As an English teacher, I have the great honor and privilege of teaching College Freshmen that they can’t win an argument. They can write a beautiful argument, one with fantastically sourced material, an argument that’s well written, well thought out, well rounded and focused. I can teach a student to do that. I can’t teach a student to WIN an argument, because most people don’t win arguments. We defend our arguments or make our arguments. We rarely win them.
I’ll clarify. Winning an argument is persuading the other side that you are right and they are wrong. That very, very rarely happens. Most times, there is some sort of bargain being made. If you will do X, I’ll do Y. You do X, they do Y, the result is Z. Hardly ever does anyone say, “You do X. Because I’m right and you know I’m right.” Even when that does happen, when an argument is won, it’s won in a very elegant, soft way, not with aggression. The arguments are long, probably pages and pages, days and days. The rhetoric is wonderful and soft. It’s not aggressive. It’s compassionate and considerate. You are persuading someone you are right, after all. Have you ever tried to get someone to go on a date with you by screaming and yelling at them? It might work once (It worked once on me), but it doesn’t work often. If you want someone to date you, you are nice and kind and you lay out, in a logical and intelligent way, why they should date you. You don’t go on dates by telling the person how stupid they are for not dating you, or by screaming at them that it’s unconstitutional not to be attracted to you, and that you’ll move to Canada if you continue not dating them.
You see where I’m going.
Ideology is defined as ideas at the basis of an economic or political theory, the manner of thinking characteristic of a class or individual, what you belief (Crib from the Dictionary on my desk). Belief is important. You can’t live your life not believing something. It’s an empty, pointless life. Even if you believe that you are the most important person alive, that belief allows you to get up in the morning. The more people that believe what you believe, the stronger your belief system and the easier it is to, uh, believe. Example: If you believe that the iPhone is the best cellphone ever, you want more people to believe it. It will allow Apple to make more and newer iPhones. The more people that buy iPhones, the cheaper they become because of market saturation, competition, etc. The more people who have iPhones, the more people that buy applications for it, the more people make different sorts of cases. No one’s ever gotten someone to buy a cellphone by arguing with a customer about it. People are persuaded, gently and patiently, over time, that an iPhone is a good phone and they should buy it.
It swings both ways. If not many people belief in your ideology, it is harder for you to believe in your ideology. I know this first hand. RIM, the company that makes Blackberrys, is going out of business. This is happening because few people believe Blackberrys are a good cellphone. I belief that Blackberrys are great phones. So what? I’m out numbered. Belief systems need people to buy into it. It makes it stronger and more sophisticated. More people in the system cause the system to flux and change. Christianity is not the same as it was when Jesus Christ was walking around. It wasn’t even called Christianity then. Over time, more and more people put themselves into the system and changed the system for their benefit. It’s the reason why churches preached against interracial marriage fifty years ago but don’t today. The system changed based on the people in it. No one’s ever been Saved because there was a guy in front of them, yelling and screaming and saying they are going to hell. Sure, Pastors do that, but it doesn’t persuade anyone. People become Christians over time, listening to sermons, reading the Bible and talking to people who are kind, generous and patient.
Yesterday, the Supreme Court decided that “Obamacare,” the Affordable Care Act, is Constitutional. That means it’s a law now. One group, settled into one type of Ideology, believes this is a good thing. One group believes this is a bad thing. And yesterday, over Facebook, Twitter, the guts of the Internet, blogs and in person, people yelled at each other about it. No one that believed that Obamacare was bad yesterday changed his or her minds yesterday. We don’t have a network of communication anymore. We have a network of aggravation. Our only goal now is to surround ourselves with people who think like we think and piss off people who don’t think like us. This should bother us because, due to our short sightedness, there are people who don’t have a political ideology one way or the other, and think everyone is an utter idiot.
Winning an argument, truly winning one, involves a level of compromise that no one is willing to make anymore. It involves a level of consensus. That’s not happening. There are only winners and losers in our mind, and arguments are either won or lost. The problem is that no one is winning any argument and no one is losing one.
While I support the idea of trying to get as many people health care as possible, the Affordable Care Act isn’t an elegant solution. It’s a law that demands that everyone pay into a Private Insurance system. Insurance companies are going to be tremendously richer in a few years. It’s a Free Market solution to a sociological problem. If Obamacare is socialism, then real socialism must be the Lake of Fire after Revelations. But, Republicans and Conservatives can’t see that because they think they “lost.” And Democrats and Liberals can’t complain about how awful parts of the bill are because they think they are “winning.”
Either you win or you lose. There is nothing else. As long as that mentality prevails, as long as people’s ideological membership is more important than truly solving a problem, we are going to progress very slowly. We’ll still progress. Don’t get it twisted. The world isn’t burning down and these are not the end times. Ask anyone that was in Europe during World War II if being taxed for not buying Health Care is comparable. No, we’ll be fine. We’ll just be frustrated. We’ll just scream and shout. We’ll just have arguments at the dinner table and unsubscribe from countless “friends.” We’ll be fine. Democracy is messy. It’s just sad that it is this messy.