Thursday, 18 August 2011

Thoughts You Don't Agree With

  People react a whole lot of different ways when put in this daily, human situation: a thought is voiced that they don't agree with.
  Some people don't pay any attention to what other people think, so they don't notice.  Some people just aren't very good at seeing which thoughts would be contradictory, and which ones are complimentary or compatible, so they don't note the contradiction between what they think, and what was just said.  Some people simply don't understand any opinions that aren't what they think themselves, so they just repeat "I don't get what you're saying" because they're listening for it to make sense to them, and it never seems to do that.  Some just leave the room.  Some want others to do the same.  Some express annoyance or disapproval before leaving.  "You should be ashamed of yourself."   Some try to dismiss the person instead of the opinion. Many resort to name-calling.  "You would think that...You're a liberal/white person/Christian/African/anarchist!"
  But some of us are weird.  Some of us believe that, when someone says something that isn't right, as far as we can tell, that we should tear both of our viewpoints down to see what makes them tick, pit them against each other and try to come to some sort of agreement, even if only that we're not done figuring them out yet.
  Now, many people are very uncomfortable with social, verbal or intellectual conflict.  They have that fight or flight thing go off, because they feel like there is danger.  And there might be.  One's reputation might suffer, and with it one's career, should one look ill-equipped to keep up in a discussion.  So they want to get out of "harm's way."
  My father didn't use the word "discussion."  He used the word "fight."  As in "Now, let's not have a..."  To his mind, if people agreed, there was nothing to talk about, and if they didn't, they couldn't talk without fighting, so they "just couldn't talk."
  I've always had a blind, unfounded belief in the worth of thrashing stuff out.  A bit post-modern of me, probably.  You think something?  Why?  Have you always thought this?  Where did you first encounter this idea?  Have you looked at the alternatives?  Where is your idea taking you?  How's that working out?  What do you think of this common other view on the subject.
  And I'm one of those (also) weird people who, when I meet with adversity, controversy, resistance or trouble, it gets my blood up and makes me very wide awake, all fired up and alive and bright-eyed and ready to dig into the matter.  When a piece of technology isn't doing what I think it should be, I don't want to throw it away.  I want to figure out everything about it and a host of other things it can do, until I feel like I have mastered it thoroughly from a number of angles, rather than being left baffled.
  So I guess it isn't odd that this happens on the Internet:  Lately it's been about people saying something is all about one thing (and no other thing. End of story.  If you think differently, you're a something-ist.)  Like, in one case, a guy mentioned feminism, so of course a woman brought up rape, as the go-to theoretical example for use in understanding How Men Get Things Wrong, and why women, though very much equal, need special protection from men and so on.  Now, because rape involves (to varying degrees) nudity and sex organs, people usually assume it's because some selfish guy got horny and lacked the empathy to understand and feel what he was doing to another man or woman.  They assume it's that every time, and that it's about that, and about nothing else.  Very few things are all about one thing and nothing else.
  So in this discussion, the feminist needed to get people to broaden their minds from the "rape is about sex" to consider her view, which is "rape is about power and control."  Not "also about power and control" mind, but "only about power and control, and not about sex at all."  I simply said "Very few things are about only one thing."
  Bam.  Giant argument.  Was rape only about sex?  Or was it only about power?  And me trying to suggest that, like many things, it could be about many things, and different things depending upon the people involved.  And then I cheated, got "realer" and less theoretical than anyone else was being, and said "I know that on the few occasions that women have tried to push unwanted physical attentions upon me, that I could not and cannot begin to tell you what it was "all about" for them.  I don't have a clue."
  And then today there was a "breastfeeding in public" thing that broke out on Facebook.  A young man was sitting in a shopping mall next to a large woman who was breastfeeding and making no attempt to be somewhat modest or discreet, so he had to, without warning, get a very up-close, lasting, awkward eye-full of some breasts he found unattractive, from a complete stranger he had no interest in seeing the nipples of, in a context he found forced upon him.
  Now only a fool could not have seen that his then suggesting babies should have to "eat" in bathrooms would annoy the mums.  But no one wanted to give him his due, and empathize with his side of things. He has a girlfriend, he was in a shopping mall, and he felt that what he described as "pepperoni-sized nipples" (guaranteed to win over all the women in the debate, having thus demonstrated his respect and delicacy concerning the female form) were rather indiscreetly kinda right in face, as he sat on a bench, waiting for someone.
  And soon young mothers, for whom breastfeeding was a cause quite close to their, well, teats, began to announce how men should feel and think about breasts.  Because, apparently, breasts are not sexual, and men should not feel, think or deal with breasts as if they were sexual.  Because they aren't.  Breasts are for feeding babies.  I pointed out that I am not fond of people who tell me what they think my correct feelings and thoughts need to be.  That seems to me to infringe upon stuff that should be my own business, never mind my own rights.  And I made what I felt was a simple point: breasts do more than one thing.  Breasts are more than one thing.  This caused annoyance and umbrage.  Didn't I get it?  Breasts are not sexual!  I realize that, as a man, I am not going to get any respect from women, if trying to talk about the female body.  They just don't extend us any credit when it comes to that.  We aren't even supposed to MENTION periods or breasts or the like, for the most part.   But I made my point anyway.  Breasts are sexual (for the woman they're attached to, for her partner and various people who may see her in the course of her youthful adult life) and they are practical, if and when they are ever used to feed a baby at any point in the woman's life.
  This was not well-received.  I failed to acknowledge my inferior place (as a man) and therefore my not having a right to have an opinion, and was called an asshole for having an opinion and reminded that breasts were REALLY made to feed babies.  First.  My suggestion that they may have played a sexual role first, and then fed a baby nine months later did not go down well.  My "take an adult female's life and contrast the number of months that their breasts functioned as sexual enticements/accessories/organs, vs. the months spent feeding babies" argument was not brought out, as that may well have been pearls before swine.
  Because I've got this problem: arguments, discussions, debates; they don't scare me.  I like them.  Over the years I've gotten fairly good at them, though I'm not a professional.  And in many circles, I get the whole "Well, you could argue ANYthing, so your compelling argument serves, not to make you sound like you may have a point, but just like a tricky bastard."  How fair is that?
  Because what upsets me and makes me uncomfortable in precisely the same way some people get when the Dickens hits the fan is when there is a (dangerous) gorilla in the room that one is not allowed to stare at or mention.  I hate unspoken, assumed, tacit stuff that was not and will not be discussed, even if communication breaks down due to this "strategy" of dealing.  I feel unsafe when there is a house of cards built of tacit understandings, unspoken agreements or objections, and when it is viewed as the greatest of faux pas to address anything very real or problematic.  It makes me scared to leave problems and see how big they grow if we just pretend they're not there.
  At work, everyone is mostly terribly worried about a heated discussion breaking out.  So we avoid having them.  And then discussions often haven't really been properly had and gossip happens and backstabbing and the like.  I find that "putting the cards out on the table" when people are steadfastly not having a discussion does not make one any friends.  I have this unpopular thing I do when someone is treating me in a way that is, I think, horrible, and there is this understanding that I am not going to refer to it, that I will simply put into words what is being done, while it's being done, and leave the ball in the other person's court. Usually they need to leave the room to avoid discussing it.  And sometimes (if it's a woman) another woman will ask me to apologize for having mentioned the Thing Done To Me when We Just Don't Do That.  Why can't I just backstab and gossip like a regular middle-aged woman?  I am neither regular nor a woman, but I refuse to accept that this is normal or Okay for women or men, despite a lifetime of working with regular middle-aged women.
  I prefer having a straight up verbal sparring match to hiring someone to stab people in the back for me.  I don't think honour and courage are stressed enough in the upbringing of modern children. I think girls in particular are condescendingly raised with far less expectation that they will show honour or courage at any point.  My experience of good women is that one can expect every bit as much honour and courage and knowing their own minds, or admitting they aren't decided upon a matter, every bit as much being straightforward and candid and forthright, as one could expect from a good man.  These are things I think.  I don't think "It's all and only about that."  But I do think this is "a thing."
  But maybe you don't agree with that.

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