opinions.

For example, everybody has opinions on political and legal issues that are big enough to make the front page (that's a newspaper reference for the kids out there). Having actually been to law school I find that most people seriously misunderstand 'facts' they are quoting on these issues. And then they say I 'just don't get it'.

Even worse, I've corrected formal logic statements in people's arguments (sometimes even when I agree with the conclusion but notice a gap or fallacy between the conclusion and evidence) and gotten the same result.

People should have to pass a logic class to graduate high school. Or to breed.

J.D. Ray said...

Legislators would never allow a law to pass that required people to pass a logic test to breed, because ultimately they would run out of constituents. :-\

steve-vh said...

If he's right, he lives. If he's wrong "then he dies". Not for me to predict.

Dojo Rat said...

Guilty as charged.
Sometimes it's healthy to cut loose with a good rant.

John @ D.R.