Socratic Method – NOT

My old e-pal Kevin Kim and I have just had an unpleasant falling-out, the result of what I thought was a spirited, but not unfriendly, back-and-forth on Twitter last night about flag-burning, the power of symbols, and the persistent truths of human nature. The topic is an interesting and important one, and one that is right in Kevin’s academic wheelhouse; after our exchange I had looked forward to exploring it with him in a more accommodating format than Twitter, which is where serious discussions (and, apparently, long and happy friendships) go to die.

I’ll take the opportunity here to apologize for offending Kevin with what I do admit was my didactic (of which I am too often guilty) and occasionally needling Twitter-style tone; I meant no offense, and certainly never imagined that I would alienate him so. Kevin is an intelligent and thoughtful blogger. He was also one of my first friends in the blogging world, and I have valued his comradeship ever since we first got to know each other at least a decade ago. I hope we can mend fences.

I’m not going to get into the topic itself right now; I’ll leave that for another time.

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10 Comments

  1. Eric says

    I avoid Twitter like the plague precisely because it’s impossible to have any sort of reasoned discussion on it.

    Posted November 14, 2016 at 1:23 pm | Permalink
  2. Yikes! Trying to have a cogent discussion in 140-characters (max) per salvo is like face-to-face “discussion” of a separation agreement that will inevitably lead to divorce (been there; done that).

    Posted November 14, 2016 at 7:12 pm | Permalink
  3. whitewall says

    What Eric said. I view twitter, FB etc as “weapons of mass distraction”.

    Posted November 15, 2016 at 7:18 am | Permalink
  4. Pete says

    Yeah, it’s not hard for the twits using Twitter to take offense as just about anything written in 140 letters/numbers or less is hard for average people to interpret for nuance or subtlety, especially those of us raised typing on actual typewriters without all the latest in poop symbols.

    Back in the day, I used to be strongly against flag burning, but as I’ve grown older and seen more of the world (both in the U.S. and abroad), I can empathize with both sides. And, unbelievably, this very recent Washington Post article about flag desecration at Brown University explains it better than I ever could from both points of view: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/grade-point/wp/2016/11/14/brown-students-tore-up-threw-out-american-flags-at-veterans-day-ceremony/

    Posted November 15, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink
  5. whitewall says

    Flag burning….on campus. One solution long term would be to reinstate the military draft of 18-26 year olds-male, female and any combination known or yet to be conjured up.

    Posted November 15, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink
  6. Pete says

    My attempt at a twit: “We are brainwashed from birth, and it’s hard to raise ourselves out of all that nonsensical religious cult and political muck that clouds/controls our earliest thoughts until death.”

    That’s why I don’t twit because I just can’t see how we got to today’s (Tuesday, November 15, 2016) planet Earth with all its cult/religious/political problems from just starting out with one man and one woman in a garden. And trying to have any enlightened discourse twitting about pretty much anything these days is for twits, but, then again, having a heart-felt face-to-face conversation like those first two bothers of that man and woman from that garden can lead to a similar outcome. Sadly, the joys/evils of brainwashing from infancy permeates all forms of communication among our 7 billion and counting brothers and sisters, from twits to the editors of the New York/Los Angeles Times (just ask President Hilary).

    Personally, I care for the U.S. flag (mostly made in China these days) that many members of my family have fought/served for. Now, if someone is cold or hungry, I would have no problem using it as a blanket or as a fire starter out of the public eye. And while I don’t like it being burned by actual, and pseudo, activists, it’s still a great and grand symbol brainwashed into my head since birth, that even without an actual flag if front of me, I know what the flag stands for and what the brave members of our military are fighting for. These idiots burning the U.S. flag are also symbols. They are symbols of idiots in my brainwashed mind because they haven’t got a clue about life outside the United States or else they’d be burning North Korean and ISIS flags. These idiots should at least be thankful that their is a United States of America that protects them from their own idiotic behavior as by dumb Cosmic luck they were born here instead of in a gulag in North Korea or as a product of an ISIS rape in Syria or Iraq.

    Oh, yeah, that’s why I don’t twit!

    Posted November 15, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    The nub of my dispute with Kevin was my insistence that the flag itself is not the issue: that symbols “point through” to the referent that they symbolize, and so the burning of a flag has to be understood in the context of the gesture itself. If you burn a flag to keep someone from freezing to death, that is a noble act, and only a fool would object. When someone burns the American flag as an act of spite and anger, however, then the symbol as a physical object cancels out of the equation, because both sides understand that the gesture is intended entirely as a provocation, a sacrilege directed at what the target of the insult considers the actual sacred object: the nation to which the symbol refers.

    Flag-burning thus becomes, in such a context, a purely human gesture and interaction, a calculated provocation exactly equivalent to what the Supreme Court has called “fighting words“. The flag, the piece of cloth, is not at all the point.

    This deserves a post of its own.

    Posted November 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm | Permalink
  8. Pete says

    re: “fighting words“

    I guess you are somewhat right as every time I see groups of illegal immigrant children protesting (or illegal immigrants protesting for that matter) in the United States, I can’t help but think to myself that they lose a lot of good will and piss off many others because they are waving around Mexican flags or are carrying signs written in Spanish. I feel for them, but I know my own thoughts turn to why are you demanding that United States taxpaying citizens help you in Spanish while not demanding anything of your home countries from which you were forced to leave. If I were in the same situation, I’d be flying U.S. flags while decrying the corrupt and useless governments south of the border that count on these fleeing immigrants to keep propping up their governments via remittances that they send back “home” to their families.

    So, while I am not going to physically fight over any flag unless I absolutely need it to survive, I will voice my opinion vigorously when I see it tarnished or trampled upon.

    Posted November 19, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink
  9. jh k says

    “and the persistent truths of human nature”

    Careful with that. That means telling people the truth about their own nature.

    It’s an illusion blow, ego blow. Hurts people. And people tend to go away from what hurts them, don’t they?

    Posted December 15, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink
  10. jh k says

    “and the persistent truths of human nature”

    Careful with that. That means telling people the truth about their own nature.

    It’s an illusion blow, ego blow. Hurts people. And people tend to go away from what hurts them, don’t they?

    Posted December 15, 2016 at 12:49 pm | Permalink