Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Taking A Different View

Most of the serious pieces of writing I post on the blog tend to be in the form of an argument - sort of 'newspaper columnist-y' for want of a better description. Sometimes they are quite cautious in tone. Others, particularly of late, have been made rather strenuously - almost polemical.

I think there's room for another type of writing on this blog. Something that explores a topic perhaps in quite a playful fashion, rather than arguing for a specific position or trying to make a particular point.

In the 'blogosphere' and indeed in the general domain of political debate, participants often have highly entrenched views, are judgemental of their opponents in a simplistic 'I'm right and you're wrong' way, and have little conception of what leads people with differing viewpoints to take the positions that they do.

Although the most recent outstanding example of this sort of attitude was provided by Labour-supporting blogger Alex Hilton on Comment is Free, it is seen right across the political spectrum. Right-libertarian Devil's Kitchen, for instance, has asserted that socialists are "evil" on several occasions.

You might ask 'What's the problem with this?'. Clearly both Hilton and DK are very firm in their convictions and passionate in the way they express them. However there just doesn't seem to me to be any point in being judgemental and self-righteous about them. As I said in response to Alex Hilton in the spin-off thread on Liberal Conspiracy, "How the heck do you think you're going to bring a 'Tory' round to your point of view if this is your attitude [towards them]?".

Surely it would be more worthwhile and constructive to spend less time throwing epithets around, particularly in the sort of discussion with an ideological opponent that Hilton describes, and more time considering what it is that leads them (and you, for that matter) to take the positions on whatever issue that they do. Hopes, fears, priorities, blind-spots...

After all, if you know what the assumptions and beliefs underlying your opponent in debate's positions actually are, you are more likely to target your rebuttals of and counter-arguments to their position accurately!

Of course, there's only so far any one of us is going to be able to take their attempts at exploring and writing about this. I for one am a biologist by degree speciality - not a historian, sociologist, political philosopher or anthropologist. So any sort of analysis of these sorts of deep and complex questions I come up with is going to be highly incomplete and replete with biases and gaps in understanding. As will anyone else's, but with different gaps and skews! These are blogs we're talking about, after all, not doctoral theses.

But a great idea or a really useful piece of insight could come from anywhere, and online debate will be all the richer for the attempts.

3 comments:

ChrisC said...

The mistake you make is that Hilton isn't interested in converting any Tories, it's all about his self-image.

Gracchi said...

YES EXACTLY AND ABSOLUTELY. Sorry I've gone to capitals to manifest how much I agree.

Gorilla Bananas said...

If you're a biologist, you ought to take more of an interest in what gorillas think. These human pundits are such bores.