Friday, July 22, 2011

Disregarding Disagreement: rituals of misdirection

I never met a man I didn’t like. -- Will Rogers

It is by universal misunderstanding that all agree. —Baudelaire
We Americans pride ourselves on being friendly. Americans have tons and tons of “friends.” Some people use Facebook to count the “friends” they have. Hardly anyone refers to someone they know as an “acquaintance.” That sounds so off-putting, so unfriendly.

Want to be my friend? Just don’t get too serious. Talk about sports; show you’re a fan. That way, if we disagree, I can appreciate it as team loyalty.

Don’t bring up religion. You go to your church, I go to mine. (Weirdoes don’t go to any church, although some OK people might not go because they’re pissed off -- for understandable reasons -- with the clergy.) I’m OK; you’re OK. Enough of that.

Do you really want to talk about politics? (Did you miss last night’s game?) Well, OK, provided you stick to vague, fuzzy labels (Don't ask, "What do you mean?") like liberal, conservative, libertarian, Republican, or Democrat. Maybe even socialism, or capitalism,progressive, or independent. Nothing too technical, or too heavy. Otherwise, you begin to sound like a “wonk” or a “squint” and you get into serious altercations. Everybody knows that wonks and squints are just one step away from being “weirdoes.”

Fellowship is based on entertainment value. Even news broadcasters -- you might say, “especially news broadcasters” -- know this. Much more than compromise and tolerance -- which put demands on our emotional, intellectual and moral strength --, it is memories of good feelings, presumably shared, that hold us together. (We still love Uncle Harry, the lecherous, drunken slob, because he’s attended family dinners forever.)

This is why we don’t study history or geography in school: too much of old, bad memories and other times and places. Our reality is found in the here and now of “reality shows.” If misfortune happens there, we know it’s just acting.

Planning for the future? We listen to those who make us feel comfortable and keep our fingers crossed.

For references and to examine these issues further, see Getting It Together: 
the nature of consensus


Cordially
--- EGR