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'I'm Not Arguing- You're Just Wrong'

We've all heard the old proverb.

'Only 3 things are certain in life- birth, death and taxes.'

I'm afraid that's one short.

There are four. The next most inevitable thing
you will do during your time on earth is argue.

You will argue with strangers. You will argue with friends.
You'll do it with relatives and even the TV. You'll have,
by my own completely fabricated estimation, an average of
5,826 bona-fide arguments in a typical lifetime. 75% of these
will be between the ages of 12 and 22, and 80% of those will be
with one or both parents.

This is the point where most modern writers would say that
man has an inherent primal need to fight- a combative nature.
Well, that's just as excitingly 'Darwinian" as all get out,
but still poppycock.

All animals (including us, folks) react one of two ways
when threatened- fight or flight. The difference is, with
the other animals, food or mating is the root cause of most
threats or provocations. Even territorial marking is basically
holding the dinner table for your party. Predators, like lions
or jackals, mark the boundaries of their hunting grounds to
protect their source of food.

We humans, though, have independant thought. We can choose
to fight simply for the sake of it. We can argue out out of pride,
ignorance, embarrassment, greed and even humility. We can,
and often do, take contrary opinions just to make someone
sweat out an idea they've had the courage to speak aloud.
We hide under the noble banner of 'devils' advocate', and
maybe that's the best name for it.

For the most part we go into a difference of opinion with the
assumption, on both sides, that only one can be right. For the
animal kingdom, conflicts are simple issues with an
obvious winner or loser for an equally obvious reason.
The human animal isn't limited to one level of complaining.
We can argue about several things at once, and thanks to the
one-winner concept, prolong it indefinitely.

Verbal conflict has evolved to a political art form. We now
argue intensely on unrelated topics, pinning them together
and, all the while pretending that there is only one issue,
and you'd all see that if you'd just shut up and listen!

A pardoxical moment. A new reality has dawned. Now both sides
can be right! By rationalizing an event as a reaction to
the wrongs comitted by the other side, one can justify
virtually any act of aggression, verbal and up.

Aah, but physics and logic, those old codgers, have not left
the picture. If both are right, then there are two things wrong.
So, logically, if both sides won, then both problems will be
fixed, right?


Um, well, er, ah, I guess not. We just don't have a handle on this
whole 'multiple culpability' scene. Few are willing to admit and
repair over shifting the blame. Sadly, that's become a normal
custom in the modern world. Let's take, for example, a simple,
basic, everyday topic that we all know alot about.

World politics.

See, I told you it'd be an easy one! Seriously folks, ('thank you
thank you, we'll be here through Tuesday') we've watched as the
global mindset has mired itself in unsolvable problems generated
by agressive military or financial action over an equally futile
complaint. Per se;

Maybe 'Western' business should be more scrupulous and generous
with lesser developed nations, and maybe chanting 'death to America'
in a public square doesn't help.

Maybe 'Westerners' have graft and corruption to deal with
in their governments and corporations and maybe some certain
places in the world could use a subdivision with plumbing rather
than a new palace.

Maybe 'Western' military presence is intimidating and
hopefully someone doesn't need to eat on that $5 billion in
yearly foreign aid.

Each issue is it's own genuine problem, with one obvious solution.
If we have the mindset to do it, we can solve many arguments
by admitting guilt and fixing our issue right away. The result
can be a cascade of reducing complaints to basic, rightable wrongs.

What if the 'West' cleaned up it's act entirely. Would that change
the religiously held belief in the Middle East that America is
'the Great Satan'? What can the 'West' possibly do to fix that?
'We're sorry, God made us evil. We didn't mean it. We'll
all be popping off now. See you in heaven- oh, uh, I won't will I?
Oh well, that's how it goes.' (oh, wait- that's Britain.)

No nation has cornered the market on honesty in any lifetime.
All religions and all the government charters and constitutions
I've seen value honesty and truthfullness as cornerstones of their
faith or philoshphy. Yet, we appear to be constantly lying to each
other. What's up with that?

Maybe truth is in the eye of the believer.

Single-level conflicts thrive on the belief that someone else
is wrong, so I'm not. If there's one true winner, that can be
proven. Conflicts in our day are more complex. Usually,
each side has a legitimate wrong to put on the table, and all
are scheming to get away with theirs by claiming it as
contingent on another. Now, the argument lasts as long as one
fighter believes there is a wrong.

And so we're entrenched in that new, paradoxic level of
confrontation we've so crafted so well.

The modern argument can't be won unless all are willing to lose.

copyright 2000 Pegwood Arts all rights reserved 

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