Sunday, March 12, 2023


From a NY Times article about Substack, discussing writer Roxane Gay, who creates on that platform:
"[Gay] also wrestles with what she sees as Substack “trying to have it both ways” as a neutral platform and a publisher that supports writers she finds “odious,” she said, but has concluded that her dislike of someone’s work is “not enough for them to not be allowed on the platform.”
When I spot bad behavior, my first move is always to ask myself whether I’m guilty, as well. So: do I demonize those with whom I disagree? Are they (not their opinions; they themselves) “odious”? Would I need to grind gears to tolerate their ongoing participation in channels we happen to share? How, exactly, do I handle disagreement?

Mulling that over, I realize, to my horror, that I haven’t had a disagreement in ages. Of course, I've seen people around me be wrong, and I've delivered strong disavowal when forced to do so, but I can’t think of a single person with whom I’ve “disagreed” in any sense of the term. The proposition seems oddly dated. Victorian, practically.

People are often wrong, and I let them be wrong (sometimes I turn out to be wrong about people's wrongness, but such outcomes never shake my unearned self-confidence). What, am I going to argue with them? What would that achieve? I internally consider their point (lengthily if it's intriguing and unfamiliar, and swiftly if it's neither) and the deal is done. You're a staunch anarchist. Cool! I have a mild overbite! Do you know any good tacos around here?

We can be friends either way. I don’t loathe people for being wrong. Those who fail the litmus test of corroborating my opinions aren’t “odious”, so I wouldn’t ponder whether they deserve to continue working, existing, etc. “I shall suffer your continuance” is not a pronouncement it would ever occur to me to offer.

But, “disagreement”. Wow. I’m astounded at what a foreign concept that is. I haven’t spotted bona fide disagreement in the wild in years. Rebuke, excoriation, contretemps, disparagement, heckling, bellowing until they come around, sure. And, of course, gobs and gobs and boatloads and gobs of snark. Snark ad infinitum. Snark ├╝ber alles.

Disagreement requires well-argued points, delivered in good faith, within the confines of a rational set of agreed-upon self-evident facts. Nobody's wrong, we simply have different views! Why don't we exchange them, for our mutual edification! This involves mutual respect (the antithesis of snark) and often settles into a bilateral agreement to disagree (a far more high-minded outcome than my unilateral silent internal judgement).

It sounds wonderful but sharply unrealistic. That sort of thing is not merely fading; it’s long-gone and scarcely remembered. "Disagreement" is like petticoats and wooden dentures and astrolabes and outhouses. It’s centuries behind us.

It's hard to gauge change while you're in the middle of it. It's noticed via momentary flashes of shocked recognition. You spot a grey hair on your once brunette head. Or a traffic jam on your formerly bucolic country lane. You receive surprisingly little change back from your twenty dollar bill. You gulp a little, and realize, man, things sure got different!

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