Sunday, April 03, 2005
My mother often accuses me of being argumentative. We'll be watching TV or in the car or something and she'll make some semi-random pop culture or political reference, which I'll correct, and then she'll launch into this ludicrous game where she yells "NO! BLACK!" or "NO! WHITE!" every time I say something. This is her attempt to prove that I argue every point with her just for the sake of arguing it.
In fact, this is a quality which really bugs me about other people. I can't stand going to parties where I know the debating team is going to be there, because I know it's going to be a lot of, well, arguing. This is not to say I don't enjoy a good argument, particularly when I know what I'm talking about. But after a few beers and a couple of shots of tequila, I don't much care to discuss who's going to win the provincial election. I don't much care to do anything but lounge around, talk about music and books, flirt noncommitally, hunt down some pizza, chuckle at random things, ask unusual questions, watch a couple of dumb movies, learn people's names, and see if I can still do handstands off the railing without falling down the stairs.
I do not have a one-track mind for politics, or for anything else for that matter. A diversity of subject matter is something I have always appreciated in the blogs I read on a daily basis. I like to find out how people are doing, what they're thinking about, what they find on the internet, what they're doing with their lives, what kind of creative material they're producing, and yes, what they think of current events. But none of these things is, in and of itself, my only concern. I get horribly bored with single-interest blogs, the kind that introduce themselves with "Welcome to so-and-so's blog about my relationship with Christ/right-wing politics/the glory of Allah/horseback riding/deepsea diving/shrimp farming/basketball/how I go about getting girls/my interactions with sea turtles/my creative writing/my dog Max...." I get very, very, VERY sick of these kinds of blogs right away.
I also particularly dislike it when I point out a single point of disagreement I have with someone's point of view and then they start telling me I don't know anything about it because I'm clearly unfamiliar with the originial colonial borders of Africa or the political views of candidate X or the patterns of rice farming in Anhui province, or some such factoid which has nothing to do with anything. And then it morphs into The Battle of the Statistics, which I find particularly tiresome. This is not to say that statistics don't have their uses, because they most certainly do. But citing them with a kind of authoritative "see, the statistics back me up!" is particularly flawed because it is so easy to forge/alter/invent/adjust statistics to suit your purposes.
I am also particularly irritated when an argument gets blown into a Battle of the Word Count. Why do people think they're smarter for being more verbose?
Most of all, I am annoyed when things turn into arguments that were never intended that way at all. I quite honestly do not begin most trains of thought because I think people will disagree and want to argue them into the ground about it. I also cannot stand getting into ludicrous contests of opinion that really serve nothing other than to make one person feel big and the other person feel small.
Sometimes it just boils down to my mother snapping "BLACK! NO, WHITE!" in my ear.
I said yes to discussion, and I said yes to dialogue, but since when is dialogue so easily reduced to a battle of the wills? Since when do we speak to each other with such goal-oriented war mongering? I wish that all the people I met on here got to know me through diplomatic channels, and not because they carpet-bombed my little island because I said I was interested in discussion.
Some people are extraordinarily lucky with their blogs. They find friends and not insults. They find people who understand the unwritten rules of etiquette that preclude essentially unprovoked acts of word-war. I envy these people. And I treasure the people I do meet who start out promising kindness and not vitriol.
I am necessarily wary of argumentation for its own sake. This is why I never joined the debate club, and this is why I decided not to go to law school. In the end, it all reminded me too much of high school bullying. Simply living life has lead me into too many encounters with people I've been afraid to turn my back to. The legal system allows for the existence of far too many people who don't hurt you not because they don't want to, but because they don't want to suffer the consequences of getting caught.
I would love to meet more people, strangers and friends, who didn't want to hurt me, on any level and in any way. There is always a point at which a stranger becomes an acquaintance and an acquaintance becomes a friend, and it's a process which is irrevocably hindered by the feeling of always being in some kind of danger, always suspecting that person of ulterior motives.
I read in the paper this morning that a woman is raped every 23 seconds in South Africa. The rest of the day has been a collection of 23 second time slots for me, a feeling of never really being safe. I can't help but wonder what those 23 seconds feel like. Of course, they don't feel like anything. 23 seconds is a number that only exists to those who compile statistics. Yet I can't help but wonder if there might be some kind of national consciousness, some tiny place inside every person, that shudders every half a minute when it happens.
I can't help but worry about that idea.
For as long as I can remember, I have held mostly unfounded fears of being murdered, abducted, or raped. I still hate being alone in a big house. Every sound is a potential intruder, and I am scarcely comforted by alarm systems, locked doors and windows, or vigilant neighbours. I am convinced that in the end, if someone really wanted to hurt me, there would be very little to stop them. I have always been wary about men I don't know. Walking down the street scantily clad is something I have done maybe half a dozen times, my entire life. I'm too scared to do anything but cover up. People yelling at me from cars scares the crap out of me. I refuse to walk around in dodgy neighbourhoods at night, and often in the middle of the day. There are very few people who I feel safe enough with to no longer be afraid when I'm with them.
I often interpret people who insult me as having far worse motives but not a lot of courage.
I guess this is insane. But I'm actually not terribly pessimistic about human nature. I just don't forget the things that people are capable of. And I never, ever forget when someone has treated me badly. They can apologize, attempt to redeem themselves, suck up and be ridiculously nice to me, buy me things, take me places, or whatever, but I will never, ever forget that they've betrayed me. That's just how it goes. People assume I am much more of a pushover than I actually am. My memory is quite simply my only defense and I intend to use it to the full extent of my ability.
Anyway, I have to get back to the grind.
Perhaps more later.