Friday, August 06, 2010

Reactionary Reasoning

James Pate occasionally articulates things that I've been feeling for a while, or traits that I recognize in myself....that's probably why I read his blog! Today he has a post about our tendency to shift to the extremes of our positions when confronted by an opposing viewpoint. I especially resonated with this part:
In rigidly liberal environments, I tend to be a firebrand conservative, even though I personally may see value in all sorts of perspectives, on the left and the right. But there have also been times when I have agreed with people to keep the peace. And then there are times when I feel as if I have to stand up against a person’s beliefs, because that person is being a bully. I may see some value in that person’s viewpoint, but I feel that appearing open-minded will show weakness, or allow the fanatic to shove her ideas down my throat. And so I act more dogmatic than I actually am.
I don't act as a firebrand conservative much, but I will definitely take the opposing viewpoint if I am in a discussion that I feel is unfairly skewed in a certain direction. It's an addiction to playing the devil's advocate.

Maybe I just like to be annoying sometimes!

OK...all the time!

This actually reminds me of a passage in Anna Karenina.

Dolly, a beleaguered mother of many children, from a cheating, financially inept husband, travels to see her sister-in-law, Anna Karenina who has scandalized everyone with her affair and the birth of an illegitimate child, all in the name of finding true happiness and living her own life. On the way, she has a conversation with a peasant woman who talks about the death of an infant in cold, realistic fashion, explaining that it's better that the child died because of the burden it was going to be. Dolly realizes that the peasant woman is right, having herself felt overwhelmed by her many children and the toil and worry they cause her and the lack of money to help care for them. Yet, even though she knows the peasant woman has a point, she is appalled at what she says. The harsh reality of the peasant woman's attitude snaps her out of her reverie of justification of Anna's scandalous behavior and her own miserable feelings about her life.

Even though she had previously been thinking along the same lines, hearing those thoughts out loud didn't bring sympathy, but instead caused her to recoil.

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