Wednesday, May 31, 2017

"Follow-Up To 'An Unstartling Epiphany'"

Explanation (And Unspoken Apology) For The Heavier Subject Matter:  I did not get into the summer course at the University of Oxford that I applied to because the class, to my deep disappointment – and it is encouraging that I can still feel deep disappointment – was full.  My more serious thoughts, needing consequently to go somewhere, are ending up in this venue.  Frothier material “To come.”  Hopefully, soon.

Despite both my wife and my daughter Anna swear by the healing benefits of acupuncture, although I have paid numerous visits to Dr. Mao for the treatment of various maladies, with the exception of the set of tiny new holes littering my body, I have had no physical difference to show for it.  So you know what I did?

I stopped going to acupuncture.

Suggesting the natural next question, involving the exciting examination begun yesterday…

If, as was, I believe, persuasively argued,

“Nobody changes their mind about anything”,

Why then do we – and by “we” I mean the people engaging in such activities which I believe greatly outnumbers the people who don’t – continue participating in adversarial discourse?

Acupuncture does not work for me? – I stop going to acupuncture.  Arguments, reasoned and otherwise, have no ameliorative effect because,

“Nobody changes their mind about anything”,

And we keep arguing anyway?


Why continue adhering to a procedure that, over time, has proven demonstrably ineffective?

Are we crazy, or what?

Children arguing with their parents – not about “Can I go out on a school night?” – but about contrasting belief systems, go at it – as iconic hockey broadcaster Foster Hewitt would describe it – “hammer and tongs”, hoping that one of them, or maybe both in a conciliatory compromise, will suddenly exultantly “See the light.”

Read my lips:

There is no light. 

Or, more accurately, there are two lights, the disputants gazing in opposite directions. 

Hugging?  Heartfelt apologies?  Cathartic “waterworks”?

Only in sitcoms. 

“Oh, Daddy, I had no idea my attending your alma mater meant so much to you.”

“So you’ll apply to “Shmedlap State”?

“No.  But at least now I know why you’ve been acting like such a jerk.”


Same with siblings.  Same with cherished dinner companions.  Voices are raised;
nothing’s resolved.

And I mean ever.

Ipso facto – or the more appropriate Latin alternative – if our continued debating provides no ameliorative effect, because…

“Nobody changes their mind about anything”,

Why then, when someone expresses an opinion out of sync with our own, do we not, in response, sensibly – not literally ‘cause that’s kind of disgusting – hold our proverbial tongues?

Because, be honest.  Has it ever made a glimmer of difference when we didn’t?

Sometimes, when articulating their provocative perspective, it appears as if the articulating provocateur (or articulating provocateuse) is deliberately asking for trouble. 

Choosing from an arsenal of options against their reticent opponent, the squabble inciter baits their prospective adversary, going up at the end of a sentence, as if their challenging statement were a question requiring an obligatory response.  Another engagement-enticing strategy:  They cap their provocative pronouncement with the words, “You know what I’m saying?”, implicitly demanding an answer, possibly agreement, but, barring that, the seemingly welcome alternative:

“Game on!”

I know sometimes it is obligatory to offer a corrective rejoinder.  For example, if someone said to me something like, “You are the only Jew I ever liked”, one would expect a more courageous comeback than “Thank you”, unless that “Thank you” arrives with a sarcastic vocal accompaniment.  And even then, you might later berate yourself for not more forcefully reading them the “Riot Act.”  “Gotta go… forever” comes to mind.  Admittedly no better than “Thank you”, but we are talking about “The Children of the Book” here.  Diaspora, not Israeli.

So there’s that exception.  When what you hear veers unacceptably “over the line.”  But, barring responding to slurs, subtle and otherwise, why bother entering the “back-and-forth” at all when…

Dare I repeat myself yet again?

Oh why not?

“Nobody changes their mind about anything.”

The only thing I can conclude about the contentious argument’s continued popularity despite its abysmal restorative track record is that…

People simply enjoy arguing.

Arguments being, the socially acceptable version of “fighting to the death.”  And if you don’t think “Virtual Combat” is what’s happening, take a look in your ideological adversary’s eyes.  Or, if you’re close to a mirror, your own.

Arguing is safe and civilized surrogate for “going to the mat.”  Eviscerate your dinner guests – like with a sword or a dagger – and they are unlikely to come back.  And if they do, do not expect flowers or candy.  (Unless they are insidiously passive-aggressive)  Doing battle with words?  “Hey, it’s just scintillating debate.”  Its malicious intent, however, never entirely off the table.

Make no mistake about it, arguing is warfare with words.  But, unless things go dangerously awry,

You will still receive dessert.

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