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Sunday, January 29, 2023

What We Talk About When We Talk About Difficult Things; Deconstruction

There will be fights on the internet. They often concern difficult things that we need to talk about but become attacks on people or ad hominem, which is a fallacy or failed argument tactic. If an argument were a sport, this is where we see players who break the rules. Do you like watching players break the rules? Well, you're probably not a fan of that sport--or just of the rule-breaker's team. Sports have rules for a reason.

Ad hominem is not unlike all of those Westerns that use the entry point of the bullet through the back to indicate a man was murdered. If you believe Hollywood Westerns, it seems to be their sole criteria for conducting any kind of forensic examination. Ad hominem is a good marker of how well or poorly the argument has progressed.

There was a genre fight over the "Puppies" maybe a decade ago. I tried to follow the arguments and ended up being disappointed in all the players. People needed to have an important conversation, but people kept sabotaging themselves by throwing mud, which by throwing it, gets on the throwers. Worse, ad hominem is often a distortion--in full or in part--probably because the arguer has run out of debate ammo and has resorted to mud. We've just allowed ourselves to engage in debate without rules for so long that we believe falsehoods over the truth.

Far be it from me to prohibit people from engaging in mud wrestling. Many enjoy the spectacle, but please leave me out.

But if you really want to make a case and discuss these important issues, then parameters should be in place to create a healthy dialogue. Because we do need to talk about these things. We know we do. That's why we get so heated. And yes, we'd probably get heated in debating these issues and want to let slip some ad hominem, just as in sports there are fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct in games with rules. These "yellow flags" should be called. The game does not need to end but the manner under which it is executed does need to end. Without yellow flags, the fouls pile up.

Who gets to be impartial and calls the fouls? That's another issue worth discussing.

In any argument, slanders and libel only sidetrack the discussion. In doing so, you open up a whole new match that you want to play. Finish the first match before engaging in the next.


This brings us to another subject: Deconstruction:


This image of Bernie Sanders from the inauguration was reproduced all over the internet in a joking manner--to be charitable. Here's an older adult, cold and alone. He was placed everywhere. It was a game a lot leaped into.

Now a well-known poet accused people of ageism. And people's feathers got ruffled. No, no, they claimed, not us. We're the good guys. (Everyone thinks they're the good guys.)

Well, according to the rules of deconstruction--as it's currently played--they were all ageist. They can't defend against it because defending only made them look worse, as if they were defending their right to be ageist.

Ageism is real. As it did the poet, the memes rubbed me wrong although among the hundreds I saw, there was one that almost got me to smile, but I forget which.

The real problem is that we don't use deconstruction correctly. It is a tool to show possibilities. Not realities. It is not scientific. Period. Let's repeat that: Deconstruction is not scientific. People who use it to prove failures in others are most likely wrong--potentially egregiously. 

Humans have many reasons for doing what they do, maybe several, maybe contradictory. Using deconstruction as it's currently played is mind-reading. Who knows the mind of a man? Certainly not other men, not at present. If sloppy deconstruction is pointed at someone, that is potentially libelous or slanderous. It impugns character. It damages their ability to do business.

Now this isn't to say the poet was wrong. No doubt, some were posting the memes because of ageism. But that doesn't mean all were. Given Sanders' being cold and alone, it may have just been unsportsmanlike conduct: taunting that their team won (or at least gloating that his team had not won), which is something we see in sports a lot, lamentably so.

This isn't to say that you can't joke about it. It looks like poor taste, but hey, own up to the poor taste in jokes. At least you're honest. As human beings, we all have our idiosyncrasies.

However, those who have used deconstruction in a sloppy manner and posted this meme should have to wear the red-letter A for "unsportsmanlike ageist"  for a few years, especially if they're not ageist, as a reminder to use deconstruction with more care. 

I jest, but in seriousness, because we have been inhibiting serious conversations for far too long--when most debates turn into mud wrestling--we have to question why. Maybe we not only don't want to understand one another but also the subject under discussion.

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