Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Arguable Points

Arguable Points
There are few things that I like better than a good argument. But finding a good one in general and online in particular isn't easy.

I believe it's during one of the roughly half a dozen quintannual (if that's actually a word--I don't feel like looking it up, but it feels like something that should mean "occurring every five years", which is how I mean it even if that's not what the word really means, assuming it even exists, which I don't really) Monty Python retrospective presentations that Terry Jones talks about his and John Cleese's dynamic during arguments. According to Jones, when angered, Cleese's voice would deepen and he'd withdraw somewhat--basically keep the anger he was likely feeling under control and to some degree hidden. On the other hand, when Jones got angry, his Welsh background would show through--his voice would become higher, more obviously agitated. And, paraphrasing (my recollection of) Jones, when one side of a discussion becomes angry, they've lost the argument.

I tend to agree with this theory. At a minimum, the point at which I lose my temper is the point at which, whatever the result, I cannot feel that I won an argument. Even if I'm subsequently able to convince the other person/people I'm in the right, I didn't win, because at some point I let the merits of my argument go in favour of focusing on something other than the merits of the opposing argument.

I once knew a girl--OK, dated a girl--OK, was engaged to a girl who took any disagreement with her position as a personal attack. Her primary strategy when it came to arguing was not to present the merits of her position or challenge the merits of those who disagreed. Instead, she would personally attack the party making the argument. An argument with her might start along these lines:

HER: I believe that the Albertan conservatives are the best political party in the province because they want to balance the budget.*
ME: I disagree. While balancing the budget is a noble endeavour, the way the conservatives want to do it is by gutting healthcare and unilaterally cutting teachers' agreed-upon salaries, among other things I find objectionable.
HER: You've got a small penis.

I dislike having arguments I know I absolutely cannot win. I'm open to being proven wrong, and have altered my position on occasion, when someone presented me with an argument I had no choice but to acknowledge was superior to my own. Jay Bardyla at Happy Harbor's perspective on certain elements of the comics industry have forced me to reevaluate some beliefs I held prior to discussing them with him. I don't see the point in arguing with someone who isn't likewise able to accept at least the possibility that they're wrong . Unless I'm feeling like a bastard that day, and think I can sneak a semi-win by getting the opposition riled up.

Anyway. This train of thought was inspired in part by continuing back difficulties which have me in a bleak frame of mind, but mostly by the comments thread in response to a post by Valerie D'Orazio about the Australian Simpsons Child Porn Case, which would probably have put me in a bleak frame of mind even if I'd started reading it in a good mood. I'm tempted to weigh in with another reply, but at this point I feel like both sides' points have been made and I'd only be stirring the pot.

I spent a good portion of my late teens and twenties baiting people. It was fun at the time, but that time has passed. I'll save my energy for a good argument, and hope one comes along soon.


1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey Andrew,
I'm sure if you wanted a really good argument you could always call Ken up and see if he's in the mood. I remember watching the two of you go at it and it always came down to who could get the last word in, and that was the winner. Ahhhh, good times.... lol
Hope your back is feeling better.