Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Roof top shouting, and arguing with the other side

A very nice piece on the latest/on-going/this-is-the-way-of-the-world-now/SFFWA Hugo/politicsthingy by Brad Torgeson, whom I don’t think I had ever heard of before:

 I am in general agreement with most everything he has said, and am very impressed with the...maturity and evenhandedness of the saying.


Rule for Ranters: Recognize the Rant for what it is – an expression of one’s (someone’s, your, my) emotional reaction to something. It’s good for communicating irritation, anger, disgust, fury, etc, etc.

It’s important to express that kind of emotion in a way that fellow humans can understand – if one is really that upset, leaving fellow travelers ignorant of your reaction is not helpful. And everything all bottled up and fermenting without a proper functioning relief valve only leads to foam spraying all over the beer closet and that’s no good at all. (Alcohol abuse, doncha know…)

Rants can be good for emotional bonding amongst those who agree with one, as well – a mutual relief valve. I do emphasize here that the emotional expression has to be in a way that other people understand – chimp teeth barring grins, for example? Not happy things. Ranting needs to be done so that it is understood.

What Ranting is not, however, is an exercise in rational reasoning and logical persuasion.

Ranting is not a method for getting The Other Side’s assholes to agree with the Ranter. (They might agree with each other – that the Ranter is crazy – but not with the Ranter.)

 Ranting is not a way to understand The Other Side. (At all.) It’s a very lousy way to get The Other Side to understand one’s own view.

 Ranting can be used as a method of shutting down communication – or shutting up The Other Side. But silence is not assent, and forcing people to shut up is not the same as fostering agreement - or changing minds.

 Rants are also excellent at evoking emotional responses – with those who agree (as above) and with The Other Side – who rarely looks upon the Ranter with more respect, empathy, or positive energy after the Rant is over than they did before.

 Rants are very good tools for what they are designed to do. But a good tool user knows when to use a screwdriver and when to use a hammer. Posting a rant which any rational and adult wordsmith knows full well will have the effect of making the choir snicker in agreement and alienating The Other Side is the writing (or speaking) equivalent of opening a can of paint with the blunt end of a claw hammer.

 Yeah, the can’s gonna be open when you’re done, but you’re going to look like an idiot, feel worse, and there’s not anything you’re going to be able to do with the paint after that.

 A note on what appears to be a conflict between those who value work(s) done because it pays well and people like it and I enjoy doing it but mostly because money, dear boy, money and those who value work(s) done because it is a (holy) calling and an expression of ones immortal soul and may yet change the world - yes, there is a difference between the two. Between the works, between the people who value one over the other, and between the people who make them. Even when the same writer/artist/shootist/orator does some of both.

I get that some people see a difference between the two, I acknowledge the difference (even if I can’t always clearly define it) and I got no problem with there being a difference. What I don’t get, me, is acknowledging the difference, yet insisting that both be treated the same. Popular workmanship works get more money thrown at the author than does High Lit. *shrugs* High Lit gets people thinking and talking and generally sticks around longer. But it’s not as comfortable and isn’t as well loved. *shrugs* Want lots of accolades? Pick High Lit. Want lots of fans and dough? Pick popular works that are, well, popular.

It’s called Achilles’ Choice because it wasn’t Achilles’ Get-To-Have-It-Both-Ways-Deal. Granted - some people can manage to produce work with a high overlap between popular and quality. But even more of us can’t manage either one by itself. Better to pick one, do your best, evaluate, revise, lather, rinse, repeat until you get the popularity or quality you were aiming for. Floor sweeping, coffee grinding, book writing, fence fixing – it all works like that.

 Or so I get told.

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