Giving Up on Not Giving Up

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August 15, 2011 by Rhi

Just a quick post from me before bedtime. Mr Bint has been working hard on an assignment, so I’ve had a rather blissful evening of listening to the radio, and catching up on some reading and research for a new project.  And basically, putting off the arduous task of sitting down and writing thank you letters. But an evening without access to the internet has given me space to consider a number of things which I’ve seen and read in recent days, and now Mr Bint is having a quick dip before bed, I’ve commandeered the laptop to share my thoughts with everyone. Sorry about that.

The recent events in the UK have generated much debate on many subjects, in addition to the old faithfuls which are always being bandied about the twittersphere on any given day. The ferocity with which different people have attacked others has reminded me of a train of thought which I followed a few months ago, when I made the decision to happy up my life by changing the way I behaved online. What I realised, was that if I was going to engage in a debate, then I should do it because I felt I had something important to say, and not because I wanted to appear to be involved.

But the most important conclusion I reached, for me at any rate, was the realisation that I had to think about why I wanted to enter a debate. And also, when to let it go. I started to question my motives for being so opinionated. Was I continuing to pursue this issue because I thought it would make a difference to others? Or was it simply to make myself look clever? Usually, it was the latter. So, when I took that step back, a big part of getting back my happy vibe online came when I realised that I needed to give up… well… not giving up, really. When I was a kid, in our school playground, the loser in any fight was the one who walked away first. Had our teachers not been well versed in breaking up fisticuffs, it could well have resulted in a fight to the death. Without realising it, I had carried this mentality forward into adult life. And it has actually taken me until now to realise that, in the grown up world of different opinions, it doesn’t work like that.

An irresistible force meeting an unmovable object is not going to go anywhere. When I kept labouring a point, it wasn’t because I was trying to make things better, it was because I didn’t want to lose the debate. But if we’re really trying to make a better world with all our talking and debating, losing shouldn’t even feature in my thinking. Letting go of the need to discredit those on “The Other Side” has opened my mind up to so many other things that, when blinded by the red fog of Needing To Be Right, I would never have seen.

I’m not going to bore you with false modesty – most of my friends would describe me as intelligent.  But my intellect is not defined by my ability to batter other people into submission. I might be clever, but I’ve got an awful lot of learning still to do. I can’t learn without listening, and I can’t listen to other people whilst I’m shouting them down.

It’s very satisfying to deliver the killer blow in any argument, and I doubt that I’ll ever lose the need to debate issues. But I’ve begun to realise the sense of responsibility being opinionated brings,. To try and score points by attempting to prove myself intellectually, whilst debating issues which can seriously affect the lives of others,  seems a little cheap in comparison. Once again, I’m embarrassed by my own behaviour in the past. But onwards, upwards. We live, and we learn.

All this is said without hope or agenda, of course. It’s merely the musings of someone who has stayed awake too long to be tired, but too late to be making much sense. But I’ll leave you with this: if I try to argue, or to prove, a point in a debate with you, it’s because I genuinely believe it will make things better, and because I think you’d like to be informed of something of which you may not be aware. It’s not because I want to make you look foolish. And if you prove a point to me in the same way, I would hope it would be for the same reasons. For all the useless rhetoric, online debates are useful, and wonderful. Just as long as you know when to stop. Some things are too important to let go – being proved right isn’t one of them.


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