“Rational” people

October 10, 2008 at 10:42 am (Society)

After a long time I post here again and this time my target is a very specific group of people: The “rational” ones. It’s not that I forgot this Blog but I seldomly know what to write about.

I’m talking about those who think that they are always rational and don’t recognize if they behave differently. So it’s not about humans who know that and when they are not rational – that is indeed rational.

Everyone has his weak spots. There’s someone you have great respect for because he’s always calm, fair , possesses great knowledge and tolerance. He will listen first and then give his well-informed opinion. Excellent prerequisites for an interesting discussion. But once a different, a very special topic is being discussed he (or she) goes ballistic. The most common example is politics. Sure, that’s important so (probably) everyone is emotionally involved in it and that’s not what I want to criticize. What I’m aiming at is the distortion and misrepresentation of facts or the complete lack of facts. The well-informed and mannered person suddenly runs berserk and doesn’t stop telling nonesense. That’s the point: Lies are being told though the “Liar” sometimes doesn’t even seem to know that he is doing that. And this is something I do not only experience during political discussions but discussions about anything.

Before I go on I want to  clear out a possible misunderstanding: This is a Blog where I mainly wrote about serious issues like rape. Imagine the following situation: Person A defends rapists rather calmly but with dubious arguments (how else could you?) and Person B somehow tangented to it reacts strongly and “irrational”. Now this might look like a case I would be writing about here but it isn’t – or if so, then Person A would be the target, not Person B. Rape is a serious issue and I think that the posts on my Blog so far prove that I do think so. What I’m talking about now is irrationality regarding subjects you are not or onyl marginally involved with (so maybe using politics as an example was not that good but you know what phenomenon I’m talking about at once since it’s so common). You’ll see what I mean.

So there are topics most people are not involved in like sports – most fans don’t earn money if their favourite team wins. They just enjoy it and there’s nothing bad about it. There are millions of people who are excited and they are happy if their favourites win, sad if they lose. But then again there are those who will suddenly start to distort facts and tell lies. I’ve seen this many times (and sports is just an example. It’s not about the content of my examples but the form.). It’s not just about outright lies but also jumping to (sometimes ridiculous) “conclusions” – when it’s so obvious that the onter one interpreted the facts really the way he wanted to.

I will give an example where it’s obvious and the sport i’m talking about is chess. I take the example from Edward Winter’s article A Sorry Case from 1999 without giving the names of the persons involved but just the necessary details: Dr. Lasker was Worldchampion and played to matches against Dr. Tarrasch. The first one in 1908 was for the Worldchampionship Title (Dr. Lasker won) , the second in 1916 not. Writer A claims that Dr. Tarrasch tried to take the title from Dr. Lasker twice. Writer B asks “When was the second time?”. It is obvious that B refers to the fact that the 1916 match was not for the WC title and nothing is known about any other WC match between Dr. Lasker and Dr. Tarrasch apart from the one in 1908. Even if someone didn’t grasp it at once he could at least try to take it into consideration that B referred to the status of the second match. But now, Writer C appears and writes the following (I’ll change the names to A B and C since it’s not about this special case and not the person’s involved):

‘Young Mr B gives as an “example of general carelessness” that A makes the absurd statement that Tarrasch played two matches with Lasker, as only one was played. Anyone who has followed the careers of these great players knows that there were, of course, two matches. The second match does contain some rather poor play by Tarrasch, who got clobbered, but nevertheless it was a real match. The games are presented below. In his 90s A may slip up from time to time. But the insult by the impudent young chess historian is without foundation. In any case, A’s witty prose and wealth of anecdotes are far more valuable than some whining lad who can’t even get the facts right.’

Here, the intention of Writer C is obvious: He wants to defend A from B at any cost and doesn’t refrain from personal attacks. This is a good example because the facts are there and it’s also not about something that the life of millions of people depends on. Most chessplayers, and those who don’t like/play chess anyway, won’t care about it anyway. For sure, you may it call disrespectful that B reacts towards the strange claim with such a question. But B cares about accuracy while others don’t. But now, C not only attacks B but also distorts the facts in a way that he can ridicule him.

Now, in general people will lie etc. in order to gain an advantage but in the case I depicted there’s no such motif (and even if it was, that’s just an example). It’s so often the case that I observe people trying to win arguments at any cost – either to appear clever or to abase the other. Btw., this was only an example for the phenomenon so it doesn’t mean that teh person called C in this case was one of “calm, fair and knowledgable” persons I described at the beginning.

I might have created the impression that I was involved in many arguments but I’m not. In general, I simply observe the others and arrive at my own conclusions. Still, it bothers me since it’s so … how can I say it … it reminds of turf wars and is such a waste of time. In my opinion, the winner should be the one with the best arguments and not the one who yells the loudest.

But it’s not only a matter of being frustrated while having to listen to such a conversation. It’s also something which can be used to spur on others. They will argue for issues without knowing anything about it, claiming to find problems where there are none. This is the worst aspect – not only senseless and frutless discussions but people arguing for and against issues they don’t know anything about.

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