Two modes of discourse

iSteve looks at two forms of modern discourse:  Take everything personally vs. debate as sport.  A fine essay. 


"When these two forms of discourse collide they are frequently unable to understand each other and tend to bring out the worst in each other. The first [new, sensitive] form of discourse seems lacking in rationality and ideological challenge to the second; the second [old, sporting] can appear cruel and devoid of sensitivity to the first. To those accustomed to the second mode of discourse, the cries of protest at supposedly offensive statements may appear to be little more than a dirty and underhand ploy intentionally adopted to derail the discussion by those whose ideological position can’t sustain critical challenge. However, these protests are probably less a ploy than the normal functioning of the particular mode of discourse characteristic of that community, often the only mode of discourse that those involved are proficient in."


"I also don’t think that sufficient attention is given to the manner in which differing forms of education prepare persons for participation in these different modes of discourse. There is a form of education – increasingly popular over the last few decades – which most values cooperation, collaboration, quietness, sedentariness, empathy, equality, non-competitiveness, conformity, a communal focus, inclusivity, affirmation, inoffensiveness, sensitivity, non-confrontation, a downplaying of physicality, and an orientation to the standard measures of grades, tests, and a closely defined curriculum (one could, with the appropriate qualifications, speak of this as a ‘feminization’ of education). Such a form of education encourages a form of public discourse within which there is a shared commitment and conformity to the social and ideological dogmas and values of liberal society, where everyone feels secure and accepted and conflict is avoided, but at the expense of independence of thought, exposure to challenge, the airing of deep differences, and truth-driven discourse."

And again:

"While firm differences can be comfortably negotiated within the contrasting [old] form of discourse, a mode of discourse governed by sensitivities and ‘tolerance’ cannot tolerate uncompromising difference. Without a bounded and rule-governed realm for negotiating differences, antagonism becomes absolute and opposition total. Supporters of this ‘sensitive’ mode of discourse will typically try, not to answer opponents with better arguments, but to silence them completely as ‘hateful’, ‘intolerant’, ‘bigoted’, ‘misogynistic’, ‘homophobic’, etc."

Read on.

Thanks, David.  Now I know how they think feel.


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  • 12/11/2012 12:07 PM David wrote:
    The entire essay Steve Sailer quotes from in this piece is worth a read.

    "Lacking a high tolerance for difference and disagreement, sensitivity-driven discourses will typically manifest a herding effect. Dissenting voices can be scapegoated or excluded and opponents will be sharply attacked. Unable to sustain true conversation, stale monologues will take its place. Constantly pressed towards conformity, indoctrination can take the place of open intellectual inquiry. Fracturing into hostile dogmatic cliques takes the place of vigorous and illuminating dialogue between contrasting perspectives. Lacking the capacity for open dialogue, such groups will exert their influence on wider society primarily by means of political agitation. The fear of conflict and the inability to deal with disagreement lies at the heart of sensitivity-driven discourses."

    You can see examples everywhere, especially on the news channels. I even get it from lawyers. A lawyer once told me I was too legalistic in my approach to a lawsuit. Another (he was in his late 50s or early 60s at the time) sent me an angry email demanding to know what my "agenda" was. You could practically read the tears in his eyes. And that was in response to a board-management article I had emailed to an executive director, with a copy to him, being the other lawyer besides me on the board. Amazing.

    It's a binary mode of thought where there is only submission or rejection. By apologizing to the offense takers (for accidentally hurting their feelings), you surrender in their eyes. All your tightly reasoned arguments are rendered vain and instantly dismissed in their eyes by that single act of submission.

    Never surrender to emotional manipulation. Never back down in the face of nonexistent arguments and appeals to sensitivity and feelings. Meet each demand for submission by increasing the pressure of intellectual precision. Sounds quixotic, but if those people were allowed to run things buildings and bridges would collapse, ships would sink, and airplanes would fall out of the sky.

    "Among all the dichotomies of our times -- doves and hawks, liberals and conservatives, elites and masses -- there is one that seems especially crucial: the distinction between those who focus and those who blur.

    "When people blur, it is usually either because they are not capable of focusing or because a sharp picture of the issues would make their case collapse. Currently the blurrers are riding high."
    --Thomas Sowell, Forbes, "Lies, Damn Lies, and Blurs" May 31, 1999
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