falling off the edgeless earth

coming to terms with life improvisation

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Thoughts on discourse

Yesterday, I read this Slate Star Codex article about social class in the US. It responds to a post here here on Livejournal by sideria, which I haven't yet read. I haven't read the two different social class breakdowns the article mentioned, either Michael Church's or Unqualified Reservation's. I have to remain skeptical of the exact breakdowns, but the idea that social class still exists separately from economic class sounds pretty compelling.

I got excited enough about this idea that when you allude grouping people it can make others pretty uncomfortable. And then it can be hard to communicate what you think is valuable, especially if they haven't read or thought about the same things you have. On the drive home from Rutgers, I enthusiastically brought up the idea with Marlon. He became pretty upset partway through the conversation. He hates it when people analyze him or other people based on generalizations, and that sounded like what I was doing. He doesn't like being sequestered into a category or pidgeonholed because of social labels. He doesn't like that done to him, nor does he like doing it to other people, and neither do I. Before I brought up the topic I might have considered my personal context for approaching this topic, and how other people--even people close to me--might come from a very different place that makes the ideas come across as very different, or even offensive.

I've run into a lot of people on the web who feel it is best to speak your mind frankly, come what may. Anything past a bare minimum of diplomacy slows things down too much, and ends up wasting productive discussion time. Some people are going to get offended, others will completely misinterpret what you are saying, and that doesn't matter. Truth matters more than feelings.

This philosophy of communication and discourse doesn't work for me. Communication is difficult because it's a two-way process. You must listen just as much as you talk. Even if you are giving a lecture, it is important to consider the audience. If how you deliver your message just tries to bulldoze over the biases and sensitivities of your audience, you can easily turn a very open minded group into a crowd who can't hear a word of what you're saying. And I have no patience for social commentators who taunt readers with outrageous things, then use the defense of satire to call everyone stupid when those outrageous things are taken seriously.

Good communication is really hard. I'd like to figure out a way to better talk about things like social class, because they could be part of the many hidden patterns that shape how we communicate and interact with each other. There's more to the truth than just blurting it out. Thinking, and then saying what you are thinking is the easy. More important: figuring out how to make it meaningful for your fellow human beings, the people with whom you share this world, the people with whom you will be cooperating with to shape the future.

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Yeah, I completely can't stand the whole "Truth matters more than feelings" idea. Like, my gosh, *mattering* itself is a feeling. In fact -- I'm a little afraid that attitude might even be a straw man. You really know people who believe that, though?

Yeah, I've met quite a few people who say very clearly that they put saying what they think is true, the way they hear it in their heads, ahead of how it will get received by other people.

But this often comes from people who have unpopular views. I can see that concern about social reception can keep potentially unpopular ideas from getting expressed at all--or even considered because of social reprocussions. I can see how a lot of people can get fed up with that and adopt a harsh, "Just deal with it" approach to communication.

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