Making Intellectual Discourse Work for You
In This Chapter
- Acting Open-Minded
- Sensitivity and Argumentation
- Universal Values Versus Your Values
Casual debates can be tricky. On one hand, you must not compromise any of your liberal ideals; on the other, it is also not considered cool to seem stubborn or anti-intellectual. But with a little practice, you'll find that you can handle every argument with flair and come out looking like a great defender of your cause. Remember, the people you're really trying to impress are already on your side; appear confident, and you'll win them over.
Why Argue at All?
It may not seem immediately obvious why you have to pay any attention to evil i-bankers or backwoods hicks who don't understand your vision of peace and harmony for the world. Why can't you just laugh indulgently and ignore them? The reason is that part of what liberals like is an idea called "Free Speech." It is derived from a Constitutional amendment that puts restraints on the government's ability to silence people, but the liberal interpretation is a little bit different. While liberals don't have a problem with the government silencing really bad groups like the Ku Klux Klan, they believe that people with more innocent viewpoints have an obligation to talk constantly about them. Silence is unofficially outlawed, so part of appearing liberal is talking back.
The rule of "Free Speech" is and must remain an unspoken tenet of the liberal philosophy. Do not attempt to discuss it and its actual relation to the First Amendment; you will merely get confused. You can occasionally accuse someone who doesn't want to talk of being "against Free Speech," but don't go any further that that.
Free Speech Isn't So Bad
Soon you'll find that this rule works to your advantage. You want to show how liberal you are; and what better opportunity is there than publicly shoving this ideology down others' throats? The more you get to plead for your cause, the more you get to talk and be the center of attention. So really, you seek more conversation, not less.
The "nod and point" is one of the best ways to get other people to let you talk. Furrow your brow slightly, stare intensely at the speaker, and nod slowly while holding up one finger. These gestures communicate a perfect balance between appreciating your opponent and knowing more than he does. By simultaneously indicating agreement and disagreement, you will cause confusion and people will let you talk to clear things up. In the rare cases where the "nod and point" technique does not work, you always have the power to nullify your opponent's "Free Speech" by calling him or her a racist.
The Heart of the Matter
Up until this point, we've thought of the liberal philosophy as a big expression of warmth, kindess, and sensitivity. Now, however, we have to use it in a battle context, and we need ways to reaffirm this sensitivity's superiority to selfishness.
Higher taxes are a way for other people to give more money to the needy people you care about so much. If someone argues for a tax cut, you can usually use the argument: "Sure, you'd like your money, but what about humanity?"
Occasionally someone will argue that cutting taxes is better for humanity, and will use a complicated system of lies called economics. But economics is just a lot of math, and what does math have to do with real life? Nothing! Thus, all you need to do is trump these cold numbers with real stories of real living people.
"Meredith" is a poor person living in inner city Chicago. When taxes are cut and the economy booms, she has two children and no source of support, and she cries. The intersection of all those fancy lines doesnít change this, does it?
Liberals believe all people are equally valuable, excluding the Ku Klux Klan. This means all people should have equal everything. Nobody should ever miss out on anything just because of something about him or her. However, some people donít feel this way, and they are what we call "bigots." To stop bigots, we need the government to make laws to protect the groups of people bigots target. For example, is it right to kill someone just because theyíre black? No! This is why we have "Hate Crime Legislation," which makes sure that blacks donít get killed.
This is one of the easiest topics to have an argument on, because anyone whoís arguing with you must be a bigot. Just refer to everything your adversary says as "bigoted rhetoric" and claim that there is no need to respond to bigoted rhetoric coming from a bigot person and perhaps he should turn from his bigoted ways.
George W. Bush
George W. Bush is one of the best people in history for the liberal cause. Heís a conservative and heís clearly not
very smart. This shows once and for all, to all remaining doubters, that conservatism = stupidity.
Guns of all kinds are bad. The reason is so obvious, youíll wonder why you didnít think of it yourself: guns can kill people! Death is bad.
Republicans and Libertarians may argue that the Second Amendment to the Constitution limits gun control. Donít
let them distort the Constitution like that. Point out that "death is badóeveryone knows that. Do you want to die?"
When people talk about the Defense Budget, this is just another word for guns! You can use all of the above analysis and reasoning to participate in the discussion.
Of course, there isnít space here to go over every aspect of liberal politics. But with the following principles, you should be able to figure out what you think about most things.
- The government always knows best. If it doesnít, thatís because of all the crazy conservatives who
have gotten inside it and mucked it up. If we had enough liberals in government, it would do everything
right. You can use this fact as a shortcut and pretend that government already does do everything
right. And since government always knows best, government should be put in charge of as
much as possible.
- Oppressed minorities (see the list in Appendix B) are always more important than anyone else,
because of the hardship theyíve endured for hundreds of years. When in doubt, pick the side that
favors the oppressed minorities.
- If people would just be nicer and kinder to each other, the world would be such a better place.
Mention this when you donít know what else to say.
In general, talking is good, because this is where you get to show how liberal you are. However, there will be times when someone is making you look stupid for just a moment, and you need to get out of the conversation. Try these tried and true liberal catchalls:
- Observe that your opponent hasnít even considered all the children!
- Shake your head slowly, saying "If thatís so, itís a sad, sad time we live in."
- Suddenly become more animated (if possible), and exclaim, "Donít you see? These are real people weíre talking about! Real problems! This isnít just a bunch of made-up stuff here for our amusement and pontificating pleasure! People are suffering while weíre standing here arguing about it!" If you can make yourself shed tears, now is the time.
At this point you may be wondering, "What implications does the liberal philosophy have for the way I live my life, as opposed to the way I act?" For exampleójust because you hate Big Business, does that mean you canít save money by going to Wal-Mart? Just because you want to give money to the poor, does that mean you have to give money to the poor?
The reason you donít have to do any of these things is a great little trick in philosophy: the difference between Universal and Personal Morality. Universal Morality is all the things that should be done, such as helping the poor, redistributing wealth, and tolerating oppressed minorities. Personal Morality is all the things that you should do.
Remember: Society changes you,
not the other way around!
You're Only One Person
Really, you donít make that much of a difference; itís much more important what the government does, for example, than the little things you do. The way you can make a bigger difference is by making other people think like you; then they will be moral, even if youíre not. This is why your time is better spent arguing and reminding people of the virtues of liberalism than doing stuff.
If everyone gave 10 cents to Habitat for Humanity, that would be over 3 million dollars. If you gave 100 dollars to Habitat for Humanity, that would only be 100 dollars. You can see which is more important.
You're Young and Still Learning
How can you really help others until youíve helped yourself? You canít. Youíre still trying to find yourself and become a complete person. One of the ways to become a complete person is to find the significant other who completes you, which is best done, again, through the argumentation techniques we have discussed in this chapter.
If you really want to show people that you are practicing what you preach, the best way is through Activism. Activism consists of repeating the ideology youíve learned above, at higher volumes and through various media such as letters and underground publications. The people you want to impress will easily confuse it with fighting for what you believe in, and it usually is easy. If done right, it may even get you on television.
A Final Note: Keep It in Perspective
Donít lose sight of why youíre doing all this: you want to meet people, especially attractive people. Make sure that before you enter an argument, you shave well (or comb your beard, which is sometimes preferable), and check all the activist stickers on your backpack. During the argument, you should make eye contact as much as possible with the contacts you want to make, regardless of whether theyíre actually the people youíre talking to. Doing so will greatly increase your chances of getting something out of the conversation.