Warm Ale

In my time on the net, I have been on more mailing lists than I care to count.  And that means, of course, that I have been in my share of mailing list battles, watching the fights play out in a war of words.

This is what I have learned: You can't really win these things.

It's doubtful you can change the mind of your opponent, if that's your goal.  If you could change their mind, you would be having a discussion with them rather than a war.  To me the hallmark of a discussion is when you and the other person are willing to say "You have a good point there," or better, "Yes, you are right."  This means you are working to find common ground, and that's good.

It's doubtful you can really silence your opponent, if that's your goal.  You may be able to bully them into shutting up and not challenging you anymore, but you have never converted a person just because you have silenced them.  The internet is big, and they will find someplace to say what they have to say, where it will probably seep back to challenge you.  Besides, as Crash said in Bull Durham, no hitters are fascist anyway.  The goal of silencing people probably just means you are an asshole.

It's doubtful, too, that you can win people to your side to fight.  Most people just don't want to get in the middle of a fight not of their choosing.  The problem with a bar-fight is that after the second punch nobody cares who started it, they only want it to end, or want to see more blood anyway.  It's that old line "Never argue with a fool.  People may not be able to tell the difference."

So, if you can't change them, can't really silence them, and can't get people to join the fracas, what can you do?

Well, what I have learned to do over the years is to recontextualize the war.  I end up waiting and writing about some broader issue, some overarching theme, working to identify points of commonality and to put differences in context.  If I do it well, my posts often stop conversations, because peoples opinions, put in context, don't seem as sharp.

And this is what I have learned about recontextualizing the discussion: many people just bloody hate it.   They don't want to have to have their ideas and opinions put in context, they just want to be able to fight, feeling self-righteous and bathing in their internalized self-loathing.

Didja ever notice that men seem to enjoy conversations much more when no one actually knows what they are talking about?  If everyone is equally ignorant, then everyone can offer their speculations and opinions with equal weight, and the chat keeps going.  It's when someone actually knows a lot about the topic of conversation that the fun ends, because then the facts get in the way of the jabberjawing.

Opinions are like assholes.  Everyone has one, and they usually stink.  Brains, though, get in the way, which is why so many conversations are doggedly anti-intellectual on the net.

A number of years ago, I came to the decision that the only things I would post on the net were bits that helped me explore what I think and helped me find new ways of speaking my own understanding.  When I post, it's about me and what I need, not about you.

I think that most all posts are this way, but too many are still in the place where they think it is easier and better to attack others rather than to do the hard work of becoming more clear in saying their own beliefs.  Rather than using criticism to find holes in their own belief structure, and then becoming more clear and compelling, they choose to attack others by muddying the waters, using tricks to tear down others rather than engaging the core of what's being communicated.

And often, the kinds of attacks that people who identify as transsexual women use seem more like the choices they learned as men.  It's balls to the wall, if you know what I mean.  Gender shift requires powershift, learning new ways to take power in the world, and threatening to kick in the teeth of people who don't see you as a woman may silence people, but it doesn't convince them you are who you claim to be.  That shedding of old defenses to find new is bloody hard, but without it, you aren't actually new, just noisy.

So what happens when you get into a war with e-mail? 

You can have fun beating up others.  You can move aside.

Or you can use others energy against them, deflecting them with akido like moves.

But you probably are gonna end up bruised anyway.