Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beaten

In a world where one can find any "conclusive evidence" to back what she is saying, it is surprisingly difficult to actually form a cohesive argument. What I mean is that people are emotional, reactionary creatures. We have a deep seeded need to be "right" in order to justify our actions, and we'll use any argument to prove ourselves. We are especially good at manipulating emotions by using words such as "God! Justice! Freedom!" and any other store of "evidence" we've gathered from our cultural norms.


Unfortunately, sometimes when we are at our wits end - when we know we're sunk, in over our heads, dead wrong, up shit creek (you get the idea)- the most most moving counter one can come up with is, "Oh yeah?! Well, my dad can beat up your dad!" This is ultimate desperation play, and, by the way, is a total lie for most of us. But she - the opponent - didn't know that.

Lately, I've been fighting a battle. Seriously. I've gone "to the mat." And literally, too - as in, one on one, face to mat. Because my proverbial nose is so smushed in, and I can't breath anything but sweaty, mildewed vinyl mixed with the sulfury smell of my own proverbial blood, I think it's safe to say that I lost. K.O. Game over. Roll credits.

As many of you know, I am sort of a wanna-be activist, though the only "march" or "protest" I've ever participated in was when I found myself blissfully lost in DC, and I accidentally stumbled into a march for Haitian rights. I did stop by the "Stop the War" camp in Parliament Square last time I was in London and shared an umbrella and a chat with some very interesting people who were staying there for a season. (Read more about the company I keep and then tell me I'm pretty)*

I want to be conscientious of issues, even if I am not participating in a march. What I'm learning - and this pertains to the fight - is that it is ridiculous for me - an average person, of average intelligence and height - to assume that I can win an argument against a full fledged activist. I don't have the wherewithal or the gumption. My battle scars aren't deep enough, and my tears are too salty. I also learned a little about cruelty and compassion, that if one can successfully mix the two in just the right amounts, one is assured "victory".

It doesn't matter what the argument was that caused me to be lying limp and broken on this mat, her shadow lording over me. Her win was in her concluding remarks - full of righteous indignance and God and poetry. I mean, who can argue with that? She won. Not because she's smarter than me or right, but because she knows the correct way to argue - the winning rhetorical combination - the right one, two.

It turns out it takes a few good ass kickings to learn how to respond to certain bullies, even ones who claim that "God is on their side". It also turns out I am a very good student.

*I am a member of a list (hardly active on my part,but very active on my friend, Mark's) that advocates true community cohesion and decision making, what they call a Campaign for Real Democracy. My teaching job is quite a platform for activism. The International Baccalaureate Program I teach with promotes international mindedness (not globalization), in an effort to help people embrace cultural differences. "Tolerating" differences implies that a negative judgement has been made. We must do more. Some of my friends in Arizona "break the law" by leaving gallon water jugs in the desert for people who are trying to cross the border and who sometimes die of dehydration in their efforts. (The activists from the Restoration Project were acquitted, by the way. It turns out leaving water in the desert so that people don't die is a difficult case to prosecute morally.)

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if I am responding to this in the right way but I will provide my first response...

One of the best graduate English professors I ever had revealed something to her students that seemed like some big secret that nobody talks about but should. She said that the best arguments you write are the ones you feel the most crap about when you finish. It had gotten to the point in the semester where everyone was sick of reading, writing, and learning period but, most of all, sick of the pressure put upon us to make insightful observations about the world around us. She could tell. So many English folks are perfectionists by nature...not sure if the subject attracts us or indulges this curse to the point of insanity (lol, ok maybe not insanity but definitely feeling beaten). She said this though...her and her Ph.D. tenured self (AND a full-fledged activist on many levels, not kidding). She said that when we finish writing or finish forming a cohesive argument, she said the best way to tell is when we feel like crap and feel like throwing it away (but the knowledge of all the effort put in prevents us). So maybe our arguments are not as bad as we think they are. Maybe while writing/saying/forming these arguments a piece of us is immortalized in them making us so tired/exhausted/beaten in the process but moreso making us that much closer to the idealized full-fledged activism that so many of us strive to achieve. Or maybe I am guilty of pretty rhetoric and this is a bunch of crap, lmao, just kidding ;)

I have been reading _On Writing_ by Stephen King (yes, horror fiction guy). He said that the first novel that launched him into his current fame _Carrie_ only came to be finished because his wife found it in the trash, dusted the cigarette ashes off it, and ordered him to finish it. He had thrown it away because he hated (despised!) the character Carrie and because writing the story made him hate himself and made him feel dirty. His wife made him finish though.

The problem with words and rhetorical arguments is that eventually we reach a point where we deconstruct it bordering on nihilism. Keep arguing though and keep being an activist (there is no membership card) because some would argue with their pretty God-filled rhetoric that this is the devil trying to get you off your path and convince you that the good you are trying to do is wrong or not worth it. :)

<3 Mariam

Ginger said...

Mariam,
You are so lovely! SO SO lovely! And I am lucky to have you in my life. I should just say that, word for word, after every thoughtful comment you leave here. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Aww, no, thank YOU! I so enjoy your blog and your awesomeness! XOXO

<3 Mariam

Multiple personalities.. said...

In the world of activism, there is a plethora of what I describe as 'true believers', those who hold on to a usually dogmatic truth and see nothing else as possible. They are in a whole 'nother playing field of emotions and reactionary behavior, and it's not easy to get them to look at something from a different perspective.

Very well written my dear, beautiful prose as always!

Moms Fighting Fat said...

Sometimes the best arguments come as the result of personal experience. I used to be a somewhat relaxed Christian my whole life who turned into a full-fledged, bible-thumping, young-earth, fundamentalist at the age of 33. No tv, no Halloween, no movies, I wouldn't even allow my children to watch Harry Potter (LOTR was "okay" though because all the other Christians were watching it) because I thought all of those things were EVIIIIIIL.

*SIGH*, however, at age 35 I came to my senses after I almost lost my husband and children due to my temporary insanity and finally studied the Bible, on my own, minus the rose-colored glasses...I've been an unbeliever ever since. Give me a Bible scholar, pastor, priest, or evangelical outside of a book store, etc. and I can debate the pants off of them. They're prepared to debate and make one question themselves if they've never read or studied the Bible--however, when it comes to trying to sell the same bull to an apostate, it's another story. ;-)

However, I don't debate and corner my friends and loved ones who are Christians. As long as they don't push their beliefs on me, I don't push my views on them. I'm not a radical atheist either--they're just as annoying to me as evangelical nut-jobs!

You're a very gifted writer. I hope to see a book from you on the shelves someday!

~Sandy~

"We're all on this journey towards living a healthier lifestyle together"

http://momsfightingfat.com

Teresha and Damon said...

Did you feel beaten because you didn't have a snappy comeback? Don't. She can't win if she didn't change your beliefs about the subject. You suffered a defeat to your ego (been there, experienced that).
We all get licked, but that's part of becoming a soldier (activist). Girl, dust your shoulders off and get back in the ring! If your heart is in it, then it's worth getting beat up (physically, emotionally, mentally).

p.s. Happy SITS day!

Aleta said...

Hmmm, I used to be married to a man who loved debating. He prided himself on never losing. Later, I came to realize that he didn't lose ~ because he badgered people, harangued them until they caved. There is an art and skill in proper debate, but that doesn't mean everyone follows the rules or acknowledges there are any... makes fighting a cause difficult when you are fighting the "fight" and not just the cause.

One Sassy Girl said...

I think your opponent is my sister!! She's been out arguing me for thirty years. I think you hit the nail on the head - there are arguments we can't win but it doesn't mean we're not right, we're just up against a formidable opponent. When outmatched, all you can do is be confident in knowing what you know and stop worrying about proving it to others.
Wow, you got me thinking and I've only had half a cup of coffee! Great post.

Amanda said...

I really like what you had to say in this post. Some people have the gift of arguing. I truly believe that is a trait, because they are able to construe their words where your response just doesn't make sense, and it's frustrating. I'm not a very good arguer, but I do have strong beliefs that I value and uphold. So hold onto your values and what you stand for without feeling beaten! Thanks for your words, you are a very real and honest writer.

Jayne @ Misplaced City Girl said...

You and I are probably, and I say probably, worlds apart on belief systems and political stands. But don't let anyone stop you from standing for what you believe. I used to be that argumentative/combative person burning with passion for my cause. But you know what? Nothing came from it. Nobody changed their minds. And 20 something years later, I'm sorry I wasted my time being confrontational instead of actually being what I said I wanted to be. I used to march in Washington, campaign, you name it. And one time I was doing something "for my cause" that could have easily sent me to jail. My family, including my husband, said they would not bail me out. But a friend, who again was polar opposite of me in beliefs, said he would bail me out because he admired that I was willing to stand up for what I believed in.

If someone wants to be argumentative/combative with you, choose a short statement that reflects your position, and no matter what that other person says repeat, calmly, your position. Don't quit until they are out of breath.

You do write beautifully.

A SITSta

Amanda said...

I am torn by this post because on one hand I see a broken girl trying to find the best fix, and on the other, a fighter who wants to fight the best battle, not necessarily the winning one.

It reminds me of a song
"Love is shelter
in a ragin storm
love is peace i the middle of a war
and if we try to leave
let God send angels
to guard the door
Love is not a Fight
But its something worth fighting For"

An activist, by definition, is never satisfied.

Is that where you want to be?

May God bless you~
Amanda

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Beaten

In a world where one can find any "conclusive evidence" to back what she is saying, it is surprisingly difficult to actually form a cohesive argument. What I mean is that people are emotional, reactionary creatures. We have a deep seeded need to be "right" in order to justify our actions, and we'll use any argument to prove ourselves. We are especially good at manipulating emotions by using words such as "God! Justice! Freedom!" and any other store of "evidence" we've gathered from our cultural norms.


Unfortunately, sometimes when we are at our wits end - when we know we're sunk, in over our heads, dead wrong, up shit creek (you get the idea)- the most most moving counter one can come up with is, "Oh yeah?! Well, my dad can beat up your dad!" This is ultimate desperation play, and, by the way, is a total lie for most of us. But she - the opponent - didn't know that.

Lately, I've been fighting a battle. Seriously. I've gone "to the mat." And literally, too - as in, one on one, face to mat. Because my proverbial nose is so smushed in, and I can't breath anything but sweaty, mildewed vinyl mixed with the sulfury smell of my own proverbial blood, I think it's safe to say that I lost. K.O. Game over. Roll credits.

As many of you know, I am sort of a wanna-be activist, though the only "march" or "protest" I've ever participated in was when I found myself blissfully lost in DC, and I accidentally stumbled into a march for Haitian rights. I did stop by the "Stop the War" camp in Parliament Square last time I was in London and shared an umbrella and a chat with some very interesting people who were staying there for a season. (Read more about the company I keep and then tell me I'm pretty)*

I want to be conscientious of issues, even if I am not participating in a march. What I'm learning - and this pertains to the fight - is that it is ridiculous for me - an average person, of average intelligence and height - to assume that I can win an argument against a full fledged activist. I don't have the wherewithal or the gumption. My battle scars aren't deep enough, and my tears are too salty. I also learned a little about cruelty and compassion, that if one can successfully mix the two in just the right amounts, one is assured "victory".

It doesn't matter what the argument was that caused me to be lying limp and broken on this mat, her shadow lording over me. Her win was in her concluding remarks - full of righteous indignance and God and poetry. I mean, who can argue with that? She won. Not because she's smarter than me or right, but because she knows the correct way to argue - the winning rhetorical combination - the right one, two.

It turns out it takes a few good ass kickings to learn how to respond to certain bullies, even ones who claim that "God is on their side". It also turns out I am a very good student.

*I am a member of a list (hardly active on my part,but very active on my friend, Mark's) that advocates true community cohesion and decision making, what they call a Campaign for Real Democracy. My teaching job is quite a platform for activism. The International Baccalaureate Program I teach with promotes international mindedness (not globalization), in an effort to help people embrace cultural differences. "Tolerating" differences implies that a negative judgement has been made. We must do more. Some of my friends in Arizona "break the law" by leaving gallon water jugs in the desert for people who are trying to cross the border and who sometimes die of dehydration in their efforts. (The activists from the Restoration Project were acquitted, by the way. It turns out leaving water in the desert so that people don't die is a difficult case to prosecute morally.)

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not sure if I am responding to this in the right way but I will provide my first response...

One of the best graduate English professors I ever had revealed something to her students that seemed like some big secret that nobody talks about but should. She said that the best arguments you write are the ones you feel the most crap about when you finish. It had gotten to the point in the semester where everyone was sick of reading, writing, and learning period but, most of all, sick of the pressure put upon us to make insightful observations about the world around us. She could tell. So many English folks are perfectionists by nature...not sure if the subject attracts us or indulges this curse to the point of insanity (lol, ok maybe not insanity but definitely feeling beaten). She said this though...her and her Ph.D. tenured self (AND a full-fledged activist on many levels, not kidding). She said that when we finish writing or finish forming a cohesive argument, she said the best way to tell is when we feel like crap and feel like throwing it away (but the knowledge of all the effort put in prevents us). So maybe our arguments are not as bad as we think they are. Maybe while writing/saying/forming these arguments a piece of us is immortalized in them making us so tired/exhausted/beaten in the process but moreso making us that much closer to the idealized full-fledged activism that so many of us strive to achieve. Or maybe I am guilty of pretty rhetoric and this is a bunch of crap, lmao, just kidding ;)

I have been reading _On Writing_ by Stephen King (yes, horror fiction guy). He said that the first novel that launched him into his current fame _Carrie_ only came to be finished because his wife found it in the trash, dusted the cigarette ashes off it, and ordered him to finish it. He had thrown it away because he hated (despised!) the character Carrie and because writing the story made him hate himself and made him feel dirty. His wife made him finish though.

The problem with words and rhetorical arguments is that eventually we reach a point where we deconstruct it bordering on nihilism. Keep arguing though and keep being an activist (there is no membership card) because some would argue with their pretty God-filled rhetoric that this is the devil trying to get you off your path and convince you that the good you are trying to do is wrong or not worth it. :)

<3 Mariam

Ginger said...

Mariam,
You are so lovely! SO SO lovely! And I am lucky to have you in my life. I should just say that, word for word, after every thoughtful comment you leave here. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Aww, no, thank YOU! I so enjoy your blog and your awesomeness! XOXO

<3 Mariam

Multiple personalities.. said...

In the world of activism, there is a plethora of what I describe as 'true believers', those who hold on to a usually dogmatic truth and see nothing else as possible. They are in a whole 'nother playing field of emotions and reactionary behavior, and it's not easy to get them to look at something from a different perspective.

Very well written my dear, beautiful prose as always!

Moms Fighting Fat said...

Sometimes the best arguments come as the result of personal experience. I used to be a somewhat relaxed Christian my whole life who turned into a full-fledged, bible-thumping, young-earth, fundamentalist at the age of 33. No tv, no Halloween, no movies, I wouldn't even allow my children to watch Harry Potter (LOTR was "okay" though because all the other Christians were watching it) because I thought all of those things were EVIIIIIIL.

*SIGH*, however, at age 35 I came to my senses after I almost lost my husband and children due to my temporary insanity and finally studied the Bible, on my own, minus the rose-colored glasses...I've been an unbeliever ever since. Give me a Bible scholar, pastor, priest, or evangelical outside of a book store, etc. and I can debate the pants off of them. They're prepared to debate and make one question themselves if they've never read or studied the Bible--however, when it comes to trying to sell the same bull to an apostate, it's another story. ;-)

However, I don't debate and corner my friends and loved ones who are Christians. As long as they don't push their beliefs on me, I don't push my views on them. I'm not a radical atheist either--they're just as annoying to me as evangelical nut-jobs!

You're a very gifted writer. I hope to see a book from you on the shelves someday!

~Sandy~

"We're all on this journey towards living a healthier lifestyle together"

http://momsfightingfat.com

Teresha and Damon said...

Did you feel beaten because you didn't have a snappy comeback? Don't. She can't win if she didn't change your beliefs about the subject. You suffered a defeat to your ego (been there, experienced that).
We all get licked, but that's part of becoming a soldier (activist). Girl, dust your shoulders off and get back in the ring! If your heart is in it, then it's worth getting beat up (physically, emotionally, mentally).

p.s. Happy SITS day!

Aleta said...

Hmmm, I used to be married to a man who loved debating. He prided himself on never losing. Later, I came to realize that he didn't lose ~ because he badgered people, harangued them until they caved. There is an art and skill in proper debate, but that doesn't mean everyone follows the rules or acknowledges there are any... makes fighting a cause difficult when you are fighting the "fight" and not just the cause.

One Sassy Girl said...

I think your opponent is my sister!! She's been out arguing me for thirty years. I think you hit the nail on the head - there are arguments we can't win but it doesn't mean we're not right, we're just up against a formidable opponent. When outmatched, all you can do is be confident in knowing what you know and stop worrying about proving it to others.
Wow, you got me thinking and I've only had half a cup of coffee! Great post.

Amanda said...

I really like what you had to say in this post. Some people have the gift of arguing. I truly believe that is a trait, because they are able to construe their words where your response just doesn't make sense, and it's frustrating. I'm not a very good arguer, but I do have strong beliefs that I value and uphold. So hold onto your values and what you stand for without feeling beaten! Thanks for your words, you are a very real and honest writer.

Jayne @ Misplaced City Girl said...

You and I are probably, and I say probably, worlds apart on belief systems and political stands. But don't let anyone stop you from standing for what you believe. I used to be that argumentative/combative person burning with passion for my cause. But you know what? Nothing came from it. Nobody changed their minds. And 20 something years later, I'm sorry I wasted my time being confrontational instead of actually being what I said I wanted to be. I used to march in Washington, campaign, you name it. And one time I was doing something "for my cause" that could have easily sent me to jail. My family, including my husband, said they would not bail me out. But a friend, who again was polar opposite of me in beliefs, said he would bail me out because he admired that I was willing to stand up for what I believed in.

If someone wants to be argumentative/combative with you, choose a short statement that reflects your position, and no matter what that other person says repeat, calmly, your position. Don't quit until they are out of breath.

You do write beautifully.

A SITSta

Amanda said...

I am torn by this post because on one hand I see a broken girl trying to find the best fix, and on the other, a fighter who wants to fight the best battle, not necessarily the winning one.

It reminds me of a song
"Love is shelter
in a ragin storm
love is peace i the middle of a war
and if we try to leave
let God send angels
to guard the door
Love is not a Fight
But its something worth fighting For"

An activist, by definition, is never satisfied.

Is that where you want to be?

May God bless you~
Amanda