The Overflow, Backwash, Backlog, Logorrhea, Ad Hoc, Anyone-Can-Use, No-Word-Limit SPEAKEASY

April 4, 2007

A Purely Hypothetical Cautionary Tale for ROS Users

Filed under: Radio Open Source Conversations — Nick @ 3:34 am

The following is a purely hypothetical cautionary tale for ROS users to ponder.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Let’s say you one day realize you’ve been won over by a new blog-site: a place to read and to leave your own thoughts. Its (hypothetical) hosts are kindly and indulgent; its contributors remarkably savvy, well-spoken, and insightful. Your opening few posts receive both praise and dissent. The praise encourages you to continue; the dissent prompts you to improve your articulation and to hone your thinking. It’s a positive experience, and you are learning – and making noticeable strides as a writer.

One day (hypothetically) you attract a positive response to one of your least commonplace opinions, and you strike up a correspondence with the appreciator. At first it flourishes – you debate and spar, but always with affection and respect. Throughout this process, your thinking evolves – you begin to perceive that the patterns of your thoughts aren’t well-represented by the vocabulary and grammar of the language you grew up using. Nor are they compatible with your correspondent’s strong beliefs.

You try – in ‘good faith’ and with great difficulty – to explain your evolving comprehension of how your mind processes perceptions and assigns levels of credulity to these perceptions, analyses, and assessments. Your correspondent however does not try to understand your hard-to-articulate thoughts.
He does not use ‘?’.
Instead he takes it upon himself to correct you.

His prose, you reluctantly come to admit, is machine-gunned streams of declarative sentences that lecture, while asking nothing. No matter how hard you try – even offering novel concepts to better explain your internal understandings, your correspondent—who has never met you face-to-(hypothetical)-face—kindly lectures his “self-deluded” friend.
He insists that he knows how your mind works – that your understandings of your thinking can’t possibly be accurate.

Meanwhile, your posts on the blog of the kindly, indulgent hosts attract the usual amount of attention – but also lots of ‘corrective’ attention from your ‘friend’. Indeed, he seems especially (albeit not exclusively) attracted to your writings…

In growing despair – not despair of your own self-understanding but of the future of your correspondence – you begin to include in your missives a series of entreaties asking for an equal and even-handed exchange of personal meanings. Indeed, you even receive one from your correspondent that answers many of your questions about his mind’s patterns and habits – but that do not represent your own. Meanwhile, your own reciprocal offerings are rejected as “more self-delusion.”

You recall the brilliant and hilarious Monty Python ‘Argument Clinic’ sketch, wherein Michael Palin, seeking a lesson in extemporaneous debate, instead gets a clinic from John Cleese on contradiction. And, as you increasingly feel that you are, at best, only staging the same ‘argument’ (contradiction) over and over and over and over again in different iterations but with no discernable progress, you recall the old saw, “Insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result.”
You decide you don’t want to go crazy. (Hypothetically.)

One day (hypothetically) you wake up realizing that your ‘friend’ hasn’t respected your thoughts, or any of your own ‘good faith’ attempts to bridge the impasse, or worst of all, you.

In exasperation, you feel compelled to sever the correspondence – only to receive yet another condescending response.
You blow up. The fury of it – building gradually over the months of the relentless disrespect – shocks even you the next day.

Even so, it’s over. It’s off your chest. You’re free to return to exchange of opinion and insight with writers less arrogant. Writers you sense are much more respectful – even when they spiritedly disagree with you.

Then, your former friend reacts again to your material – and to only your material – even after your severance of the private correspondence.
“At what point,” you ask yourself, “ought I begin to feel like I’m on the receiving end of an intellectual style of (hypothetical) cyber-stalking?”

Now then, ain’t it great that this whole pathetic little melodrama is nothing but fiction? 🙂

Thanks for taking the time to read this purely hypothetical product of my imagination!

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5 Comments »

  1. I believe this hypothethical experience is called arguing. Which is very different from exploratory dialogue. Hypothetically, of course, there just might be a post on that ROS site that explicitly states that the “friend” approaches the entire discourse as an argument.

    Now, imagine another hypothetical:

    On the planet Gendera, it takes an XX and an XY Genderian to reproduce. And the hormonal differences of the XX’s and the XYs are such that they create physical power imbalances and vastly different experiential perspectives. The XYs are endowed with much greater physical prowess and for millenia have wielded that power over the XX’s and treated them like second class citizens.

    Imagine that, at one time, though the XXs were charged with all the duties of raising the species and supporting the work of the XYs by keeping the homefires burning, the XXs couldn’t even own property or have a say in how society would best function. Most cultural decisions have been made by the XYs since the beginning of the species’ existence. In recent years, some changes have occurred. XXs are allowed to vote for public servants. They can own property. They can even get jobs in the open market – though their work is likely to be valued at 70% of that of the XYs.

    This progress has been seen as so cataclysmic, that the XYs think that the XXs should feel that everything is equitable now and quit talking about it. But the XXs know that so many things are still not equitably represented. Artistic works are appreciated based upon a cultural norm created by the XYs. When XXs speak in public they are subjected to violent speech and subjective criticism that has nothing to do with the content of their speech. Well, if they are not ignored altoghter. XXs have lived in a world dominated by XYs for so long, that they have internalized the value systems of XYs and it would take many, many generations of respect and validation for the authentic XX expression and value system to emerge. But XXs know that this process has not even begun. For if an XX writes under a name that sounds like an XY name, the writing is received and responded to in a very different manner than if the same writing comes with a name that sounds like an XX name.

    But the XXs can’t get this point across. Because the XYs are comfortable with the way things are and don’t have any pressing need or motivation to put up with change – especially change that requires self-reflection and accepting another viewpoint as valid even though you will never be able to actually see from that viewpoint yourself. So, when XXs try to make the point that Gendera does not reflect a dual experience, – say, as in stories only being told by XYs – a dual point of view, and that one half of the species is subjected to behavior that nullify their existence, they are simply subjected to exactly that which they are trying to cry out about.

    And imagine that an XX is in a forum populated, even hosted by, XYs that present themselves as open-minded individuals committed to increasing the civil in civil society. And even in this forum, the perspective of the XXs is allowed to be dismissed or ignored. Imagine in this forum that it is acceptable for XXs to state what it is like to be an XX and then XYs are allowed to say, “No, it isn’t. We’ll tell you what it is to be an XX.”

    How can a society be civil if it is refuses to accept as a truth the perspectives expressed by it’s own members?

    Respect. Fundamental to a civil society. What a concept….

    Based on the experiences of the XX’s in Gendera, Gendera has never had a civil society.

    Thank goodness it’s only fiction….

    Comment by Allison — April 4, 2007 @ 6:39 am

  2. Allison, thank you for your reply. I very much like the Gendera parable.
    Your point about argument reminded me of a comparison I meant to include within my little fiction but forgot. Luckily, I can edit it in (but here’s a preview):

    You recall the brilliant and hilarious Monty Python ‘Argument Clinic’ sketch, wherein Michael Palin, seeking a lesson in extemporaneous debate, instead gets a clinic from John Cleese on contradiction. And, as you increasingly feel that you are, at best, only staging the same ‘argument’ (contradiction) over and over and over and over again in different iterations but with no discernable progress, you recall the old saw, “Insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different result.”
    You decide you don’t want to go crazy.

    Thanks for the comment!

    Comment by Nick — April 4, 2007 @ 7:22 am

  3. Yes, I think of that definition of insanity often. (Gotta love the wisdom of Python.)

    In Gendera, the XXs face the problem of figuring out how to end the insanity by finding something different to do. Perhaps they can pose it as a hypothetical problem to the XYs and see how the XYs would solve said problem within the limitation that the XXs must operate.

    Comment by Allison — April 4, 2007 @ 1:35 pm

  4. Thanks again, Allison.
    I’m not sure what to take from your latest comment. Perhaps my fictional characters have already tried such things? I dunno.
    And since it’s all nothing but pure fabrication, I won’t ponder it too long…

    BUT: I have a serious question for you:
    Can I copy your Gendera tale onto its own dedicated post on this site?
    That way you, or I, or anyone else, can link to it from other blogs. I will of course credit you as its originator.
    Whaddya think?
    Permission?

    Thank you…

    Comment by Nick — April 4, 2007 @ 6:24 pm

  5. Yes, you are welcome to copy the Gendera tale. It’s little rudimentary. I composed in about 20 minutes. Could use some refining, i Suppose. But maybe that’s what will happen if it’s in its own thread.

    My last comment had to do with my state of mind. Nothing to do with you and your fictional characters, per se. Though, if your characters can posit a plan of actions for Gendera’s XXs, I’m sure they’d be open to suggestions, as nothing to date is working. They are wallowing in profound frustration and disappointment.

    Comment by Allison — April 5, 2007 @ 3:50 am


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