I received this comment on August the 26th, but other stuff intervened, and I was unable to respond as quickly as I wanted to. Now, finally, I have time. So here it is.
I wrote a post called “Inflationary Hearing” (August 26). In it, I talked about people on both ends of the political spectrum who, when they hear the opposition promoting a minimally threatening idea – I used examples involving gun and abortion rights concerns – their brains instantly inflate that proposal to its most imperiling extreme. Commenter Ger Apeldoorn accurately, I think, described it as “a tendency to interpret anything that is said to them as an attack.”
My point was that “inflationary hearing” is a troubling obstacle to any effort to reach, not solutions, these issues will always be contentious, but reasonable compromises that people of good will can live with.
A commenter, monikered Lord Lillis commented:
“These are what I call your “Crotchety Alter-Cocker” pieces. Adding, “Personally, I don’t care for them.” The Lord then adds, “But I wonder: should you do more of them so you get better (at the risk of losing readers like myself) or do less (because they aren’t your forte and they don’t kill like you camping pieces.”
Okay. One thing at a time.
What’s a “Crotchety Alter-Cocker”? (I know. But you may not.)
“Alter-Cocker” is Yiddish for “old fart.” “Crotchety” is English, so no translation is necessary.
In my view “Inflationary Hearing” is not one of my “Crotchety Alter-Cocker” pieces.
But that isn’t.
To me, a “Crotchety Alter-Cocker” piece involves a writer, nostalgic for his past, offering “things were better then” comparisons like,
“In my day movies were a quarter and popcorn was a dime.”
“Inflationary Hearing” had nothing to do with nostalgia. It had to do with my oft-mentioned concern that people have stopped hearing what their ideological opponents are saying to them, and instead hear only red flags and fire alarms.
“Inflationary Hearing” has resulted in a polarized environment the likes of which this country has never seen before. Yes, I know about the Civil War. It’s in all the history books. But even in the Civil War era, though each side deeply believed that the other side was wrong – “Slavery is wrong!” “Overruling ‘States’ Rights’ is wrong!” – they did not, as they do today, believe the other side is crazy. Or, from the Right’s perspective, “going straight to hell.”
“Inflationary Hearing” was what I hoped was a thoughtful offering, whose inclusion in a blog entitled Just Thinking seems, to me, entirely “title appropriate.”
Lord Lillis wonders if I should do more “Crotchety Alter-Cocker” pieces, in his words, “so you get better.” At first, this stung.
“I need to get better?”
Ouch! And then whoh! How could I have so erroneously overestimated my performance? At the time, I felt that “Inflationary Hearing” successfully delivered on my intentions.
But now, I have to admit I was wrong.
Although criticism has never been my favorite form of acknowledgement, it is difficult to deny that, had I written “Inflationary Hearing” better, Lord Lillis – though he might still have found it not to his liking – he would at least not have miscategorized his complaint under “Crotchety Alter-Cocker” pieces.
Instead, Lord Lillis would have focused on the flaws in my argument, or that the argument was indifferently delineated. He might also have gotten what I was going for, but respectfully disagreed. The nature of his criticism, however, is not along those lines. Though it possibly might be, were I to more carefully read between them.
I believed that Lord Lillis had played the “Alter Cocker” card inappropriately. It was only when, around the same time as the criticism, some fortuitous reading matter came my way, that I started to re-think my position, and wonder if Lord Lillis might actually be correct after all.
The Round Robin is a “Psychologists-Psychoanalyst Practitioners” newsletter. I am not a subscriber myself, but it comes to Dr. M, and when she spots an article she thinks I’d appreciate, she passes it along to me.
Which is how I got to read, “Notes on an Application of Psychoanalytic Thought” by Richard Grose, Ph.D., LP. (Don’t ask me what LP is. To me, it’s a long-playing record.)
Examining a seminal moment in our history, Dr. Grose argues that, without knowing it, the Founding Fathers had drawn on psychoanalytic principles, while engaging in the excruciating process of hammering out the articles of what would ultimately become the United States Constitution.
Case In Point:
James Madison adamantly opposed the proposal that all the states should be represented equally in Congress, finding such a distribution of power inconsistent with the importance and prosperity of the larger states.
The smaller states, however, fearing marginalization, announced that, that without equal representation, they would refuse to ratify the Constitution, the result being, no United States of America.
This is a really big deal, right? Something needed to be done, or a nation that had just been established would have their name taken off the globe.
A compromise was suggested – which will sound familiar, because it’s what we’ve got today – called “divided sovereignty”, wherein the number of representatives per state in the House would be determined on the basis of population, but in the Senate, the states, no matter their size, would each be allotted the same number of senators, that number being two.
Madison also hated this compromise, fighting tooth and nail – and apparently not always respectfully – against it. However, realizing he lacked the votes to defeat it, and also realizing that the country would go “bye-bye” without some form of accommodation, Madison ultimately surrendered to the position of the majority.
Now, get this. Quoting Dr. Grose:
“Later, after the Convention finally finished its work, while arguing for the Constitution in the Federalist Papers, Madison wrote eloquently in praise of the concept of divided sovereignty – which he had done so much to try to forestall.”
He fought. He lost. He thought it over. And he changed his mind.
On the re-think, ala Madison, I have come to believe that Lord Lillis was accurate. “Inflationary Hearing” was a “Crotchety Alter-Cocker” piece. But I am not the trumpeting the “things were better then” of my youth.
I am nostalgic for the Eighteen Century!
Thank you Lord Lillis for drawing that to my attention. I am really going to have to watch myself.
I swear to you.
I had no idea I was doing it.