That’s a Mighty High Dudgeon You’ve Got There

My wife asked me a question I at first dismissed when I told her about the previous post. I’ll have to paraphrase from memory. But I was telling her about the subject of the post, how I thought folks were wrong to perennially demand Sam Harris’s, or anyone else’s head on a platter when there has been a perceived violation of liberal principle. And she said,

But, aren’t they just people saying stuff…on the Internet?

Well, yes, but come on! Why do we do most of the things we do when we’re part of a political or social movement, or when we have a blog or other platform for opining? We’re trying to affect the broader conversation! To persuade! Influence! Two cents! Etcetera!

She seemed less than convinced, particularly since the price is so often my psychological well-being as I worry about responses and rejections, as I cringe as arguments both good and bad come streaming in from all the social media outlets. (I had disabled comments for the post in question for this very reason of personal well-being. Futile, I know.)

So I revisit her question. Aren’t they just people saying stuff on the Internet? Does it matter, really, if I think lots of people are wrong about how they overreact (in my opinion) to this one guy who is a big boy and can take care of himself?

What is the value of me adding my own high dudgeon?

Few read anything on the Web because they want to have their positions challenged. Likely the result of a post of this sort will be congratulations from those who already agree, and frustration, argument, and potentially abuse from those who don’t. And so it has been. (No abuse yet, but the night is young.) So why bother?

As of this moment, I’m honestly not sure. I mean, I still think I’m right, but I don’t know that I care enough about being right to endure the anger, or feel pressured to start debating with my friends. And this applies to any post or opining of mine that pesters a wasps’ nest of raw feelings.

I do know that a major factor is that in this case and others, I feel a responsibility to help keep this movement on an even keel, fighting the right battles, avoiding the pointless ones, and staying true to what we espouse. When I perceive that not to be happening, I want to flag it, but it’s almost always for naught, either because of the issue’s intractability or my own inability to make a given case in a given post, I or what have you.

So I’ll be thinking about this more, is all.

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7 thoughts on “That’s a Mighty High Dudgeon You’ve Got There

  1. Thanks Paul. I was one who had a knee-jerk reaction to Sams gun argument (I really hate guns!). Clearly I need to re-read the article and have a good think about things. Most likely I’ll still disagree with him but now I’m not so prepared to throw away the rest of his work based on this one thing. The other day I was. So cheers for making me think.

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  2. How many chances do you think Sam Harris should be given ? After all, this is not the first time he has shown himself be illiberal. There comes a time when you will need to accept that Harris is not the tolerant decent person he is, but rather reactionary, authoritarian and racist. If that is the type of person you see as an ally, then do not be surprised when others want nothing to do with you.

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  3. I think sometimes putting your opinions down in print is a good way of sorting them out for yourself. Sometimes I have a lot of incoherent thoughts going around my head and it is only when I stick them down on paper I know what they look like when I try to make them consistent.
    So blogging your opinions can be a good activity for yourself, even if it doesn’t persuade anyone else. In fact, if you don’t persuade people and they disagree, reading comments can sometimes help you realise flaws or gaps in your arguments. Of course, that depends on the type and quality of the comments, but nevertheless there’s that possibility.
    In short, there’s value in adding your own high dudgeon!

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  4. As someone who is just “saying things on the Internet”, I am not disappointed that you do not see the racism inherent in advocating for racial profiling. I am disappointed because enough people have pointed out the racism and you choose to either ignore or deny it.As for his stance on the gun control debate, Harris did agree that more guns are an answer. While he also supports gun control, that he naively believes having armed *anyone* at schools is a good thing boggles my mind.
    I get that you want to keep the movement on an even keel, but atheists and skeptics make mistakes too and should be held accountable for them, just as much as they are applauded for their excellent arguments (Dawkins and Dear Muslima spring to mind). There is a danger in failing to see the faults of others, especially those in respected, leadership roles. They are not infallible. How can we expect believers to hold themselves and their leaders to a certain standard if we do not do the same?
    Sam Harris’ racist opinions may not be the overt ‘kill all Muslims and sort it out later’ sort, but they are still racist.
    His gun control views are a mixed bag. Supporting strict gun control laws is a good thing, but advocating for more guns to solve our problems is a dangerous line of thinking. It is more than ” a perceived violation of liberal principle

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