Anti-Climacus


"Thou shalt not extinguish thine anger, but shall master it, that thy conscience may not be blunted by adjustment to wrong causes."
-The Dutch Ten Commandments to Foil the Nazis

18.12.12

Agreed:

In an Atlantic Wire post titled "It's Time We Talked About Gun Control," my sharp colleague Jen Doll writes, "We're going to have to talk about this; we're going to have to form coherent thoughts; and we're going to have to stop simply cleaving to our agendas and our selfish little opinions of what we want and what we think we should have -- and when 'the right time is' -- if this is ever going to get any better." But that isn't a call for a conversation! It's an assertion that opponents of gun control are selfish, and that they (not "we") are going to "have to" change their minds. It's fine to make that argument. The problem is couching it as a mere call for talking, when it is in fact an assertion that the only reasonable conclusion is that the other guys are wrong.

This sort of advice-giving shows up all the time, and it is annoying every time it does. It showed up after the election in endless "the way for Republicans to win elections is to adopt Democratic positions on all issues" articles, in insistences that religious citizens not appeal to their religious beliefs in order to justify policies, in arguments for and against abortion that require one side to accept the premises of the other side before conversation can happen.

On The Hairpin a month or so ago, in an "Ask a Married Dude" column (which I cannot find at the moment), there was a question from a woman who wanted to know how to get her occasionally non-compliant boyfriend to agree to have conversations every time (she perceived) something to have gone wrong; it's not that they weren't resolving issues as they came up, it's just that she wanted more communication. The Married Dude interpreted this, in part, as frustration on the letter-writers part that she wasn't winning these arguments every time (the "I am moderate and reasonable and he is not" element was present in the letter), and the apparently-neutral desire for more communication was a means of attempting to get the boyfriend onto ground where he would be more likely to lose. The catch being, as Married Dude realized, that this is a really terrible way to resolve things even if the letter-writer really was more reasonable every time. If you want things to be healthy, arguments have to be won in a fair and legitimate manner, which means accepting the possibility that one will lose sometimes even if one has the stronger argument. People are not bottomlessly reasonable, and a certain amount of go-along-to-get-along has to be part of the deal.

As with relationships, so also with politics: no one gets everything they want, everyone has to compromise, even on issues they deem essential. If it's not a central issue of justice, or one that brings the legitimacy of the whole system into question, sometimes you just lose, and have to accept that.

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