Personal vs. Impersonal
Dec 12, 1996 08:52 AM
by Tom Robertson
At 02:21 AM 12/13/96 +0000, JRC wrote:
>Gee for someone apparently upset about people misunderstanding you, you
>certainly seem willing to utterly alter the meaning of the words of
>others. I didn't think Alan's letter needed any translation at all.
I find it significant, though, that you expressed no specific disagreement
with what I said. How did I alter the meaning of Alan's words?
>Perhaps we should all start "translating" your posts?
You have a strange definition of the word "start." I fail to understand how
I can say that men and women are equal and different, how others can
deliberately mischaracterize that as meaning that I believe that men are
superior to women, and how you can call that something significantly
different from "translation" with a straight face.
>Several people responded to your posts "intelligently",
You have a strange definition of the word "intelligent," if you consider
responding to an impersonal expression of an opinion with personal insults
and name-calling to be intelligent.
>and you ignored them
I am not aware of having ignored anyone.
> ... preferring to respond instead as though you are some sort of victim.
You have a strange definition of the word "victim." If you said that you
believed that baseball is a better game than football, and I called you a
racist Nazi, would you not be a _victim_ of a personal insult? If you then
pointed out how untheosophical I was in immediately responding to you in
this personal way, rather than try to understand why you had that opinion,
and others responded to that by telling you to just quit feeling sorry for
yourself, would you not consider their criticizing you for calling attention
to such behavior on my part and their _not_ criticizing me for being so rude
to you rather untheosophical itself? And on what basis do assume that I am
motivated by self-pity, rather than the general good of the discussion, in
pointing out the fact that insults imply an emotional, unintelligent,
irrational response that lacks substance or details? If Fred Goldman said
"my son was murdered," would you tell him "facts are irrelevant. Quit seeing
yourself as a victim?" Or, since you have voiced no disapproval of
name-calling, would you call him a jerk and a creep, and then claim that you
were a good Theosophist in doing so?
You want an intelligent discussion? Then start making intelligent
>points *backed by some sort of argument or evidence* - as that is what
>generally constitutes "intelligent" discussion. For instance, you made the
>almost preposterous statement that most women want to be dominated by men.
I said that, in most marriages, the man is more of a leader than the woman
is. No one responded to that by disagreeing with it. Although examples of
dominant women were mentioned, implying a complete straw man (or, to avoid
being sexist, should this be "straw person?") argument, there was no sign of
anything like "I disagree; I believe that which gender is more dominant is
closer to equal." I was simply labelled a "sexist bastard." And now you
are saying that _I_ am responsible for the lack of intelligent discussion,
implying that name-calling is not nearly as destructive to it as is
believing that there are differences between men and women!
>I noticed a couple of people *did*
>decide to do engage the topic - asking for some sort of evidence and
>telling you that you could in no way know what "most" women "want" - in
>fact much of your writing seems simply full of huge generalizations with
>almost no foundation or evidence - however, you responded by giving a list
>of people some sort of Stats 101 lecture (gee, you mean the behaviour of
>many can *really* be mostly estimated from the behaviour of a smaller set?
>What a revelation!).
I pointed that out in response to someone who asked me if I knew most women,
implying that I should not make general statements about them until I did.
For that individual, assuming he understood it, my "Stats 101 lecture" _was_
a revelation. You seem to believe that _I_ am responsible for causing some
kind of controversy. Suppose I had said that I believed that Mozart was a
better musician than is LL Cool J, and that someone else had said that LL
Cool J was actually better. What, besides someone feeling threatened and
insecure by the expression of a contrary opinion, would prevent the issue
from being discussed to any length in a friendly, cordial way? The
Theosophical ideal is to respond to the impersonal expression of an opinion
with a scientific, open mind which seeks to understand, _not_ with a
closed-minded, personal attack which seeks to discourage dissent.
>What this list *does* do over time is help people refine their thoughts,
>achieve a far greater precision in expression
This is one of my primary motives for being involved in such discussions,
but I fail to see how discouraging dissent by transforming the discussions
into personal battle grounds does that.
>maybe, just maybe, you
>should perhaps take a day and sit back, and consider perhaps whether some
>of your ideas might actually be *wrong*?
Maybe someday I will consider the possibility that I might be wrong about
something. But, for now, the more I see that the best response anyone has
to some of my ideas is to insult me, the more convinced I am of their truth.
>On this list we've seen many come and go - and almost everyone that has
>stayed in the long run has undergone a blasting, the alchemical hot-fire,
>and has become rather more open and fluid ... but we have had many come on
>the list, assert a bunch of rigid ideas, be completely closed to altering
>their own perspective, start complaining loudly about how mean and nasty
>everyone is, and leave after a month or two in a snit, or a huff, or with
>the self-justification that they were badly misunderstood victims who were
>just innocently trying to raise points. It is almost a syndrome, the
>stages are so predictable ...
Expressing oneself in facts and in substance, inviting detailed criticism,
as I have done, is evidence of flexibility and open-mindedness. Expressing
oneself in personal insults, blatantly mischaracterizing what others say, is
evidence of rigidity and closed-mindedness. That this has happened before
is significant. I see no evidence of you having an open mind to the
possibility that such personal confrontations are the primary responsibility
of those in this list who prefer hostility to discussion.
>But get this ... you are *not* being victimized on this list - rather,
>offered an opportunity to refine your own thought ... and the ones
>blasting you the hardest are, whether you grasp it or not, your best
Maybe those who "blast away" need more allies.
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