Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Hate It Or Love It

I'm slowly returning to the wider world at the end of a school term and reviewing all the chunks of information I've emailed myself to look at later.

An interesting set of tips in the NYT regarding a set of guidelines for conducting an honest argument between two entrenched sides:

1. Hate something for its failings, not its successes.
Simple idea, tough for me to execute. What I take away from this is that it's okay to find fault with, say, Paris Hilton for being a vacuous twerp but not because she has a successful television show.

2. No condemning something until you've tried it.
I hate the city of Phoenix which is peculiar considering that I've never been, never come close to going, don't personally know of anything bad that happened in Phoenix to any of my loved ones, etc.

3. Execution Matters
See John Kerry. Bless his heart but there were so many apologists insisting that he was NOT chilly, distant, aloof, etc. etc. It's a losing battle to convince someone that her experience using a product or a service (I suppose a presidential candidate is both) is not frustrating but actually delightful.

skipping number four for a moment...

5. Consider that they may have a point
from the original: Neither side's members should be allowed to cover their ears and sing "Blah blah blah!" at the top of their lungs when they hear an argument that could rock their worldview. As long as the points are factual, fair and substantive, you should consider them.

I thought this was such a nice list of guidelines that I removed them from their original context which was a David Pogue essay that laid out the ground rules for Windows vs. Mac conversations (number four is "Don't make grandiose purchasing plans by guessing on technology's future"-sound advice, perhaps, but not quite as readily adaptable to other arguments.)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Consider Yourself

A few days ago, I'm talking to a person about doing some work for them. This person is well-off, white, has an expensive home with an expensive view in an expensive neighborhood. This person made their money in corporate America and then left to make a living in a more new age (do we still use that term?) focused pursuit. And, in conversation about this person's ideas, they said this: "I'm like Rosa Parks."

If you ever watched Sports Night, Aaron Sorkin's brilliantly written TV show that died way too soon, you might remember the scene where Issac says to Dan that "no well-to-do young white man will ever get anywhere with him by comparing himself to Rosa Parks."

To deal with my feelings about my interaction with this person, when I got home I decided to find out who else had compared themselves to the woman who refused to go to the back of the bus. Here's what I came up with:

Ted Nugent: Nugent wanted to legalize dove hunting in Michigan and called himself "Rosa Parks with a 12 gauge."

Terrell Owens: A football player who made a brouhaha because he wanted to work as a free agent.

Lars Larson
: A conservative talk show host who thought the request by Southern Oregon University to leave his handgun at home while particpating in an on campus forum violated his civil rights.

Jack Kevorkian: The infamous Dr. Death who portrays himelf as fighting for a cause - legalized euthanasia.

Ahmed Omar Abul Ali: The Virginia Muslim charged with conspiring to assassinate President Bush.

Edward Forchian: A guy who's says that US marijuana laws are unconstitutional.

I thought it was interesting that all the people I found comparing themselves to Rosa Parks were men. The women I found had been compared to Rosa Parks by their peers or by an outside group; they hadn't drawn the comparison themselves.

I find the whole thing very presumptuous. I thought that history decided who was a leader and who was a prophet. But I have been wrong before. At this point, I want to issue a broad disclaimer about what a flawed human I am. I also want to veer off in to a tirade about humility and the lack thereof in our current society and government. Because I'm just like Al Franken. But also, I'm like a Trappist nun, so I'll shut up now.