You Disagree with Me, Therefore I Must Hate You?

Whoever originally coined the phrase “war of words” was on to something. Public discourse is an oxymoron. It may be words said in public, but it’s not by any means a discussion. Whether it be online, on TV, or outdoor demonstrations, we have lost the societal capacity for discussion. Fueled and facilitated in part by the hot medium of television, words said in public are intended not to further discussion and understanding, but to defeat the enemy. A defeat not often won by reason but by volume.

In today’s rhetorical climate, one does not have interlocutors, conversationalists, or dialogists. One has opponents and enemies. One can no longer simply disagree, one must be disagreeable. Signs of civility toward the “other side” is a sure sign of treason. You disagree with me, therefore I must hate you.

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Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 Harvard Address, “A World Split Apart”

The famed Russian dissident and author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn tells why the West’s smiling emptiness could never truly liberate the citizens of the Soviet Union:

But should someone ask me whether I would indicate the West such as it is today as a model to my country, frankly I would have to answer negatively. No, I could not recommend your society in its present state as an ideal for the transformation of ours. Through intense suffering our country has now achieved a spiritual development of such intensity that the Western system in its present state of spiritual exhaustion does not look attractive. Even those characteristics of your life which I have just mentioned are extremely saddening.

A fact which cannot be disputed is the weakening of human beings in the West while in the East they are becoming firmer and stronger. Six decades for our people and three decades for the people of Eastern Europe; during that time we have been through a spiritual training far in advance of Western experience. Life’s complexity and mortal weight have produced stronger, deeper and more interesting characters than those produced by standardized Western well-being. Therefore if our society were to be transformed into yours, it would mean an improvement in certain aspects, but also a change for the worse on some particularly significant scores. It is true, no doubt, that a society cannot remain in an abyss of lawlessness, as is the case in our country. But it is also demeaning for it to elect such mechanical legalistic smoothness as you have. After the suffering of decades of violence and oppression, the human soul longs for things higher, warmer and purer than those offered by today’s mass living habits, introduced by the revolting invasion of publicity, by TV stupor and by intolerable music.

All this is visible to observers from all the worlds of our planet. The Western way of life is less and less likely to become the leading model.

There are meaningful warnings that history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen. There are open and evident warnings, too. The center of your democracy and of your culture is left without electric power for a few hours only, and all of a sudden crowds of American citizens start looting and creating havoc. The smooth surface film must be very thin, then, the social system quite unstable and unhealthy.

But the fight for our planet, physical and spiritual, a fight of cosmic proportions, is not a vague matter of the future; it has already started. The forces of Evil have begun their decisive offensive, you can feel their pressure, and yet your screens and publications are full of prescribed smiles and raised glasses. What is the joy about?

Talk Like a Pirate Day (19 September)

Ooops. I missed it. Talk Like a Pirate Day was a week ago Sunday. I first learned about Talk Like a Pirate Day while listening to the radio on my morning commute to work when I lived in Baton Rouge. Unfortunately, I failed to write the date in my planner, and have, ever since, forgotten when Talk Like a Pirate Day was. Well, that, and it hasn’t been marketed by Hallmark yet.

But thanks to a little googling, I came up with Dave Barry’s column on Talk Like a Pirate Day from a couple of years ago. It gives some of the background.

So, I’ll have to give a hearty “ARRRR!” to my mateys out there in the blogosphere and look forward to next year.

Oh, and you can call me:

My pirate name is:
Iron Tom Kidd

A pirate’s life isn’t easy; it takes a tough person. That’s okay with you, though, since you a tough person. Even though you’re not always the traditional swaggering gallant, your steadiness and planning make you a fine, reliable pirate. Arr!

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