Off-Topic Musings #1

off topicI’m often moved to post things on Facebook that are far beyond the short-subject stuff that plays most well over there, and I’ve thought many times that that stuff should be HERE instead of there. After all, assuming a limit to writerly energy, every long piece I post on Facebook is a piece that cheats my might-be readers here.

And yet a lot of that stuff doesn’t exactly fit here. My main writing these days is on Beta Culture, and I want it to be.

On the other hand … I want to be VISIBLE to the people who read this blog. I say things here that I believe in deeply, but there are things worth saying off my main subjects, things that catch my interest or impress me with their profundity. And I’m not exactly a single-facet monolith. There are things I disagree with, or think about in different ways, compared to typical atheist/freethinker allies.

Meaning: I like to hope there are plenty of things to like about me, and I hope I can convey some of them. But I’m also pretty sure there are some things you should DISLIKE about me. In some ways, I sort of consider it necessary. I don’t want to be roundly loved …

First, because the only way to do that is to either think just like you — in which case there’s no reason for me to exist — or to monitor everything I say in an attempt to be liked by you, and I don’t want to do that either. I want to be wrong about stuff sometimes, both so I can learn better from the input I receive here, but also so that I know I’m taking chances with my thoughts and ideas. If I’m not wrong sometimes, it’s probably because I’m fencing myself in and declining to say certain things that I actually believe.

But second because I expect there will be times when people will dislike me for expressing an opinion because THEY are wrong about it, and I’m right. I want to be disliked, disagreed with, in that case. Hopefully so they will think about it, but also so that I’ll know I was true to my own ideals, and had the courage to express the unpopular thought.

For instance, as you may know about me, I’m an immense fan of science but not a big fan of GMOs. The subject annoys me every time it comes up on Facebook, when I hear even professional scientists repeat the misleading “Why, humans have been genetically modifying plants and animals for thousands of years.” Argh.

I’ve gotten into spitting fights with people who insist that eating horses and dogs is exactly equivalent to eating any other type of meat. I hate hearing that so much, I’ve said more than once that I wouldn’t sit in the same room with (or keep as Facebook friends) people who’d advocate eating a horse or a dog. “It’s their culture!” I hear. And I think, “Yes, well, fuck their culture. I have a culture too, and in my culture, dogs and horses are off the menu. You don’t eat things you love.”

(Fair warning: If you do believe the eating of horses and dogs is exactly the same as eating any other type of meat, kindly go elsewhere and read some other blog. I seriously don’t want to hear your opinion, and will delete it.)

I’ve gotten into fairly heated arguments with those who insist you should never use words that hurt the feelings of certain demographic groups (I’m NOT talking about the N-word, which I never use and which I think white people have no right to use). I hate the very idea of attempting to take words away from language. There’s a much longer discussion — and maybe I’ll even get into it someday soon — about why I feel so strongly about it, and what I think the effects would be if we gave in and just all agreed to be polite and sensitive to every single delicate-feelinged person out there.

Anyway, I’ve decided to throw in this post heading, “Off-Topic Musings,” a sort of catch-all I’ll use on occasion to express some of that iffy “me” stuff. And here’s the first. See what you think.

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No Man’s Land

Was thinking today about something I decided to call a “compressed dialogue.” That’s where one issue in the subject before you is so all-consuming of attention that no other aspect of the thing can be spoken of. In the context of the compressed dialogue discussion, to speak of those things would brand you as a hater, or crazy.

For instance, for the longest time, you couldn’t say ANYTHING, not one approving word, about the rights of Palestinians, without being branded an anti-Semite and perceived as attacking Israel’s right to exist. The dialogue was compressed in a way so as to exclude any discussion of the lives or well-being of Palestinians, and if you broached the subject AT ALL, you somehow automatically approved of the Holocaust, and wanted Jews worldwide to be murdered in their beds.

Likewise, there seem to be compressed dialogue conditions in many of the ardent issues my side of the political aisle supports.

For instance, I’m pretty well convinced George Zimmerman murdered Trayvon Martin. But I had people tell me privately they don’t actually like or trust people wearing hoodies. They don’t like not being able to see people’s faces, and lamented that one side-effect of the incident was this insistence that we should all wear hoodies to show solidarity with the murdered man.

Yet if they were to make such comments in public, they would have been branded as approving Martin’s murder, or of being virulent racists. Any possibility of a more complex discussion that included this side issue was shadowed out of existence by the sun-bright focus on racism and murder. You simply couldn’t talk about hoodies in any terms but gushingly positive.

I’m absolutely certain compressed dialogue conditions exist on the other side of the aisle. I have a hard time believing every Republican legislator is an ardent Tea Party supporter, or thinks global warming is a hoax. In fact, I’d suspect compressed dialogue conditions exist MORE on that side of the aisle, and that the penalties over there are even stiffer. But I sort of expect that; some part of me insists right-wingers are fearful idiots.

It’s the stuff on my side of the line that bothers me most. We live in an era where apparently even the best and brightest of us think the way to conduct a discussion is to scream with rage if the slightest off-script comment escapes the lips of our fellows.

Aside from the specifics of any issue, I think it’s important to know that compressed dialogues exist, that even our oh-so-rational selves will occasionally fall into them, and that there SHOULD be a better way to talk about things.

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