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Author Topic: Moderately muddling through  (Read 979 times)

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Offline NeroonTopic starter

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Moderately muddling through
« on: October 29, 2009, 09:34:23 AM »
For once, I have taken my tongue from my cheek before I write and what you see here is in the nature of thinking aloud, if you like.  As you might see from the title, I'm fond of alliteration.  I don't take it to extremes, as while McCaulay  said, "Apt alliteration's an artful aid," my mother's statement (in response to my childhood self vomiting after eating a quart of raspberry ripple ice-cream): "You can have too much of a good thing," has always seemed to me to be a wisdom to live by.  Moderation is, perhaps, the key to a happy life.  This belief, probably prompted my joining in on the Fundamentalist Extremists thread in the Politics and Religion section.

I'll admit that it was a rash move, for in that area one can see the very worst of E, with all of the angry tirades masquerading as arguments and the strife that can be found there.  Yet, paradoxically, it is also a place where one can see the very best of E too.  OK, not the best in terms of role playing, I'll admit, but you can see the best in terms of people's willingness to stand up in public for their beliefs.  And such a willingness can be noble indeed.  Of course the debates there are the sort of debates that will exist in most forums, for people simply can't help but want to argue about what they passionately believe in, and there's nothing wring with that.

Anyway, reading that thread prompted some thoughts and as I don't want to hit the thread with a wall of slightly off topic text, I decided that I might as well rehearse my thoughts here.  After all, if I can't express my own opinions in my blog, where can I?

A common thread on this blog is that I see E very much as a community. When you look at the forum stats, that reality becomes very clear indeed.  Inevitably, therefore the passions that motivate us all are different and that might cause problems- and I don't necessarily mean in areas where debate can easily become emotive.  Simple things, that we might not even consider would cause a problem, can really get under the skin.

What I'm trying to say here is that excessive passion, untempered by any common sense, can be problematic in any community. Likewise, beliefs, taken to extremes, lacking decency, humanity or even the smallest doubt is truly harmful.  Zeal can be a wonderful motivator, but I've yet to meet anybody who truly likes a zealot. Historically, most zealots have been religious zealots though nowadays it is possible to see the fundamentalist atheist.  I see no contradiction in the term, for all fundamentalists focus upon the core of their belief system and admit no validity to any view that calls that fundamental belief into question.  Some of the atheists I know (but by no means a majority) pursue their aim of convincing the world that there is no form of deity with a fervour that goes beyond scepticism into a zeal that is almost religious.

In short, I would argue that it is not fundamentalist belief (or fundamentalist unbelief)  that is harmful or unhealthy, but that it is instead passionate certainty.  If you are certain you are right, then it follows that you will most probably also be certain that everyone who disagrees with you is wrong. People who are passionately certain make value judgments according to that certainty and "wrong-thinking" can readily become not just foolish but actually offensive or even "evil" in their eyes.  When passion and certainty are combined fanaticism follows swiftly and it is in the zealous and intolerant promotion of fanatical beliefs that all manner of unpleasantness begins.  I've noticed that on the comments to one of my othe posts, a veiled reference to McCarthyism was made.  Now that is a good example of what I mean about passionate certainty.  When you are passionately certain that communism is dangerous then communists become evil and have to be rooted out.  The fact that in doing so, you begin to resemble the opperssive regime whose influence you seek to limit.

Over the years I've been a member of many clubs and societies: communities, if you will.  Some of them have been long lived and some have, unfortunately, died.  Generally, the thing that has been the common denominator in the communities that have withered and died has been a rather unhealthy form of wrangling.  In one- a yahoo group- the owner was so intent on preventing this he produced the most incredibly detailed and prescriptive set of rules that one can imagine.  Every post had to be moderated before going up on the boards (I should know, I was part of the moderation team) to ensure it would not cause any form of dissent.  The result of that was that the dissent came anyway and so catastrophically that the group folded.

If you keep a community in such a situation where pressure cannot be relieved, then it is natural that the pressure builds up.  In a way, that's part of the function for boards like the Politics and Religion board- they act as a pressure valve.  They allow people to vent and explore their passions before those passions fossilize into the certainty that begets extremism and the consequential discord that arises thereafter.

That's what happened in that yahoo group I mentioned earlier: members became polarised over the issue of external links (I know, a non-issue if ever there was one) that people argued vehemently behind the scenes.   One member was passionately certain that a link to anything which featured a commercial service or product was tantamount to advertising and would shower the mods with emails whenever a link to anything of the sort was let through, claiming inconsistency.  A signature link to a member's LiveJournal (with the discreet banner ads that are found on LJ) became the same as flooding the group with spam advertising, while another member found the modest restriction on commercial sites was a dreadful restriction on her civil liberties.  What both people had in common was that they were passionately certain they were right.

My missus often jokes that I'm a grumpy old man.  Well, perhaps I am.  According to the BBC definition I fall in the age range: 36-65 and I can, indeed, be spectacularly grumpy.  Well, to be honest, I'm old enough to have learned that, while I might grump about this and that, I'm not going to really get that worked up over things that irritate me.  After all, I could be wrong.  If I can do something about it, I will, if I can't, I'll work round it.  As a wise man once said, "Live, learn, fix what you can and circumvent the rest."

Offline Vekseid

Re: Moderately muddling through
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2009, 10:01:34 AM »
There's actually an inverse correlation between the number of rules we had and the rate at which people joined Elliquiy. Which is why I try to enforce stuff in software when appropriate. The Politics & Religion and Bad & Ugly boards are pressure valves of a sort, but with different intents. The P&R board was separated to help segregate discussions that would lead to intense behavior, and the B&U board is a vent for feelings already manifest.

Bill Clinton had a pretty good speech about philosophy versus ideology
Bill Clinton on philosphy vs. ideology

Whatever you may think of him, it's a very salient point.

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: Moderately muddling through
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2009, 10:42:09 AM »
Quote
If you are certain you are right, then it follows that you will most probably also be certain that everyone who disagrees with you is wrong.

I am certain of one thing only in my philosophy and that is that I am certain of nothing except that I am certain of being certain of nothing.

Offline Chevalier des Poissons

Re: Moderately muddling through
« Reply #3 on: October 29, 2009, 10:54:54 AM »
I am certain of one thing only in my philosophy and that is that I am certain of nothing except that I am certain of being certain of nothing.

Hm, Thales of Miletus, are we?

'All I know is that I don't know'. :3

Offline Butterflykiss

Re: Moderately muddling through
« Reply #4 on: October 29, 2009, 11:04:45 AM »
I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. ~Socrates, Greek Philosopher, c. 469 BC–399 BC

Politics and Religion: It's the -one- area of Elliquiy I never venture into. It's strange because in a very real sense I've cut off an entire portion of Elliquiy from my knowledge.

But I don't have to go to those threads to know what's going on inside them.

I won't say that engaging in such topics isn't worthwhile. But it isn't when the person you are talking to is immovable and impervious. I never engage with such people on those particular topics. You might as well be talking to a wall. They're already ready for you, to throw up their mental blocks, to put their fingers in their ears, to discount anything you might have to say.

With all that said, I appreciate that area and the purpose it serves. People have opinions, and they should be able to express them, and when they cannot express those opinions, they become resentful and lash at those around them. And to those who bravely go into that area with open minds and reasonable words, I tip my hat in your direction.

Offline Chevalier des Poissons

Re: Moderately muddling through
« Reply #5 on: October 29, 2009, 11:18:39 AM »
I am the wisest man alive, for I know one thing, and that is that I know nothing. ~Socrates, Greek Philosopher, c. 469 BC–399 BC

Politics and Religion: It's the -one- area of Elliquiy I never venture into. It's strange because in a very real sense I've cut off an entire portion of Elliquiy from my knowledge.

But I don't have to go to those threads to know what's going on inside them.

I won't say that engaging in such topics isn't worthwhile. But it isn't when the person you are talking to is immovable and impervious. I never engage with such people on those particular topics. You might as well be talking to a wall. They're already ready for you, to throw up their mental blocks, to put their fingers in their ears, to discount anything you might have to say.

With all that said, I appreciate that area and the purpose it serves. People have opinions, and they should be able to express them, and when they cannot express those opinions, they become resentful and lash at those around them. And to those who bravely go into that area with open minds and reasonable words, I tip my hat in your direction.

Exactly the same reason why I don't venture into that same place, beside the fact that I have no religion, no sacred simbles or even respect such conception.

However, I allow myself to disagree on you in one thing: I find worthless engaging in a debate about politics and religion. Religion because eventually someone will be able to mount a logic argument that goes against their beliefs, and this is where they will start using something Schopenhauer taught me it is the Argumentum ad Hominem: they will drive their next answer towards you, and not your words.

Alright, I don't mean to stigmatize or say that every religious will do that. What I am trying to say here is there will be a serious divergence in some point, and the debate will never end well. Never.

About politics, people either disagree heavily, either agree completely. Where is the fun on that? Where is the debate when people disagree too much to ponder about the other person's point of view or when both point of views are the same?

Honestly, I don't see the idea of not going inside there as a bad thing. Actually it is even good, depending on what people feel about those two issues.

I would like to thank Silk for part of what I said, she helped me seeing some things I mentioned (about the debate and when two people agree).

Offline Beguile's Mistress

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Re: Moderately muddling through
« Reply #6 on: October 29, 2009, 12:19:24 PM »
I enjoyed forensics in high school and did well at extemporaneous speaking and student congress.  My favorite though was debating.   Our moderator taught us that the ideal way to excel at debating is to have no real opinion of the topic you are called upon to defend.  It gives you the ability to understand both (or more) points of view objectively and to be passionately impassioned.

I've taken that advice into my personal life by not having all that many opinions.  I don't feel the need to have an opinion on everything but I will form an opinion if the subject is important to me or draws me in some way because when I have an opinion I wish to speak it and once you speak it you must defend it.  I find that I can "discuss" quite a few things that others only "argue" by not taking sides.