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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, September 5th, 2008 08:40 am
the problem

Reading Klosterman is the literary equivalent of that old adage about sitting in a cafe; sooner or later, he writes about everything, some of which eventually sounds completely familiar. This is from an essay in which he uses the example of Americans' love for the Olympics to criticize wholesale acceptance of a concept without thinking about it.
It strikes me that every wrongheaded sentiment in society ultimately derives from the culture of inherent, unconditional rightness.

As I grow older, I find myself less prone to have an opinion about anything, and to distrust just about everyone who does. Whenever I meet someone who openly identifies themselves as a Republican or a Democrat, my immediate thought is always, Well, this person might be interesting, but they'll never say anything about politics that's remotely useful to me. I refuse to discuss abortion with anyone who is pro-life or pro-choice; I refuse to discuss affirmative action with any unemployed white guy or any unemployed black guy. All the world's stupidest people are either zealots or atheists. If you want to truly deduce how intelligent someone is, just as this person how they feel about an issue that doesn't have an answer; the more certainty they express, the less sense they have. This is because certainty only comes from dogma.

People used to slag on Bill Clinton for waffling on everything and always relying on situational pragmatism; as far as I'm concerned, that was the single greatest aspect of his presidency. Life is fucking confusing. I don't know anything, and neither do you.
I also find that the excerpt above pretty much nails a personal philosophy of mine, although my own version isn't as extreme.

Also, I love the Olympics. I just don't root for the US (or any other) team.

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adr0ck
adr0ck
So I'm the Grape Ape
Friday, September 5th, 2008 04:15 pm (UTC)

i remember being taught about how our minds change as we get older and we become less black & white about issues -- not only is it a wisdom thing, but it's a physical thing. you ask a 7 year old whether it's ok for a man to steal a loaf of bread to feed his starving child, the 7 year old will usually say "no, stealing is always wrong". ask a 17 year old and a 37 year old and you'll get into the gray territory.

myself, i've definitely found myself becoming more gray . . . while in certain respects i'm still black & white -- but i've flipped to the other side, or to a 3rd side that no one ever seems to talk about.

in some ways, i feel as though my views on right & wrong have become more clear than they were when i was younger, or at least based on things i consider to be more true & worthy, but my expectations for people to live up to those standards have loosened to allow for the mass imperfections we all have.

i also have become wary of people who are so hardcore one way or the other . . . for me, i just don't get how they can't see the other side, even just a little bit. i feel as though ALL I DO is see the other side, and even when i think the other side is wrong, i still understand how people can get there. the result is that i end up not expecting them to live up to my personal standards of right & wrong.

i've probably contradicted myself a few times in this comment but in the end, i really identify with what you posted. and i also don't root for any specific team at the olympics. :)


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luvsammy
luvsammy
Samalamity
Friday, September 5th, 2008 04:25 pm (UTC)

That's awesome. I'm finding that I like heated debates less and less as I get older, and think a lot in gray areas too. I stopped discussing politics and abortion with people a long time ago. I just don't feel like I have the TIME for it, when there are so many other things I could be devoting my energy to. So, I like this passage, is what I'm trying to say. Heh.


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inkytwist
inkytwist
The Loch Ness Monster
Friday, September 5th, 2008 04:41 pm (UTC)

I'm still in the "will-discuss it if forced" stage, but at the same time, most of my opinions are non-opinions to the point of, "You can't prove anything and neither can I! hahahaahaa!".

Is this the sex, drugs and fruit loops guy?

As for the Olympics, I root for whoever has the most syllables in their name, and/or who has the nicest rear end.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, September 5th, 2008 04:50 pm (UTC)

That's the guy.

You root for Uzbekistan and Brazil, then. :)


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inkytwist
inkytwist
The Loch Ness Monster
Friday, September 5th, 2008 04:51 pm (UTC)

And the German synchonized divers. MAN they were hot!


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circumambulate
circumambulate
Circumambulate
Friday, September 5th, 2008 05:17 pm (UTC)

I don't know - while I do agree with a moderated version of this statement, I think not having opinions on anything is kind of a cop-out. Certainly being dogmatic in your opinions, and being unwilling to change those opinions in the face of new information is terribly problematic, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try to wrestle yourself into a particular position about something, especially things that affect you, or others, in a fundamental way.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, September 5th, 2008 05:24 pm (UTC)

Certainly being dogmatic in your opinions, and being unwilling to change those opinions in the face of new information is terribly problematic ...

I think that's the crux of his argument. I don't think he espouses having no opinion on anything; he's just more prone to that extreme than the other.


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bellybalt
bellybalt
Belly
Friday, September 5th, 2008 05:32 pm (UTC)

The only times I get unabashedly patriotic are on the 4th of July and during the Olympics.


Except maybe Women's Beach Volleyball... I really DON'T care who wins that. :)


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, September 5th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC)

Everyone wins women's beach volleyball.


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boy_asunder
boy_asunder
ryan christopher fox
Friday, September 5th, 2008 08:52 pm (UTC)

Huh. That statement is a like a distillation of the "the truth is always in the middle" smugness that drives me completely crazy. In my day-to-day experience, it seems the people that most strongly follow this end up proudly cynical and ignorant of issues, because if you try to explain something to them, they mistrust you.

I think I hate Klosterman now.


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, September 5th, 2008 10:08 pm (UTC)

I think I hate Klosterman now.

Ha.

But, if you are being serious, I think you're conflating ambivalence with ignorance. I certainly concede that the two sometimes go hand-in-hand (and I also concede that he conflates certainty with single-mindedness) but I don't think that's what he's getting at here.


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boy_asunder
boy_asunder
ryan christopher fox
Friday, September 5th, 2008 10:13 pm (UTC)

My point is that oftentimes ambivalence breeds ignorance. And it's a peculiar proud sort of ignorance that thinks itself principled, which I find maddening.

And honestly, I think it's best to pick a side more often than not, and to be willing to listen to those that have a vested interest. I mean, would it be more important for you to listen to me about he importance of letting gays be married, or some straight person who "can see both sides." I'm hoping the former, because you instinctively know that the other side is bullshit. And by calling it out for bullshit, you'd have to admit that this philosophy of his has to make a lot of room for exceptions. Right?


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littlebluedog
littlebluedog
Tim
Friday, September 5th, 2008 11:16 pm (UTC)

I think it's best to pick a side only if you take the time to educate yourself why it's better than the alternatives; I think this is consistent with the excerpt above. I also think listening to folks who have vested interests is also consistent with it. For me personally, I'd rather read a piece on a controversial topic without knowing, in advance, the personal agenda of the author. Maybe my own kneejerk prejudice is more active, or tougher to overcome, than most, but I try to avoid having an initial (and possibly incorrect) assumption, for example, that "oh this guy's gay so he's going to support gay marriage."

I mean, would it be more important for you to listen to me about he importance of letting gays be married, or some straight person who "can see both sides."

Depends. Important how? And do you mean you as in Ryan, who I know personally, or just some gay dude? If the former, then yes, it's crucial if I want to know you see it. How all gay people see it, pretty important. How all straight people see it, perhaps. And I don't instinctively think the other side is bullshit.

Thing is, I know you personally, and although your opinions are outspoken and strong, you are quick to concede how much of your posture toward a particular issue is motivated by personal concerns rather than objective logic. That's both admirable and rare, and an exception that I think the philosophy above allows just fine, without necessarily being weakened by it. He's not discussing it in specific terms. I'm not sure if he even believes it himself, truthfully.


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