Friday, May 8, 2009

Rekindling the Mind

So I'm self employed. That means that I work with lenders over the phone and sometimes I meet with homeowners at their homes- and that's a rarity with all the foreclosed homes out here. My social outlet is limited to my wife who has a full time job and my neighbor who shoots pigeons with his bb gun and "coach" who lets our daughter Madison out of the car when I drop her off at school- isn't that weird to be known as "coach" or the "outdoor lady" at school? But that's a topic in and of itself.

My point is that I don't have the typical work environment- nobody to talk about Manny. Nobody to talk about Obama. Nobody to talk about Afghanistan or even Paris. It's kind of depressing. But that's where the internet comes in- sort of. Whether it's message boards or Facebook or the Indian girl with Visa who is going to reverse my late fees, I try to be social with the people I interact with because I have to take what I can get. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some blathering idiot... or am I? I just get on a roll sometime because I need to have that vocal interaction. When it's my fingers doing the talking, it gives me a sense of brainpower- with deleting and drafts and a little research so I don't end up being a liar. But that's not what humans are built for. I could be butt naked at the PC with a Firefox window opened to Party Poker and another window composing a letter to Hilary Clinton, and i could end up with an articulate and beautiful document. It's really not the same is it? Not that I'm smarter than anyone (I'm not) but the fact that I can sometimes link together 3 related sentences can sort of atrophy like your apendix or ability to do 'the worm' when not given the opportunities to exercise those skills.

So my friend Neil texted me tonight. I've known Neil since Jr. High but I've told him before that I really don't remember him before Sr. year of high school. That doesn't detract from our friendship. We've had our share of running from the cops, and pyromaniac activity and crashed couches and female talks and yes even political talks. Neil is the guy who could name all 100 US senators when he was in high school... remember that guy? Exactly. Neil is the guy who ditched school with me to see Oliver North speak at Long Beach Airport. He was a Reagan Republican, just like me. We shook George HW Bush's hand.

So his text was something of the effect of "Manny is killing me". Now my baseball opinions run deep. I am still a fan of a team that doesn't exist any more. I have been very cynical of the state of baseball since 1994 (the same year that my team would have gone to the world series- the same team that groomed Randy Johnson and Larry Walker and Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero and Gary Carter and Tim Raines and Tim Wallach and... I'm exhausted and off track. where was I?)

Oh yeah, so we start bantering about steroids and baseball in general and who's to blame, etc.- all via text message mind you. And I happened to be at Uncle Bears drinking heavily for the first time in a long time. So I get my ride home and I end up calling Neil just because I needed that real connection. We start talking baseball and then we start talking about Facebook and Twitter and all the stuff that he hasn't adapted to yet. BTW, Neil is a city attorney in California, so I guess I understand why he might not want to have a profile on one of these when Joe Murderer might look him up online- but I'm a proponent of some of these social networking sights so I try to influence him (the lawyer).

Well about 20 minutes into this conversation (I'm at home by now), my daughter comes down to tell me that she's ready for me to read her stories. I love my daughter very much, and I read her stories every night. I haven't talked to my friend in probably 4 months (or anyone else for that matter about serious stuff like Facebook or Twitter...). So I'm sort of ignoring my daughter and she's getting upset. But my core needed to continue this intelligent adult conversation which was transitioning into general social topics. I'm not being rude to my daughter, just ignoring her- so minimal long term scarring...

Mom calls her upstairs- respecting my conversation, and by this time my cell gives me the "battery low" signal. But now we've moved on to political talk. So I take it outside. Oh by the way, did I mention that my Reagan-Conservative friend Neil is now an Obama Democrat? Nothing against that, but it brings a level of conversation that gets you a little more serious, a little more focussed, and a little more sober. So here's a city attorney (did i mention that he turned down an opportunity to interview for a federal prosecutor position) talking politics with someone who is on the opposite side of the political spectrum from him who is not a lawyer and has a 6 beer buzz brewing- that's what I call friendship.

So the subject and outcome of the conversation is not really relevant but I'll tell you anyway- it's the housing crisis, who's to blame, when was it started, why the rosy picture was inappropriately pumped for so long, and how stupid we Americans are for thinking about what is affecting ME right now instead of the country for the long term and how that affects elections. Since we're old friends, the conversation went without yelling but ended simply with a "my battery is dying and i have to pee. I'll talk to you later" (which probably means Septemberish). I felt good. I didn't win, Neil didn't win- that wasn't the exercise. It was more along the lines of speaking intelligently with someone and the satisfaction that the analytical part of my brain can still coordinate with the vocal and audible part- so I'm not dying yet!

Now this isn't a knock on my relationship with my wife because she is conservative like me. And I live in a conservative state so I could bring this topic up with 10 people and 9 would either agree with me or nod in feigned comprehension and I'd see right through that and be upset. But that's not the point.

We live in a society where most of us watch the evening news, read headlines and listen to what others tell us- then we have a beer, watch Lost and Scrubs and House, read a bit of a fiction book and fall asleep. Don't we owe it to ourselves to do our own objective research? Formulate our own opinions regardless of what our peers believe, and then take a stand for what we believe in? We're not all Platos and Socrates and heck I'll throw in Obamas. We're not all built for debate and confrontation. But shouldn't we be? At least a little? Or at least shouldn't we engage in these conversations whenever we can and take notes and do our own research when someone throws in a concept you don't know about? Do we all know what ACORN is? Have we all listened objectively to Rush for a full uninterrupted hour? Have we ever noted what our leaders state they will do and then compare it to what they actually end up doing (rather than listen to their revised but eloquent bullshit stance when they have failed in their initial goal)?

Here's the deal. If you have healthy political debate with peers, family and coworkers, that's awesome and I envy you. Keep it up and seek those specifically who disagree with you. Instead of trying to cram your views down their throat, listed to their views. Don't interrupt- even if they are wrong. Learn what their misperceptions might be. It's sort of like a date. If you start calling your date fat right away, then the date will end quickly and you won't get another. But if you listen instead of yapping and pawing at the other person's bra (assuming that she's female), then you might get another opportunity- and once you're married you can call her fat and you might get a shoe to the head and no sex, but you'll still be married! In the meantime, key in on what they've said and do your own research. If they said something that sounds crazy- like "Obama is not a US citizen" then do your own research. You might end up agreeing with that notion or you might learn why that's a fallacy.

It feels good to talk with people beyond "What's up? How you doing? The Suns suck. I love Guiness. That chick is hot. Alright, see you later." Let's all strive for somewhat intelligent conversation and doing what we can to get to intelligent conversation. Do you really want to be a lemming who believes what they hear or do you want to be able to vehemently profess your stance on a topic because it's important and you know in your heart that you are right?

1 comment:

allblues53 said...

That’s a great question, why do we have so little intelligent discussion—in this modern age of telecom, information, and “news talk,” with more Americans in college than ever before, with urgent and tangible threats to our livelihood, and coming off an election year?

My answer is that most people prefer to debate with emotions. To name a few, I blame the schools, the self-esteem movement, news agencies, Hollywood, Oprah, Rush, and all the other rabid dogs on the airwaves. We’ve become self absorbed that we instead engage in moral preening, where your listener is not just wrong, he is BAD.

I’ve seen it from all sides, but lately I’ve seen it from the left. If you are a conservative, you did not arrive at your position through careful analysis and painful experience. No, you are greedy, gullible, or hateful. This is bigotry of the worst kind, because it is shrouded in righteousness.

I am not concerned here with morality or hypocrisy. There is no moral monopoly out there, but I think there is a logical monopoly out there for all of us to discover. I’d love to have intelligent debate, to learn and to share my ideas out on the watercooler circuit, or with my in-laws. Let’s talk about the unintended consequences of the environmental movement, progressive taxes, bailouts, unwillingness to develop nuclear power, and underestimating our enemies. The sad fact is we are more concerned with feel-good and do-good. However, the realities of life are based on conservative principles.

I am still a Green Party Member. I still cherish those values, but I’m grown up enough to realize they are usually making it worse.