Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Intolerable Cult of Disrespect

Following up on an earlier article about the difference between liberals and conservatives when it comes to Big Government, a brief comment on civility or the lack thereof:

In End-Timers & Neo-Cons: The End of Conservatives, Dr. Paul Craig Roberts writes:
The new conservatives take personally any criticism of their leader and his policies. To be a critic is to be an enemy. I went overnight from being an object of conservative adulation to one of derision when I wrote that the US invasion of Iraq was a "strategic blunder."
Surely for those who care about the ideas of conservativism, liberalism, religion, freedom, justice and every other noun that is both non-concrete and important, criticism of ideas does not inevitably lead to personal offense. Let us separate our self-esteem from the esteem we have for those ideas we hold.

I personally do not believe in self-identifying with a creed to that extent. If you ask me, if I say that some "ism" is a vast error, that is not the same thing as saying that all "ists" are gullible fools. Nor is it a challenge to a duel with "ists." In my opinion, it shouldn't descend to the level of rapper-posse-style disrespect. But for many it does.

Hip-hop style "disrespect" is what the cult of personal identification reminds me of. This posturing, strutting, overblown tendency of rap performers and their posses to take offense at any opportunity, no matter how miniscule, has somehow spread into the rest of society.

This replacement of argument with disagreement, of reason with volume, as if the SNL skit with Jane Curtin and Dan Ackroyd had replaced the 60 minutes feature it parodied, stinks. This perverse form of disagreement has made real argument in the media an extinct species, and replaced it with simple-minded disagreement as on the capital hill gang and Bill O'Reilly's auto-hagiographical show.

Speaking of respect and O'Reilly, I do not respect O'Reilly's show. That is because his show isn't about news or ideas, it is about how he will bully the next person who appears on his show. His show cheapens everything it touches. His show is the embodiment of this cult of disrespect.

The belief that it is impossible to value a person while disagreeing with his ideas is not only false, it is destructive, not only to friendships but to society. This equation is commonly used by bullies, con-men and other shady types to confuse and distract people from speaking the truth as they see it.

Clearly, O'Reilly-style bullying is the wrong way to go. What is the right way?

Conservatives, liberals, rappers, poets, wonks, pundits, idiots, geeks, einsteins, MBA's, MD's, and PhD's all need to realize that dislike for an ideal does not mean disrespect for the person who believes in the ideal. Specifically, every one of us needs to say and believe, "when someone dislikes one of my ideas they can still like and respect and appreciate me, and it is foolish to believe or behave as if they can't."

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