Friday, July 8, 2011

I am not in denial!

Welcome back! (Sorry this one is so long, I got into a zone a little, but I would really appreciate if you do read through at some point)

Since my non-technology post was so well received, I thought it would be wise to add another one before trying to head back to more familiar territory (for me). I hope to approach this subject with a little bit of humility because it could end up being a fairly controversial one. I recently had a discussion wherein I asked people who know me fairly well if I get angry very often. I think of myself as a very mellow, yet opinionated person. I was told that in fact I get angry quite often, which didn't sit right with me. I personally could only think of a few times even in the last year when I had been angry.

This brings me to what I guess would be the main point of what I am trying to say here, namely that there IS a difference between anger with something/someone and disagreement with it. The more I think about this statement, the more it appears to apply in everyday life. I find it extremely difficult to be legitimately angry with people or things, because in my opinion such strong emotion does little to change the situation. Anger is rarely reasonable and thus often stands behind unreasonable people. In my case, I think people often confuse my disagreement with them (however vehement said disagreement may be) as anger with their point of view. I don't often get the chance to actually discuss these things with people, because reasonable argument between two people on a strongly polarizing issue can be very difficult. However, I will now attempt a rational, objective argument with myself on the subject which brings up this issue in my head.


LMFAO are a decently popular electronic pop/rap duo consisting of Sky Blu and Red Foo, and the songs in question are both produced in part by a gentleman referred to as Goonrock as well. Their new album, Sorry for Party Rocking, was recently released, and the first two singles from the album are called Party Rock Anthem and Champagne Showers. I have posted both videos below for those of you unfamiliar with the works. It has been declared to me that these two songs are "the same", almost as though music from either song could be played with either video. While it is clear to me that they are wearing the same outfits and the stories are in fact different chapters for the same story, this is not the discussion I was having. 

I would argue the fact that both of these songs are different works of art in their own right, while arguments from the other side suggest that two different works of art rooted in the same formula (similar timings of critical musical elements and choral repitition for example) don't need to be different works. My argument is exactly the opposite, I think these songs NEED to be considered as different, even if only because the artists themselves presented them separately. In having these discussions, I find that trying to make the above arguments is met with repetitive chants of "they're the same", and no manner of argument will change that fact in others' minds. While I try to state my case, I have been told that I come off as angry, even though no form of anger occupying my brain. The closest emotion I could safely say I feel in these situations to anger is frustration, and even then this is only because I cannot get my points across, but I am used to this as so it doesn't bother me nearly as much as it used to.

The more broadly applicable topic here is that of politics and political discourse. I find myself siding more and more with excellent political pundit Jon Stewart. The fact is I am not angry with the opinions of (to use Canada as an example) Liberals, or Conservatives, or even Bloq supporters. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but with these rights there come certain responsibilities. When approached with new and unfamiliar points of view, it is VITAL to understand not only what is being said, but also why it is being said. This is why major news organizations which are privately funded will not report both sides of a news story. It is in nobody's best interest to solely report what is going on, especially with a 24-hour news cycle to fill. Without even feigned balance of opinion, there is nothing to keep people watching beyond the half hour or even hour nightly news shows such as CBC decide is important enough for all to hear. Back to the responsibilities of citizens though, most people, even those who are well-meaning, will end up bickering over abortion, or gun control, or political party lines, or the legalization of marijuana, or religious freedoms...I could go on and on. The fact is, we will and should discuss these things. Our society is largely based on communication and discussion of this nature, and these kinds of discussions are much more important than the weather or last night's episode of Jersey Shore. It is critical that we have differences of opinion, because without them there would be no progress.

The current difficulty is that we are living in a sea of information which boggles our minds and clouds our judgements. I have an opinion on each of the topics I listed a few lines up, and would love to have a discussion about any of them with anybody will to share their opinion. What I am not interested in is people who will try to convince you their opinion is the absolute, be-all-and-end-all correct opinion simply because it is what they already think. My problem with this is that the reason people often have such strong opinions is because they heard a clear, convincing argument one way or the other, be it from a celebrity, a public figure, a journalist, and most commonly, a parent or loved one. The trouble with convincing arguments is that they don't require logic or factuality. A argument which is believable based solely on truthiness is a bad argument, which is the point Stephen Colbert tried to make in the opening episode of his show. Opinion based on a gut feeling is generally pretty solid, as in the case of murder or theft, but making an argument based solely on these grounds is a slippery slope. The content of people guts varies widely on many issues, so some form of rationality is also required for a cogent argument. 

Back to politics, I would like to add another small point to news networks and the flaws inherent in their design. By law, it seems, all shows on Fox News must discuss the same stories on any given day. Typically there is not enough going on to require 24 hours of news, so some blanks must be filled in with repeated opinion. I don't have a huge problem with this, because people need to make a living, and if people are going to watch your network for 24 hours, that is absolutely their prerogative. I have a problem with cycling news with opinion, and then referring to the opinion your network has just presented as though it is news. It allows stories which have no large scale clout to float to the top of the news pile, and allows political talking points to be endlessly circled and rehashed until the original story can't even been seen through all the partisan siding which has been added to it. I do not agree with this procedure, and really wish it would stop. Watch the Daily Show for many, MANY examples of this.

Anyhow, I hope this post is not also taken as anger, because it wasn't written as such. Frustrated, maybe...

The crux of this matter is, it is extremely important that we discuss things which we encounter on a day to day basis and the things we deem pertinent. More crucially though, it is necessary that before making an argument or defending a position, that we have thought about why we feel the way we do, why we think what we think, and most important, why do others have the opinions they have, and what can we learn from them.

-Robert