Hey, lots of you have been sending me your comments on Facebook. That's fine, but...

... I'd prefer if you embedded the comments below the articles. That way we can see more fights when people disagree!

And besides, I do my best to respond to all your comments, so check back often for what I say about you behind your back... and tell your friends to come along, too!

Monday, August 3, 2009

I Don't Know Anything About This, but I Know I Have Strong Feelings About it

I was just listening to talk radio (endless fodder there for blog topics), and the commentator started ranting about the California budget process, which as near as I can tell involves a bunch of people cloistered in a room with some accountants, a stapler, lots of paper, and a Magic 8 Ball.

The commentator's rant got my blood pressure up. "Hey," thought I (when I think, I always do it in olde vernacular like "thought I"), "methinks I agree... the budget process in California HAS TO CHANGE!"

Then I realized that I have NO idea how the process works.

Okay, I have SOME idea, but not much. And still I know - I KNOW - that things must change. And if you stuck a gun to my head and made me come up with some, I bet I could even contribute concrete suggestions as to HOW the process should change.

And I could come up with these suggestions even though (as I've already stated) I don't know how the process works in the first place. And how ridiculous is that? It's like me hanging out a sign on my door that says "Michaelbrent - Heart Surgeon" and when asked about my qualifications replying that I eat those Necco hearts each Valentine's Day that say "Be Mine" and "Hot Stuff" and things like that.

Even worse, I think this problem may not be confined just to me. I have a sneaking suspicion that an awful lot of my friends, coworkers, peers, etc., have very strident opinions about important matters that they have not bothered to educate themselves about.


GUY ON THE STREET: We need to get the troops out of Afghanistan.
ME: Why?
GUY ON THE STREET: Because they're not doing anything good over there!
ME: What do you mean by that?
GUY: Just what I said.
ME: Well, you didn't really communicate much. Do you think they could be better utilized elsewhere? Or that the methods they're using are unConstitutional? Or just that fighting in general is immoral?
GUY: [swiftly punches me in the groin then runs]
ME: [gurgle]

See what I mean? I'm not saying anything here about whether or not we should have troops in Afghanistan, or whether or not Prop 8 was a good thing, or if the Cash for Clunkers program is a good one or not (though I have opinions about at least one of them). What I'm saying is that we have all these issues flying around these days, and so many of us care so much about them that we're willing to argue and scream and yell to make our point... but we don't care quite enough to actually research the underlying facts that (in a perfect world) would actually make up our opinions.

It just seems strange to me that we will get into fist- or word-fights over things that are direly important to us, but when asked to explain our opinions in factual, non-argumentative tones, so few of us can.

But maybe that's human nature. After all, I hear that there's a bill pending in Congress that intends to ban use of paisley in clothing. I'm for it. And I'll DIE to defend my beliefs.

Just don't ask me why. It's what I believe. That should be enough, shouldn't it?


monika said...

Amen! I would love to educate my relatives about every issue, the pros and cons, whether or not I agree with them, just so the conversation would make sense.

Of course, I am SO educated that I don't need to learn anything new.

Emilayohead said...

I think the key to having an intellectual discussion about hot topic issues is to have more points to bring up than the other guy. They don't need to be salient points, or even necessarily factual points, you just have to have more of them. I'm collecting health care information right now just so that the next time someone has an opinion about health care, I can beat them to death with my quantity of facts. They will crumble under the sheer weight of information and cower at my brain's awesomeness for containing it all. Not that that will do anything to improve the country's health care, but it will probably make me happy. And I think that's what the internet is all about.

Mb said...

VERY funny, Em. The last sentence verges on non-sequitur (sp?) so kudos for that, too.

Monika, tell your husband to make his mustache curl up higher.

lazyeye said...

do they make lawyers take courses in logic? having read a few things about informal logic and its abuse is rampant (see commenter above about having more facts than your opponent as an example). I actually can't discuss politics anymore because I realize I understand next to nothing about most complex issues--and admitting you don't know is like the first step in a 12 step program.

Michaelbrent said...

I agree with you, lazyeye... we have a real problem in society with people bludgeoning each other with insults, unrelated facts, or just gibberish, rather than having actual discussions. Maybe we should have our own 12 step system: Political Debaters Anonymous (and if we advertised our meetings as "PDA meetings" we'd probably have really interesting people come, too!).

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