Wednesday, July 4, 2012

If You're So Smart...

It was, on the face of it, perfectly innocuous:

Both of these sounded like great ideas, but the costs were hidden. Now those costs are plainly visible, if you can understand what you are looking at.
But the moment I read the second sentence, warning bells started going off. It was in a post that linked to an article on education, and I found my curiosity at war with a sense of caution about following the link.

If you spend any amount of time reading people's opinions about things (especially activists) you'll encounter any number of variations on this concept, and I sometimes wonder if people understand how off-putting it can be. It reminds me of this quote:
Even though we know better, it's remarkably easy to feel as if our own aesthetic judgments reflect reality and that, therefore, anyone of sufficient intelligence and sensitivity should share our view.
Kathryn Schulz "Eat Your Words: Anthony Bourdain on Being Wrong" Slate Magazine. Monday, 31 May, 2010
While I understand what people are getting at when they put things that way, for me, it runs a giant red banner up the flagpole - "don't engage with this - disagreement with whatever points are presented will be considered legitimate grounds to challenge your intelligence and thoughtfulness." And sure enough, the article that was linked to took an early detour from its primary points specifically to challenge the intellect of critics.

I often wonder if people do actually feel, as Ms. Schulz put it, that our judgments as to the nature of the world reflect intelligence and sensitivity on our part, or if this is, in effect, simply idiomatic language that we use without thinking about it, because we encounter it so often. My personal understanding of the world is not one that is necessarily objectively grounded - but it's one that works perfectly well for me. And given that, I understand that it may work less well, or not at all, for any other given person. One doesn't need to be particularly thoughtful, in my opinion, to recognize this - it's part and parcel of the idea that everyone is a unique individual. But, I also understand that I'm okay with being different, and so maybe I don't feel a need to relate the world to some fundamental characteristic that we all share.

But I digress. Anyway, it's a safe bet that no successful sales professional opens a pitch by openly challenging the reason and judgement of their customer. (Con artists might, but they limit their market in doing so.) And so I wonder why, when we attempt to sell on another on our political views, we so often do so in a way that is almost guaranteed to put others on their guard against an attack against them. Likely without ever realizing it. It's said that humanity does not scale well, and I wonder if this is a symptom of that. Perhaps there is something in the nature of humanity that actively works against a greater unity of purpose, and it comes out in language.

Or perhaps humanity simply lacks sufficient intelligence and sensitivity to do better.


John McGuinness said...

This post makes a lot of sense, for those who have ears to hear it.

Aaron said...

Don't make me come over there. :)