1.18.2011

Discourse is most productive near the very limits of civility

Did Sara Palin, et al. contribute to an environment that could incite marginal individuals to violence? I don't know. But for a moment I'll ask that we consider only this - why did her actions lend themselves so easily for people to make such an accusation? Some no doubt don't need much of an excuse to think badly of her. After all she was a big promoter of the flagrant 'death panel' lie and, until recently, had a lot of pictures with cross hairs in them on her website. So she can't really pass herself off as a voice of moderation.

But if nothing else, I'd like our leaders to look at the lessons of Arizona and realize that all of them are putting themselves on the line every time they go out into public. Leaders are lightening rods for argument and disagreement. To lead among the people one must put oneself at some risk. Crazy people need little encouragement and therefore can't really be avoided. What can be avoided is inflammatory rhetoric that intentionally blurs the line between reasoned disagreement based upon enlightened debate, and demonization of any and all who might legitimately and with principle, disagree.

A lot less entertaining no doubt, but also a lot more productive.

5 comments:

Harry C Pharisee said...

Well, Pliny I'll take you up on your post's title, not its main point.

"Crazy people" need little encouragement... to do what exactly? That's akin to saying cancer patients need little encouragement to be sick.

It looks like you fell headlong into Cartesian dualism.

As a 'crazy' person I'm a bit offended by your implication of will. I don't love to throw myself into the depths of depression or into the paralyzing fear of anxiety. Shit Pliny, If I could control my manic depression I'd switch on the hypomania in the morning just to get the day started! :)

If Loughner's behavior brings about discussions of toning down rhetoric and about how to deal with 'mental' illness directly, as a physical problem, then that's cool. But intentionality and will have got to be subsumed under physicality when talking about us 'crazies.'

Btw, I wonder if the millions of sane people throughout the past decade or so, who have murdered others, needed "little encouragement."

Jared said...

Let's see how succinctly I can make these:

1) The after-the-fact analysis of mental status of someone is irrelevant to his or her ability to access weapons, be penalized, or whatever before-the-fact. The biggest lesson here is that we need a more effective way of finding and treating dangerous mentally unstable individuals.

2) As far as the "violent rhetoric,"is concerned, it has a very complex cause and even more complicated solution. Regardless of the rhetoric used, The problem is not the rhetoric, but the incitement and perpetuation of that fear. It is the fear of the "other" or the "plans of others" without understanding or caring who the "other" really is that causes dangerous problems. Examples of this include: Kim Jong-il, China's economic power, OPEC, etc.

3) The purpose of most debates is not to persuade the opponent, but to persuade the unenlightened masses to one's side. This is precisely why political discussions are often so vacuous, relying upon catch-phrases and euphemisms than on factual and demonstrated reality. For this reason, I find most political discussions useless.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

Hmmm, interesting what a short post can trigger. That old law of unintended consequences I suppose.

As for the term 'crazy' I suppose I should clarify that in my line of work I come across a lot of crazy people some of whom are also mentally ill. I also encounter a lot of mentally ill people some of whom are also crazy.

So for example - the guy photographed carrying an M16 to an Obama rally - crazy.

The Arizona shooter - probably delusional.

a child getting caught in the crossfire - just plain crazy and evil.

To die for no other reason than because of a certain set of political positions - crazy

Harry C Pharisee said...

I am humbled by your purposeful non-pc attitude. Apologies.

Loughner's obvious illness has brought thoughtless media scrutiny to us bonafides, and it has hurt like the dickens.

I hope you'll still take up the Bullshitting a Stairway Reason challenge.

Pliny-the-in-Between said...

I will work on those Lyrics! It would be a divine mission- except I don't believe in that sort of thing...

Thanks for sharing your concerns and reminding me that language remains one of our most dangerous WMD's.