Trigger Warning: May horrify philosophy freshmen who still think Plato’s Divided Line is the coolest thing ever.
I have noticed, in my many short years on this mudball, that there is a certain kind of argument which indicates THIS:
Warning! This person has issues and entering into a discussion/argument with this person will only make you frustrated and them unhappy. Warning: do not engage.
Wow, Happycrow! Is it because they’re a conservative?
Now you’re just trolling.
You wrote this!
Yes, sometimes I even troll myself. It’s what happens when you dedicate yourself to the study of dangerous assumptions.
You’re stuck up.
Yes. I’m opining via a blog, at the world. You’re just now figuring this out?
They’re getting bored.
So here’s the Yardstick.
If a person takes Event or Factoid A and says “This is illustrative of Societally-Overarching Issue 1-1A,” this is an unhappy person who is seeking validation that He or She is One of The Good People.
You cannot engage with this person. The fundamental reason the argument has been made is not an Intellectual Inquiry into the Legitimacy or the Causes of Phenomenon 1-1A. The argument has been made because the person in question is seeking an answer to the fundamental question “why am I unhappy?” People who do this have chosen not to look at the world around them and learn from what happy people do — instead, they have chosen to pin their unhappiness on abstract phenomena tied to the vices and failures of Other People. As soon as you pile in against the “specific occurence proves Abstract Phenomenon,” all you’re doing is refusing to validate them. At best, you will wind up with an endless series of No True Scotsmen arguments, as said person desperately tries to justify their worldview in order to support themselves emotionally.
At worst, you just lost your friend or acquaintance by labelling yourself as “that asshole who doesn’t get it and is so mean.”
And it’s your fault. YOU chose to raise an issue without paying attention to the context in which it was happening. You made a dangerous assumption, and now you’re upset because, well…it burns. And nothing you say will help you with this person now, because this person just decided “you’ve upset me by pulling off the One Band-Aid allowing me to salvage my sense of self-worth, so you are Bad People.”
You know the sort — the holier-than-thou do this regularly. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Holier-Than-Thou, religious flavor(tm), or Holier-Than-Thou, Atheist Flavor(tm). Holier Than Though, Total Bae Social Justice Warrior Flavor(tm), or Holier Than Thou, The Un-biblical Suck And I Must Therefore Sue The Gays, Yes All of Them Flavor(tm).
The behavior is, at its core, a defense mechanism, no matter what Socio-Political Sauce you pour on it.
You can tell this because the person you’re looking at is pissed off at abstract people. Like the Klan Bigot who can’t stand black people — unless it’s Bob. Bob’s okay. For a black guy. In fact, he helped with my AC last week. Why can’t All Those Black People be just like Bob?
As soon as you hear “all those” or any flavor of similar abstraction – men, women, christians, muslims, atheists, all those category-words, you know what you’re dealing with.
In fact, you should pretty much beware of plurals in general.
Abstract People don’t do anything. They can’t, because Abstract People don’t exist. Abstract People don’t sin. They don’t grab your butt. They don’t hurt other Abstract People. Abstract Phenomena don’t exist. If you were hurt by an Abstract Person or an Abstract Phenomenon, you were hurt by a ghost. (In the example above, Bob wasn’t hurt by “racism.” Bob was hurt by Fred, who’s being a bigot).
A person who is angry with Abstract People is a person who is haunted by ghosts. And a person only devotes the energy to allow a haunting because they’re tormented with their own failures and frustrations.
There are only two things you can do for people like this.
- Be sympathetic. Some people suffer because they choose to. Others have honest-to-goodness Shitty Things happening to them.
- Do something to help them have a nicer day.
If, for any reason, distance, time, or social context won’t allow you to do one of those things, leave them alone!
When you see a suffering person, your goal shouldn’t be to argue with them. You can’t help them. They’re not in a head-space where they are in a position to care about, let alone learn from, an intellectual argument. Your goal should be to either help them out, or stand aside.
They, and only they, will decide when they’re ready for emotional antibiotics and weight-lifting.