9.26.2011

The Terms of the Discussion

Entering into a conversation with someone you don't know is a complex process.  You size them up: How do they make sense of things? And how will I figure out how the fuck they make sense of things?

The insidious thing about the news — about public discourse — is it plays an enormous role in how we make sense of other people.

To wit, I find myself, more often than I would like, in conversations where people casually make use of the words "Democrat" and "Republican" as if these were meaningful in and of themselves.  Which, to me, they aren't. And then I find myself thinking : "Hmn, this person makes sense of things according to terms that seem to be prefabricated."

I will admit that I have a prejudice for those who make up their own terms. Or at least use terms I've never heard of. (Yes, I ended in a preposition. Which is just fine with me, thank you.)  I wish I could enter into all conversations assuming that all parties involved were interested in exposing, and rewriting, the assumptions of the conversation.  I wish the terms of discourse were part of the discourse.

It's very difficult — for me, at least — to navigate the social when this is not the case.  I never know how to respond when people so knowingly make use of terms like Republican.  Do I just nod along? Do I ask them what they mean (that seems like a disastrous route)? Do I change the conversation (yes!)?

I remember years ago there was some new Star Trek series and the big news was that the captain was a woman. This was deemed revolutionary, at least in some small way. And no doubt it was.  But I kept thinking: Why a woman? Or a man? Or an African American? Why not an ironist? Now that's an underrepresented population!

If we collectively embraced the will to individual terms of discussion; if we all agreed to put aside the newspapers that speak as if there were mass agreement — and in so doing, create it; if we all agreed that thinking and speaking differently were a good thing; well, then, I think this life would be a lot more enjoyable.  At least for ironists like me. 

3 comments:

Daniel Schealler said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daniel Schealler said...

I'd just be happy if people could hear the ambiguity in what they say so that when I ask for clarification they don't look at me like I'm an idiot and just repeat exactly the same thing back at me, only slower and slightly louder.

"Did you have [miscellaneous object] last?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Do you know where you left it?"

"In the drawer."

"... Er. Right. And... Which drawer are we talking about here?"

"The top left one."

"Okay. Good. That's good. So... Which dresser?"

*roll eyes* "The one in the room."

"Which room?"

"The room."

"... the bathroom?"

"What? No, don't be stupid. The bedroom. Top left drawer in the bedroom."

"Okay. There's three dressers in the bedroom."

"Ugh. My dresser, obviously."

"You have two dressers."

*icily* "The. One. By. My. Side. Of. The. Bed."

"Thanks!"

what the Tee Vee taught said...

Playwright? Right? You'd be a darling of a theatre-Jew, no?

You've danced around it long enough... write a fucking play. Produce this play. Enjoy.