I’m currently working on two editorials. I’ll get them up as soon as I’m finished them. I hope they are at least half as decent as warranted by the time it took to write them. In the mean time, I really just wanted to vent about something that really “gets my goat.” (Goats are quite popular, so I wanted to include them in this.)
I do often engage in “Interweb discussions.” I’m not really trolling. I like to discuss issues with a variety of perspectives. I also find it’s challenging to have to defend your perspective. It helps you refine your talking points. Also, as I’ve said in the past, “You cannot claim an idea as your own until you can defend it.” There’s a variety of reasons, most of which are constructive… and sometimes it’s just fun. I do it all the time, with all sorts of individuals. But there’s one thing that typically ends the discussion.
Invariably, there comes a point where someone drops a hyperlink and suggests you “do some research” or “read up” on a topic. (Yes, this happened today.) I have a few triggers, and this is one of them. It makes me irate. Not on every topic… there are issues that I’m not well versed in: If the conversation is sports, even the average five year old can tell me that I don’t know what I’m talking about… because I typically do not. Among my peers, there are issues they tell me that I have to do more reading on a topic and that’s fine, too. My point is… I do admit that I don’t know everything. I’m constantly learning. And I don’t even mind if someone asks me what my understanding of an issue is, or what my background on a topic is, to try and understand how deep my perspective goes. That’s fine.
There are other times where I just really get irate. Quite often, my response is “have a good day” or just “fuck off.” But what I really want to say is:
Are you fucking kidding me? Because I did not write an entire essay on a topic in a comments section, replete with footnotes, you are going to condescend to me that I need to “do more reading” on a topic? How did you even get on that high horse? I studied political science at UC Berkeley. I’ve discussed this topic with Nobel Laureates. I have a post-graduate degree in political theory. I’ve spend more than a decade of my fucking life studying these thing. Who the fuck are you to tell me that my knowledge is insufficient? I have colleagues that are in almost every field of this topic. Just because I don’t agree with you, suddenly my perspective isn’t valid? What are your fucking qualifications on the subject that make you more of an authority than I am? Why don’t you go fuck yourself? Maybe you need to read a bit more on the subject before you step to me. It’s not my fault that you are unable to understand my perspective from the few words that I took the time out to contribute? Instead of being condescending, how about a fucking “thank you” for me taking the time to share some of my perspective that I’ve dedicated so much time and debt to obtaining? You can kindly go fuck yourself.
That’s what I want to say, but I don’t. Partly because I do deplore elitism. It feels elitist to brag about my education. I don’t know why it is… it’s not like it was just handed to me. I had to work hard and fight for every bit of it. I guess it’s another reason it really pisses me off.
I do use the names of philosophers and authors I have studied in the past… mostly to define my perspective. It’s more pedagogic than anything. When I say “Montesquieu,” it condenses an entire philosophy into one word. Similarly, I can point out that Arendt or Marcuse had explained an issue in a certain way, without having to reiterate what they said. It’s more shortcuts than anything else. The desire isn’t to be elitist about my education, but simply to support my claims. I’m trying to show that I didn’t just make things up on the spot.
But there’s more to it than just the condescending tone. It’s demeaning. And that’s typically something else I want to respond with in these instances. Someone drops a link. (And it’s different when it’s a link to the exact thing being discussed. Like if we are discussing Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism and someone drops a link to the pdf of the text, that’s fine.) But to say something along the line of “read this blog,” or “read this Wikipedia page,” or even “read some essays on this website,” it just demeaning.
The amount of research involved in studying these topics is quite extensive. Just recently, to write one essay, I had to read Arendt’s Origins Of Totalitarianism, Erich Fromm’s The Fear of Freedom, Althusser’s For Marx, Marcuse’ One-Dimensional Man, a half of a dozen of texts from Max Weber, and a handful of other texts. None of that is “light reading.” It’s tedious and arduous… and then, I didn’t just have to read them, I had to understand them. Not only did I have to understand them, but I had to show that I understood them. I had to elaborate on them. And following ALL of that, I had to contribute my own original thoughts on them. And this wasn’t even a dissertation or final paper. It wasn’t something I was trying to publish. It was just an assignment.
To suggest that your little internet resource is somehow more comprehensive than the knowledge that I’ve gained is just offensive. We all do it sometimes, I understand. And people that do not know me might think I’m just another prat on the internet espousing some uninformed theory. I understand that, too. I do accept that the intent is rarely to offend. But that’s the thing about being offensive, sometimes the intent doesn’t matter. If we want to have discourse, it’s important that we actually have discourse. If you want to just be an ideologue espousing your perspective and just dismissing any opposing perspective, that’s fine, too. I can do that. But I really don’t see the point. And if it comes down to credibility and rhetorical ability, I highly doubt you will come out on top.