September 23, 2009
apart, not a part
While I hate to generalize, and I hate to stereotype people, I feel compelled to say something about a disturbing recent trend. One of the most annoying slogans of the 1960s was this one:
If You Are Not Part Of The Solution You Are Part Of The ProblemWidely attributed to Black Panther leader Eldridge Cleaver (whose evolution did little to solve the problem of his slogan), the above was used as a cudgel, to bludgeon people into agreement. (Or disagreement, depending on the POV of the rhetorical bludgeoner.) To call it divisive is understatement, because the slogan was more than a slogan. The words represented a mindset that did more than divide people into being for or against something. It established the principle that merely by not taking a side in an argument, you could become an unprincipled sellout (and a traitor by simple reduction) -- by whichever side wanted to call you a traitor. This alienated many reasonable people, often people of good will who might have friends on both sides of arguments, and amazingly enough, actually had serious opinions of their own but didn't believe they had to shout them loudly, and who didn't feel obliged to join organizations. At best, they found themselves derided as wishy-washy, muddled, or confused. (It can get so bad that merely recognizing that there are two sides to a dispute can be enough to turn both sides against you.)
One of the things that attracted me to blogging was that there was no particular obligation to take sides or align myself on any issue unless I felt like it. This does not mean that I was lacking in opinion; I had -- and continue to have -- opinions on almost everything. But that does not obligate me to weigh in, simply because other people are weighing in. And if perchance I do weigh in from time to time (or drop hints that I am aware of an issue), that does not obligate me to weigh in again.
One of the things that most disturbs me about the blogosphere right now is to read fantastic pronouncements and generalizations about what I should or should not be voicing agreement or disagreement with. It's so bad that I am hesitant even to offer examples by links -- because that would not only draw attention to the fact that I am not taking sides but it would inevitably be taken as criticism, and then I'd have another damned disagreement.
I keep saying that I find disagreements disagreeable, because I do. They generally go nowhere, and I can't remember the last time I saw anyone's mind changed as the result of an argument. Sure, people win arguments, just as litigants win lawsuits. But the "losers" almost always continue to believe what they previously believed, and they'll come back and try to win the next time, and the next time. It's all very tedious.
So I am not going to be corralled into being part of the problem or part of the solution. If that makes me part of the problem, so be it. If that makes me part of the solution, I guess I can reluctantly run that risk too -- although even the possibility sounds grandiose and self important. And if it makes me wishy-washy, muddled, and confused, that's OK too. (In fact, my wishy-washy confused muddledness has inspired many a blog post.)
Some problems don't have solutions.
posted by Eric on 09.23.09 at 10:18 AM
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