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Rules of (Political) Engagement

It's not so hard to write a travel blog, as I know from past experience (rv-boondocker-explorer). After all, there are millions of armchair travelers who are easy to please with the morning news -- their daily dose of (free) escapism -- about where you slept last night and what the pretty scenery looks like there. Then there's your trip to the local Pioneer Museum, which is proud to feature the world's third largest ponderosa pine cone, etc. The challenge picks up considerably as you move away from the travel genre.

My half-seniorish brain is a giant compost heap, a mouldering pile of half-forgotten quotes from a lifetime of reading classic books. I can't quite remember a nice quote about needing to be almost formally and ritualistically polite in conversations if we are to have full-bodied discussions of any type. This is pertinent to a blogger who wants to crawl out of the trivia and small talk.

For instance you can't discuss much without using labels, which really aren't that different from common nouns, intellectually. But upon doing so, you've already offended half the readership since labels tend to come with emotional baggage.

Let's say you're discussing Issue X. Rather than try to beat your opponent down by showing him how he is completely full of crap on Issue X, imagine how much more civil and amicable it would be if you demonstrated that you are both really arguing about Issue Y that lies silently under X. (And he's wrong on Y.)  At that point you agreeably go off on your separate ways as far as Issue Y is concerned, knowing that you've accomplished a little something. 

Take the issue of Global Warming via industrial CO2. Before you spit out the first buzzword, your readers can tell which side you're on; half of them leave in disgust, and then ones that remain create an echo chamber for you. But that's the challenge. Let us introduce the labels, Climate Alarmists versus Crisis-Deniers. These are reasonably short and accurate. (You could even say 'fair and balanced.' Oops.) At any rate they are better than the more propagandist terms in daily usage.

Earlier I argued that an amateur blogger should start from a different premise than the professionals, or condense the issue, or ask people to back up a step. Does one need to be a botanist or wildlife biologist to assert that the warm regions of the Earth contain more life than the polar regions? Shouldn't environmentalists and nature-lovers see more life as a good thing? If so, why is gradual warming and a little more CO2 a bad thing?

Some readers are rolling their eyes and saying, "Well, warmth and CO2 are great if they are natural, but..."

Oh dear, there's that word again. Natural. For today let it stand as a success if the reader even partly agrees with me that our emotional philosophy about that loaded word is really what the so-called Global Warming debate is about.


heyduke50 said…
it is not about quantity as much as it is about quality... and I speak not of life but of evolutionary dna... having cold and wet environs allows for more genetic diversity...
heyduke50, coastal Alaska might be an excellent example of what you're saying, if I even understand you right.

But once you come inland, isn't much of the Arctic a biological desert compared to, say, Costa Rica?

I'm not sure what you mean by "quality."
Anonymous said…
It's true we get stuck on buzzwords but I guess they have some legitimacy since they probably represent collective thought.
Maybe it's necessary to deal with the buzzwords first as a way to start working one's way down to the deeper issues....the ones that are a little blurry, often a little scary or threatening.
But if you want to use global warming as your example of a conversation whose aim is to get beyond the trivia and small-talk, where would you take the conversation?
Anonymous, I AM trying to get the Global Warming debate away from Left vs. Right cliches, but I don't want to write too much about it on one day.

I want to move the debate over to the historical perspective of previous European belief systems, primarily Christianity, Rousseau-ism, and Marxism.
Anonymous said…
5.9999 billion people on earth - minus a few hundred stupid Republicans believe in Global warming , what is there to discuss ? Those same idiots may also believe the world is flat