This is why we can’t have discussions

Marc MacYoung posted the following on Facebook:

Conflict and violence are very human behaviors. They serve a very important survival and social purpose.

Having said that we’ve kind of put ourselves into a self-eating watermelon situation about them because we’ve allowed our understanding of the subject to be controlled by an extremist ideological position.

There’s an old joke with the punchline ‘We’ve already established that. Now we’re negotiating the price.” That ‘negotiation’ is critical when we look at conflict and violence. Where do we set the line as to how much (and when is it) is acceptable?

This is where we need to recognize the extremists. Specifically those who think violence is always the answer to any problem on one side. But the other extremist position are those who maintain ‘violence never solved anything.’ The first are obvious, the second, not so much. But it is an extremist position.

If you ask the right questions, you’ll find that yeah, overwhelmingly people acknowledge there are times that violence IS the appropriate answer. And ‘now we’re negotiating the price.’ Where are those lines? When is it appropriate? When is it not appropriate and to what degree? These are all damned good questions that we need to hash out among ourselves.

Personally I come from a place where that bar is set pretty damned low. Having said that, I like living in places where the bar is set high. But this experience gives me an understanding that people will have different standards of where that bar should be set.

This includes an important understanding, that is ‘no matter what your use of force’ decision, someone is going to disagree with it.

Now being a cynical bastard I will often point out that the people who tend to disagree most strongly are the ones who didn’t get what they wanted because you chose to act. Those folks seem to take the approach that any level of force beyond which they are comfortable using to get what they want is ‘violence’ — and therefore bad (especially when it is used against them). But what they’re doing isn’t violent and therefore they don’t deserve to have violence used against them. This especially because it hurts their feelings.

That last paragraph may seem like a rant from left field — and maybe it is — but it is also common theme among the extremists who maintain that violence never solved anything. Or, and this is another weird form of mental gymnastics, physical violence is always bad and wrong. Hence anyone who uses it is also bad and wrong. And while we’re at it, if you agree that sometimes violence is the appropriate response then you’re …

Yeah, that’s a good way to encourage mature discussion, understanding, education and coming up with effective coping mechanisms to deal with conflict and violence.

The problem with the extremist position isn’t that it exists, it’s that they won’t shut up about it. In doing so they don’t allow other people to have different points of view and, by extension, a discussion. They will constantly attempt to control the conversation or — if they can’t do that — shut it down with outbursts about how violence is wrong and evil, should not be tolerated and how society must change.

Uh actually that’s what we’re trying to do by ‘negotiating the price’ and gaining a fuller understanding of the subject than ‘it’s evil and wrong.’

Oh you want society to change in particular waaaaaaay…

He’s quite right… we are negotiating on price.

I used to hold onto the notion of violence never being an answer. For anyone that reads even a bit of my writing, you should know I no longer hold that position. I believe that violence can be an answer, and sometimes it is the right and only answer. Case in point, if a woman is being raped, should she not respond with violence? Isn’t a kick to the groin, a palm strike to the nose, thumbs to the eyes, pepper spray, kicking, biting, screaming…. fighting (back). Is this not violence? Is this not a violent response? Is this not an aggressive action? Think about it for a moment. If violence is never the answer, then what other recourse does this rape victim have? lie back and enjoy it?  Because even responses like to vomit or pee on your rapist are arguably a violent response, if perhaps just on the lower end of the scale. If you truly stand by the notion that “violence is never the answer”, then you are damning women to being raped. However, I don’t think this is what you mean, nor what you want.

So in fact, if you think about it hard enough and if you’re honest with yourself, you do accept that violence can be an answer and that sometimes it is the right and only answer. As Marc says, we’re just negotiating price.

Pay heed to the latter point Marc is making. If you really are an open-minded person, you’ll shut up and listen. You will earnestly allow for the possibility that you could be persuaded, even if it means giving up all you know and have built for yourself, if in fact Truth shows you were wrong and “the other way” is right. If you are unwilling to admit you could be wrong, if you are unwilling to give it all up, then it becomes rather difficult – and perhaps pointless – to have any discussion, because you don’t want to discuss, you just want to be right.

Alas, today more people are interested in being right than in finding truth.

2 thoughts on “This is why we can’t have discussions

  1. Seek first to understand and then be understood.

    I once read that in order to have a debate you should be able to repeat your opponent’s view point in your own words and have him agree that, yes, it is his view.

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