The following is a re-post of an article I posted on Bayart.org last year:
Everyone has played whack-a-mole as a kid right? It is one of the rare belligerently aggressive games that little kids are still allowed to play even in our anti-bullying agenda age. Everyone overlooks the brutality of it. Hey, it’s just plastic moles and a neoprene rubber mallet on a cord. What harm is there really?
The closest that we get to play this game as adults (unless we sneak in at the local pizza and games place and pretend we are ‘helping’ our little ones win more tickets), is in argument form.
It begins with a vague concept, like “freedom”, “independence”, or most recently “cheating”.
When we hear the word, rarely do different people picture the same thing. It’s like the word ‘dog’ that they use in virtually all critical thinking books and classes. What do you picture? Is it a yellow or brown dog? Is it small or big? This is why in discussion we have to immediately define the concept we envision. Otherwise we create another argument type that is more like a semantical whirlpool. And that goes NOWHERE good.
If we defined our presentation well, the argument is off and running. But, as we quell one problem with an agreed solution, another one pops up. We hit that one back down, and another pops up in its place somewhere else. We end up running back and forth, whacking away at anything that doesn’t stay in the frame of the argument.
I have a confession to make. I secretly love these arguments. Especially after a nice dinner when everyone is on their second glass of wine. The ideas flow, the laughter ensues, and everyone ends up agreeing to disagree at least once.
In a blog yesterday, called The Conversation, I attempted to avoid the whack-a-mole scenario. Because my thoughts on the subject could fill a large (and very boring) book. I went for the source. The source being that said 19 year old freshman saw nothing wrong with cheating.
The discussion that ensued was entertaining and enlightening. Everyone, inherently saw a different aspect of cheating. When I envisioned it, it was in the context of the conversation, a university cafeteria. I saw ‘academic cheating’. But I also knew there are other connotations of that word. Hence, my attempt at the source. (For which I was immediately called out upon.)
But in retrospect, the question posed to the writer by our petulant teenage was not only impertinent, but completely avoided responsibility. They successfully dodged their culpability in the discussion.
Bravo! 19 year old freshman.
So we were led down a rabbit hole of “do you cheat?”
My mom said it best when posed that argument by unruly 6 to 10 year olds. She would take a puff of her cigarette and tap it onto the edge of the ash tray. Lifting up her coffee cup with the other hand, poised to take a sip, she would say with her characteristic, southeastern twang, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”
The point is not that there is evil in the world.
The point is not that there is injustice in the world.
The point is not to go around policing everyone and pointing at the offenders like the people in Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, screeching at them in the alien tone that means “they’re not one of us!”
The point is that this kid, and many like them, have entered some twilight zone of morality and ethics. They have travelled down that infamous rabbit hole and drank the wrong potion. They are too big to fit through the door now.
We need to be able to redirect the question back to them. In fact, it is our responsibility to do so.
There is some dignity in saying “do as I say and not as I do”, because those that have lived and done things, they know the implications – the cause and the effect.
The point is not “Well have you done it?” The point is that it shouldn’t be done. Period.
Do we agree that people are responsible for their own actions and reactions? Are individuals responsible for their own morality and sense of ethics? Yes, it is learned. But if at some point people, individually, don’t decide, “yes, this is wrong *enter reasoning here,” then the world becomes one big rabbit hole.
Personally, I like my view up here.
*Please post your own thoughts on your own blogs and link it back here. I will check in. (Because let’s face it, that little comment box is not big enough for this idea.)
**The comic is from a site called The Clipart Kid. Yes, I completely overlooked the cuss word up there, sorry! I couldn’t find any kind of copyright, sharing options, or anything, but they have some great stuff! 🙂