Never, Ever, Ever Debate Anyone, Ever.

Our favorite litterbox-liner, the New York Times, must be run by some of the smartest, unbiased, even-tempered, and totally not insularly-clueless people in our great nation.  With Thanksgiving in mind—that glorious time of year the whole family gets together to have a good home-cooked meal—they released an interactive quiz-guide on how to deal with that weird, red-hat wearing, conservative uncle that’s ostracized himself from the rest of the family because he’s just too rough around the edges.

See for yourself.

This turned into a slightly longer post than I had intended, but the audaciousness of its writer needs a decent expansion in order to fully enjoy.

Take its little interactive test a couple different times and play around with both Uncle Conservabot as well as Uncle Libbot.  As always, the nature of the quiz and its answers reveals a lot more about the people who designed it than it did about the people it’s supposedly tempering you for.

Let’s take Uncle Conservabot first.  For the purposes of simplicity, we’ll call him Uncle Ted.  Uncle Ted’s a firebrand #MAGA Trump supporter, eagerly waiting for any opportunity to slander Hillary Clinton and proclaim the greatness of Donald Trump’s administration—a character that, clearly, all of us probably know in real life.  Except, apparently, me, or anyone that I know.  In fact, Uncle Ted seems more like something out of a poorly-thought out political cartoon (but I repeat myself) than a character in any way pertaining to someone that might exist outside of the imaginations of liberals.

Our friends at the NYT have a very simple, foolproof, and clearly enlightened method of dealing with Uncle Ted’s rampant political extremism: pointed and direct questions about his personal life, and in particular, his lousy finances and how the economy has left him destitute.  But uh, hey there… what’s her name, Dr. Karin (with an “I”) Tamerius, founder of SMART POLITICS and a FORMER PSYCHOLOGIST, what if our buddy Uncle Ted isn’t having significant financial troubles and isn’t as easy to distract with personal questions as you make him out to be?

The founder of Smart Politics made this quiz.  Shit man, I didn’t realize I was dealing with a professional.  Smart Politics.  Just saying it loud makes you feel like your IQ has increased a few points.

Okay, well, we get the gist of Uncle Ted.  The solution when dealing with a mad Trump supporter is to 1) expect them to be financially insecure, like most of America is, 2) commiserate about the economy, and 3) avoid talking about politics or engaging in any sort of debate.

So let’s look at his equally robotic liberal counterpart, Uncle Greg, from the perspective of a conservative nephew.  Right out the gate, Uncle Greg is convinced—unprompted—that Medicare for all is an unalienable right.  Like the atheist at the table, the implied “DEBATE ME” imperative goes unsaid.  This is where the quiz gets amusing.

Predictably, the line of questioning goes more or less the same: completely passive questions, noncommittal responses, and a distinct unwillingness to engage in any particular form of debate.  Amusingly, however, the entire form of the conversation is different.  The guide asks us to humor Uncle Greg, and listen to him make poorly thought-out remarks about universal healthcare, and we aren’t even given the option to ask about Uncle Greg himself.  So I guess the initial takeaway here is to ask Trump supporters personal questions but to humor liberal relatives when they’re speaking nonsense.

And it gets better.  When selecting a particular wrongthink response to Uncle Greg’s position on healthcare, our helpful big-brained founder of Smart Politics gives us this helpful tip:

Rebuttals reinforce the sense that you are on opposite teams. If you want people to listen to what you have to say, create an alliance by finding something to agree on before sharing your perspective.

Don’t engage!  Abort, abort! Pull up!

All of Dr. Karin’s helpful tips are oriented around the same socially frail method of interaction.  “Do X to SHOW the other person that you understand!”  “Do Y to make the other person FEEL SAFE!”  The whole point of a piece like this is to enforce this idea that all dialogue must be conducted as though everyone is standing on eggshells.  Mindfulness of words is one thing; hypersensitivity to disagreement is something else entirely.  After all, you might find out what their opinions are!  You might start to learn about who they are!  You might even end up unable to generalize them into some kind of stereotype!

At the end of each segment we reach this doctor’s conclusive method of talking across the aisle:

1. Ask open-ended, genuinely curious, nonjudgmental questions.
2. Listen to what people you disagree with say and deepen your understanding with follow-up inquiries.
3.
Reflect back their perspective by summarizing their answers and noting underlying emotions.
4.
Agree before disagreeing by naming ways in which you agree with their point of view.
5.
Share your perspective by telling a story about a personal experience.

Remember being in grade school and having large, brightly-colored posters on the wall about how to follow rules or how to write a paragraph?  This is what that is—it’s even worded the same way—but the difference is that it’s targeted at people older than seven.  You shouldn’t feel informed by reading this.  You should feel patronized and condescended.  The NYT really does believe you’re dumber than a seven-year-old.

But the real diamond in the rough is after this.  I have to quote it directly because if I didn’t, no one would believe that the staff of the NYT, to say nothing of the FOUNDER of SMART POLITICS, would be so bold as to make this admission:

People cannot communicate effectively about politics when they feel threatened. Direct attacks – whether in the form of logical argument, evidence, or name-calling – trigger the sympathetic nervous system, limiting our capacity for reason, empathy, and self-reflection.

That’s right, folks.  Logical argumentation and evidence limit our capacity for reason and self-reflection.  Reasonable debate is a form of personal attack.  Rebuttals, counter-evidential claims, and arguments from rationality are all bullying tactics that just make people feel really gosh-darn sad!

This says a lot more about the writer of the article than it does about anything contained with in it.  Debates trigger the sympathetic nervous system?  Evidence of a claim puts you on the defensive and limits your ability to assess your own perspective?  Maybe if you’re functionally retarded–or, apparently, an ex-psychologist and the FOUNDER of SMART POLITICS.  No wonder she’s an ex-psychologist.

Who is offended by a sound argument?  Who fears being proven wrong, except those that might have something to lose?

Who fears the truth?

Well, I think we know the answer to that one, at least.

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From the Shelf: A Mirror for Artists

I’ve written before on the degradation of the art world, and specifically Modernity’s impact upon both the interpretation of art and its creation.  In short, the commodification of art, the development of the art market, and the disintegration of art patronage by an aristocratic class has had a twofold impact upon the development and presentation of the arts: on the one hand, art has become inaccessibly obtuse and designed for the consumption of a philistine elite, and its market increasingly a platform for money laundering; on the other hand, art has been reduced to the most base common denominator of a banal and equally philistine public, in which consumption and marketability are the deciding barometers of its success.

Well, as it turns out, it doesn’t take the wretched state of the market in 2018 to have figured all of these things out.  Continuing on with our brief excursion into I’ll Take My Stand, Donald Davidson approaches the topic of the arts in the wake of an industrialized society in his essay, which follows up John Crowe Ransom’s piece that I touched on last night.  Davidson’s work, “A Mirror for Artists,” directly attributes the over-commodification of the arts to industrialization’s tendency to reduce all objects and peoples into economic units which can be measured according to terms like scarcity and surplus.

Davidson outlines rather clearly how the revolution in thought that both precipitated and got energized by the industrialization of the last three hundred years left its tracks all over the gradual shifts in artistic output beginning with the Romantics of the nineteenth century.  The Romantics, he argues, emerged as artists who pitted themselves against the societies in which they functioned as artists; art became removed from its proper place and in turn became a vessel for critique or for fantasy.  It’s not hard to follow his logic when one considers how suddenly artistic output shifted from not only the aesthetically pleasing, but also the glorification of the religious and the veneration of the past, into an outright glorification of ancient paganisms and eventually the myopic interest of the mundane, as exemplified by the impressionists and realists.

As that perfidious herald of Modernity crept into the brush strokes of artists and the pens of poets, they ceased to deliver content made explicitly to serve an audience—and not simply to please but to elevate that audience spiritually—and instead produced works of increasing rational opaqueness, limiting its reach until works were made with only the artist himself in mind.  “In short,” he says, “the condition of the arts themselves, whatever the field, gives little ground for thinking that they are actually cherished by an industrial civilization” (47).

He continues by separating, I think unsuccessfully, the democratic politics which have endangered the art world so catastrophically from the industrialization that allowed that democracy to crystalize into its current form:

“Democracy did not, after all, disturb society unduly.  It was a slow growth, it had some continuity with the past, and in an agrarian country like pre-Civil War America it permitted and favored a balanced life.  Industrialism came suddenly and marched swiftly.  It left a tremendous gap.  Only as democracy becomes allied with industrialism can it be considered really dangerous, as when, in the United States, it becomes politically and socially impotent; or, as in the extreme democracy of the Soviets, where, converted into equalitarianism within class limits, it threatens the existence of man’s humanity.” (49)

I mention that this separation is unsuccessful because the democratizing principle at work in the arts, which turned the reverent artistic content of the past into the naval-gazing output of the nepotists today, was already at work prior to the rampant growth of the industrial age.  It was the ideological schism with the past—the philosophical revolution of the Enlightenment in particular—which brought this change on.  When Donaldson is referring to industrialization, he’s only referring to the tangible, economic results of the sudden philosophical changes that had run roughshod over the eighteenth century elite.  America, as you can note in a reading of Alexis de Tocqueville, was birthed as a direct result of this schism.

Donaldson wraps up his essay by drawing the contrast with the Southern way of life and its relationship to the arts, and here he is fairly undeniable.  The South’s style of architecture had remained, at the time of his writing, quintessentially Southern; its great writers had already begun to peak, and they wrote not against the Southern tradition but directly within and in line with the arteries of its culture.  The Southern artistic traditions did not lapse into the broadly self-obsessed and indulgent culture of narcissism that awaited their industrialized counterparts in Europe and New England, at least for the most part.

What we see with Donaldson’s piece is an optimistic glimpse of what was perhaps the last worthwhile American artistic movement before the academies, universities, and institutes were so fully compromised as to make the arts—be it visual, literary, poetic, or musical—unaffordable, useless, stupid, and irrelevant endeavors.  In retrospect, it reads in some senses as a timeless commentary on the dangers of industrial modernity and how damaging it is to artists.  On the other hand, it is also a product of its time, as Donaldson here failed to fully grasp the utter wasteland of the arts that awaited not just the South, and not even just America, but the West as a whole in just a few scant decades.

From the Shelf: Reconstructed but Unregenerate

I recently obtained a used copy of I’ll Take My Stand, a “manifesto” of Southern Agrarianism written and published back in 1930 by Harper Press.  It’s a collection of essays by the Twelve Southerners, a collection of men who represented a minor, but important aspect of American Conservatism prior to the Buckley-Goldwater movement of the fifties and sixties, which forever altered Conservatism in the United States (some would argue for the worse).

I’ll limit today’s post to just the first essay, written by poet, essayist, and critic John Crowe Ransom, entitled “Reconstructed by Unregenerate.”  It’s really good.

The piece serves as both an overview and a preview of the themes that rest of this manifesto gets into: the impact of industrialism on social cohesion, the decline of man’s dignity as a worker and his reduction to a unit of labor, industrialism’s direct attack upon the environment and countryside, and the generally unlivable conditions afforded by large-scale industrialization in comparison to widespread populously-dispersed agrarianism.  This comes with a direct attack on the modern notion of progress, a vaguery which “never defines its ultimate objective, but thrusts its victims at once into an infinite series” (8).  Specifically, Ransom places progress within the context of Man’s willingness and intent to abolish the environment, which extrapolated a little further, comes to reflect Man’s incessant desire to control all things.  Nature, being innately uncontrollable, remains forever unyielding to the advances of Man’s interests in absolute control; industrialization’s answer to this is to simply try to destroy what cannot be controlled.

Naturally, Ransom characterizes this as something intrinsic to the North/South divide, even in 1930.  The war, obviously, had ended more than two generations before; some veterans still lived to tell the tales but, by and large, the memory of the antebellum South was not a living one.  It remained alive as a cultural artifact, but not as a tangible myth to be recounted by old-timers on back porches.

This makes his dichotomy both a bit easier to digest and harder to pin down.  The North/South divide, for the purposes of Ransom’s point, is an industrial/agrarian divide.  It’s a divide not altogether uninformed by the passage of history, but it should be remembered still that most if not all of the Founding Fathers believed fundamentally in the agrarian life of the United States—Jefferson being the most famous proponent.  Even Tocqueville, during his travels around America a full century before this piece was written, recognized the decentralized, small-community method in which the American experience unfolded.  The North, back then, showed signs of industrial equipment, but it maintained the fundamental cohesiveness of classical communities.

What’s fascinating about his essay here isn’t really its cultural divide that recognizes industrialism as a fundamentally Northern infringement upon Southern identity; it’s bigger and deeper than that.  As he alludes to at the end with his brief critique of the Democratic party’s embrace of progress—the party that was once a conservative bastion of Southern Agrarianism a mere quarter-century before—industrialism and it’s attack on what is fundamentally human remains one of the key problems that has yet to get a coherent and convincing answer even today.

The Code of St. Benedict Should Be Used For Every Code of Conduct

Earlier today, it broke that SQLite was probably pressured—presumably by SJWs—into drawing up a code of conduct for its platform.  This follows the trend in SJW convergence across the tech platforms, the most recent relevant occurrence being Linux’s top dog getting taken out after years of resistance.  Apparently, though, it’s been up for a while.

D. Richard Hipp, SQLite’s creator, explained that the code of conduct had been up for more than half a year, but for some reason it’s only getting attention now. Maybe it only just now get out that he used St. Benedict’s Rule, which established and governed the monastic life of the Latin Church for the last millennium and a half. See for yourself.  Good for him!

But let’s go back to that Register article.  Interspersed with the obviously leftwing slant that favors a secular default culture are a couple of comments from SQLite users, including this one:

“”Well, it looks like it may be time to stop using SQLite as it’s readily apparent that my kind is not welcome there,”

If “your kind” includes, as a staple of your identity, an absolutely staunch unwillingness to submit to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, then golly gee willikers, James, I think ironically quitting SQLite is the least of your worries.

I think the world could use a bit more radical Catholicism in everyday life.  I mean this sincerely.  If the opposition is going to frame a theology built upon charity, hope, and love as being hateful and exclusive, it’s probably because that theology has built the worldview built upon hating sin and excluding the incomprehensible madness entailed by evil.  But when confronted with logos, the unrepentant sinner can only ever choose to reject logos.  Repentance is simply too difficult.  So sits the state of the opposition.

Who is actually mad about the embrace of the Rule of St. Benedict for an open source code of conduct?  Who would actually find themselves excluded from software, or consider the Benedictine Rule hateful?  Well, you already know the answer to those questions.  It’s the ones who already carry guilt with them everywhere that they go.

It’s late, but here’s the next podcast, for those of you whose lives are too jam-packed with excitement to be able to read:

http://www.buzzsprout.com/208924/837416-goodbye-intellectual-dork-web

It’ll be on YouTube in a day or so.