Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Something for everyone

Pursuant to a couple of statements made in another thread, I wanted to make a couple of points about language. All of thought, and much of emotion, is conveyed through the medium of speech. The blogosphere is a pale shadow of that because emotion is stripped from they typed word, and inflection is reduced to emoticons, italics, caps, or some encapsulation using *. You can still get your point across, but the power of that point (assuming you have one) is diluted by the medium.

That being the case, some of us like to emphasize with language. Foul language. Oh, yes. We like to curse, to berate, to taunt, to accuse, to cast aspersions. Many of us use this around the primary point, some of us use it simply as a method to halt the conversation. I have done, and been reprimanded, for both. Inevitably, some panty waist will wade into the conversation (or its degenerate brother, the argument) and start whining about how the point is dismissed when the foul language/name calling come into play. That refrain of "can't we all play nice" makes me want to gag. How much more obviously must that point be made?

I was just reading some articles in the Boston Review, and was struck by the articles evsicerating an opponent with the most meticulous care, all the while couching all that passion in ever-so-polite language. How is it that insinuating that your opponent "lacks the fundamental knowledge to support that stance" any different than "this guy is a moron and has no clue what he's spouting off about"? The insults are the same, you just strip out the passion, and assume that makes a difference. Any debate seeks to undermine the opponents position, and certain methods of doing that have been declared off limits. These are called fallacies.

Among these fallacies is the one that complains that an argument cannot proceed in the face of name calling. As if the point, "the Earth is round and orbits the sun", is rendered untrue or invalid when prefaced with, "Hey, dickhead". That's the worst kind of fallacy. and it is grasped at by folks who desperately want out of the argument. Ignore the opposing point, or piece of information, and cry fould over a slur. Now, this is not to indicate that I seek license to have some sort of cursing Tourettes attack in the course of every discussion. But every now and again, a good FUCK@! does wonders to focus your wits on the debate, and stir up both sides when it spirals downward in that bastard cousin of an argument (after all the points have been exhausted, and the retreading of the same points begins), the heated personal exchange.

Language is valid, no matter the form it is couched in. (Though I despise it with my whole heart, and flat refuse to have it spoken in my home, I even include the gibberish known as ebonics in that statement.) When you make an effort to sanitize that language, to ameliorate its impact by reducing something like "nigger" (a word that has come to symbolize bigotry and white guilt) to "the N word", or fiddle with "handicapped" until you end up with "handicapable", or any of the myriad other goofy PC terms that spring up for everything from blindness to obesity, you are saying that some things are unworthy of being expressed. Some types of speech, like hate speech, are unacceptable. Bullshit. Free speech means even the stuff that would gag a maggot, like an Aryan rally or Oliver North talking about patriotism.

If you have something to say, then say it. If someone gets offended, then just smile at them, wave, and call them a fucking idiot. Language is what we have to express how we feel and what we think, and any effort to curtail it is to try to put boundaries on those feelings and thoughts. It is the people that seek to do that who have given up on having a debate, or an exchange of ideas, without ever realizing it.


Cantankerous Bitch said...

This, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the many reasons OP was invited to contribute here.


Cantankerous Bitch said...

Brilliant Boston Review link, by the way. Thanks for posting.

Lily said...

Well, I think I can see the merits of all forms of expression and certainly we need more, not less. And I would prefer an impassioned "cuss word" to the dry fare served up any day. Was it Kerouac who said "fuck is the dirty word that comes out clean"? Certianly some of our best and brightest have been bonafide potty mouths.
But what gets tiresome to me is not "vulgarity"- that you can keep a'comin'. BUT I can't stand when people summarily dismiss whole categories of people or beliefs using political shorthand, as though "neocon" captures it all and need only be bandied about to convey an idea. Often no real idea is conveyed at all. It amounts to vapid whining. Now we know this blog uses political shorthand, and we all smile and know exactly what "kind of person" a Dobsonite or Thumper is. We do it because we are not intending to be academic, I think we are "discussing" and in that case all terms are permissable.
But I am of the opinion that general terms do not really inform discussion. I know I am not a frilly blouse wearing liberal flower child, and hate to be categorized as ANYTHING. And there are some fiscal conservatives that do not like to be lumped together with RELIGIOUS conservatives either. Bush is a supposed right winger, but the fiscal policies of this senate and administration are causing some conservative heads to shake in disbelief. There are Republican lesbians (i.e. log cabin Republicans) and conservative environmentalists... thats part of what emboldens this administration- refer to Cnatankerous Bitch who can discuss "habitual Republicans" quite thoroughly.
I just think we miss something when we use general terms that do not always fit. And THAT is my issue with language. I have no real issue with profanity. I give Officious Pedant credit, obviously a person of contradictions because it doesn't get much more pretentious than THAT alias!!! Holy shit!

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Not that he needs my input, but I can say this re: blog IDs:
I have a fledgling consulting business that depends entirely on word of mouth for growth. While a significant portion of my existing clients agree with me politically, there are some about whom I cannot say for sure. That being the case, I'd hate for them (or anyone they refer my way) to Google my real name, land here, and decide that my politics offend their own to the extent that they'll take their business elsewhere.
OP is a well-known member of his fairly small industry niche, and likewise, needs to keep his professional life and political life decidedly separate.
From what I gather on other blogs, there are quite a few folks in similar predicaments. Sure, for some, IDs are the same cutsie little things circa AOL chat rooms, but for others, not so.
Wouldn't it be wonderful if we lived in a climate that doesn't mean wholesale condemnation (like you describe re: blanket terms) in the event of ideological disagreement? At least for now, the risk:reward ratio is skewed in favor of anonymity.

Officious Pedant said...

The alias fits, though, yes? I have had any number of respondents post the dictionary defintions of those two words (it seems they imagine I chose them without knowing what they meant). I tend to say the same things, perhaps with less vituperation, in my real persona, but that persona is something I have control of. When you come to the blogs, you can lift a passage or quote, alter it to suit your needs, and repost it elsewhere. The anonymity of the alias means that my online persona cannot be used as leverage against my work persona.

That anonymity bothers some folks. I am profoundly unmoved by that.

les said...

absofuckinlutely correct. The "talk nice" bs is right up there with the "don't call the idiot an idiot" excuse for not listening to the point.

Lily said...

Now now, I understand the rationale for a guarded identity. I don't exactly have bumper stickers on my ass proclaiming my politics. Thats not my way and thats not the point, I think it has more to do with my aversion to complicity and reticence in most areas OTHER than anonymous venues that puzzle me.. the most effective activists I know are people you could not pick out of a crowd.
If we are only concerned in disguise, and don't aim to inform our thinking or do much beyond absorbing- it becomes little beyond sport and "mental masturbation". I worked for small town government, and am well aware that we can pay a terrible price for being mouthy, critical, or downright uppity. That is not what I suggest for any fledgeling consultant. But I feel we pay a personal price when we stand there and nod idiotically when people say "Right? You agree, dontcha??" And we sure as hell don't.
There is a saying "the personal IS political" and in many respects I would rather stand by who I am than hide it. Fear of dissent, fear of being viewed as unpatriotic, fear of economic reprisal- these are legitimate but I cannot feed into a repressive mindset that is decidedly unAmerican. I HAVE been selective and to a certain degree, that is necessary. We don't exactly call bosses pig bastards very often in the name of honesty either even when we think it.
I was not trying to throw stones at my fellow bloggers here and I am well aware that there is a time and place for disclosing who and what we are. Blogs are not my profession, and it is not necessary for me to "own" my comments personally or demand you own yours. . I view it as a simple exchange to increase understanding. Anonymity here is not the same as what i described.
But in the real world, I do sign my name to letters and I do stand by my words and who I am, and for the most part, even people that disagree with me have told me that they respect what I am doing and some have even changed their minds. What I am working on now is a project with Republicans and business people, far from hippies and rebels. But with maturity and educated views, connections on FACTS, not IDENTITY, are possible.
And Cantankerous Bitch, I already stated that I agree with the points about profanity. I won't rehash. But in my small, limited consulting past, I think my client would have been more offended by a stream of "fucks" than by my desire to save some trees. I have done the graduate school thing, and had opportunities for a more closed mouth existence. But simply decided to focus on non profit, NGO, and other such areas that are beyond my desire to make money. That path is not for everyone.
I don't begrudge anyone the right to earn a living. I just think that it is the WAY we present ourselves, our agenda, and our politics. In most business relationships, Btch, I think our politics are irrelevant.
But armchair pundits share something with armchair quarterbacks, neither are really in the game.

Cantankerous Bitch said...

Understood, and agreed completely re: "disguised concern". I made a career of getting in trouble at my parents dinner parties because I'd challenge the guests when the conversations turned political. They weren't too fond of hearing a teenager suggest their perspectives contained a few chinks...
My personal shortcoming is in pretty much avoiding excessive social contact with people with whom I disagree top to bottom. My husband will tell you that at the heart of this tendency lies my inherent dislike of confrontation (at least in person; on paper is a whole other story. -snort-). Nevertheless, every conversation in the CB household, regardless of participants, turns political in fairly short order, and the last thing either of us do is feign agreement just to maintain niceties. I can't think of anything more vulgar, really.
Appreciate the clarification, Lily. I had a hunch what you were driving at, but felt compelled to comment in case my assumtions were wrong.

Lily said...

I hate the use of the word confrontation, as there is a tendency to set things up that way but it does not have to be that way unless one is overly competitive or concerned more with results AKA "being right" or "winning" than they are about the state of their minds. Yes, disagreement without confrontation requires maturity and diplomatic skills often not possessed- I just don;t think differences always have to be pitted against one another. Way back there was a rant about gym class and competition-- this applies to a sense that opinions are a contest to be won, versus a process that unfolds over time....a failing of many blogs is that the dynamic is "gym class" from the onset. Not people seeking to exchange but seeking to convince or strike down or poke holes... after age 30 or so- what comes next?

Cantankerous Bitch said...

I won't speak for anyone but me, here, but part of the "gym" argument comes from watching liberals being attacked for the last 25 years or so. When you're told by an increasing majority in government and the media that your basic values are "unamerican", "unpatriotic", "communist" or any other pejorative, it's hard not to begin from a defensive stance. While, certainly, there's little value in just stoking the fire, I think part of the reason Democrats are reviled for spinelessness is that they've failed to defend themselves against the characterizations made of them by the GOP. Liberals, progressives, Democrats (whatever you want to call them) will have a tough time, IMO, shedding this "spineless" characterization if they fail to say "Hey! Wait a minute!" when it's appropriate, even if that means a certain degree of confrontation ensues.