Yup, there you have it. First I’m going to lay out all my good and well argued justifications for that, and then I’m going to call out all the bullshit in my justifications. But also this realization came from a pretty assinine encounter with someone I respect, so I’m also going to bitch about them not seeing the reason I’m an intellectually arrogant prick.
First, some history: I grew up pretty much alone, and this cannot be overstated: I’ve been mistreated by nearly everyone in my life history. Abuse, neglect, bullying, indifference, the whole nine yards. And when I did meet good people? I had to move. So people became more or less ephemeral and interchangeable for me, dangerous and incomprehensible, unrelateable and alienating.
But I’m an intelligent mother-fucker (Don’t read: Smart. I’m also a dumb mother-fucker in a lot of ways), and I escaped into books and then eventually into the internet. The internet was really the first time I had a lot of interaction with people, and I immediately gravitated towards my interests: Ideas. I’ve spent a great deal of my life reading rhetoric, logic, philosphy, and history. And a great deal of time arguing with people on the internet. In some arenas I’ve had no problems coming off as a prick, generally in those contexts where personhood is utterly ambiguous and each party treats the other’s statements as something to be debated. I learned a long time ago however: Never talk to anyone like this.
In the process, and in my life experience: I’ve become profoundly critical of poorly reasoned or unclear arguments.
Even if especially if they share in common my own beliefs and I agree with the outcome of their shoddy reasoning.
Why? Because I’ve found that when people have shitty reasoning they tend to have shitty moral justifications. Hint: If your moral transformation makes you into a smug morally superior prick you’re doing it wrong. Essentially I have zero respect for poorly reasoned arguments, most particularly in the realm of ideas. I’m academically critical of any idea someone relates to me, and no where is this any more apparent than in written discussion. This often makes me a contrarian for arguments sake and it can make me come across as an insensitive prick.
More on that: When I see people’s written arguments I see them as a statement devoid of personal contex. It’s a statement written on a page and I care not a whit about the other person. Partly because I’m used to reading arguments by long dead people I can’t exactly have a discussion with, and partly because I really don’t understand people.
Or at least: I don’t understand them in the same way other people seem to.
When I talk to someone who frequently uses an anthropological lens to view an issue that greatly affects my life and has no impact on theirs, I can’t help but think, “Gee, I had no idea my emotions and interpretation of experiences were up for debate…”
Seriously – stop treating issues that affects other people’s lives as just something to argue about. You have absolutely no basis to tell other people that they’re wrong about something they lived through and when only experience you have with that issue is through debates you can enter and exit and forget about as freely and conveniently as you want. This isn’t a game. I’m not here to entertain your endless supply of contrarian-for-the-sake-of-it arguments.
~Some anonymous person that she-who-shall-not-be-named posted on facebook as a quote in reference to me.
(Irony: Relaying my particular lived experiences as to how my disability and dysfunction probably makes me a dick without meaning to, was derailing because I didn’t agree with being labelled dismissive because of white-male privilege. Because evidently all us neuro-atypicals are the same.)
Yep, that’s me. Problem is: I don’t know how else to view people except through an anthropological lens. I’ve had to read shit like How to Win Friends and Influence People, just to get along with people amicably. What seems easy for other people, seems utterly impossible for me. I see you not as a person (or at least, how I think other people intuitively view other people), but as an idea. When you’re not around? I probably don’t think about you. When you are around? I’m analyzing the shit out of your behavior, narrative, cultural context, responses, body language, etc. I’ve learned in practice: Never tell anyone this.
It’s not that I don’t want to care, It’s more like that scene in the last part of the Matrix series where Neo is talking to the Architect:
The Architect – It is interesting reading your reactions. Your five predecessors were by design based on a similar predication, a contingent affirmation that was meant to create a profound attachment to the rest of your species, facilitating the function of the one. While the others experienced this in a very general way, your experience is far more specific. Vis-a-vis, love.
I care about people very much in the abstract and intellectual sense. I certainly care about treating people right, I cry when I see others suffer, I cry when my heart’s broken, I have all the normal emotions. I just don’t understand people except as a general inferrance.
Couple this with being the only person you could ever rely on, your own best friend, your own confidant, shoulder to cry on, everything. I’m a reflexively selfish and self-absorbed mother-fucker. I have been the center, and almost the entirety of my own universe.
Now to bitch: I’ve been an ignorant mother-fucker, everyone is really, but especially when you’re not used to being more ignorant than other people it becomes very hard to see. Even more-so when your ignorance is because of culturally invisible narratives based on privilege. So I got into an argument with she-who-shall-not-be-named, in which I discovered I was completely ignorant about women’s issues. Cool, right-on, I learned how to start un-fucking-up about that. One thing I’ve never really understood about people, is how defensive and angry that they can be about being wrong. I’m usually not, but I had a very hard time accepting my ignorance in this, principally because from-my-view: While this person was being well-meaning and patient with me overall, they were being pretty damn dismissive and smugly superior from their moral high-ground.
So this whole encounter must have left a very poor taste in that person’s mouth…because nearly every aspect of my behavior seemed to be viewed through the lense of those aspects where I am ignorant and privilege blind. I’m not an arrogant prick because I’m white and male. I’m an arrogant prick because I’m used to being right. I’m certainly not an arrogant prick to you because you’re female, or trans, (There was an implication in this conversation of just that [in a conversation not about women’s issues, not even remotely related, and I certainly didn’t know the other person I was accused of dismissing was trans, nor do I care. Fuck trans-phobia. Fuck misogyny. Fuck haters.]) or whatever: I don’t care what form an idea comes in, who it’s from, or anything about that person. All I care about is whether or not it’s well argued.
Not every assinine thing I do is because I’m a cis-white-male.
The thing is, I’m not actually dismissive of other people’s Ideas. Just other people’s arguments. Nearly every idea in my head has been written or said by someone else, I’ll take ideas from anywhere. Problem is that being dismissive of arguments seems dismissive of other people.
So I’m trying right? I can’t accomodate everything problematic with my own behavior right now. Especially in written, argumentative context. I offered just to shut the hell up, because my writing is nearly identical to the way I think. Well, you can’t please everyone, so not being willing to accept this person’s incorrect judgement of just where this comes from: I lost a friend.
I’ve come to terms with that, and even learned something: That I’m more of an intellectual prick than I thought.
So, On to My Bullshit:
Thought and behavior are nearly one and the same, and ignorance is no excuse. There’s no way I can treat people well unless I actually consider them as whole persons and not ideas of a person. There’s no way I can treat people well unless I learn to consider their lives, experiences, thoughts and emotions as much as my own. This shit is fucking difficult for me, but I have a life motto: χαλεπὰ τὰ καλά. Beauty is harsh, that which is good is difficult, naught without labor.
I certainly want to be beautiful, if that is my biggest vanity. So I can’t convince myself to be that person, I can only become that person. Hence, a journey of moral ontology.