The Shortcut Best Avoided...In our modern age, technology makes it possible for almost everyone to participate in public conversations about a limitless variety of subjects. I believe this is a good thing, even if much of what appears online is utter nonsense. I spent my teaching career trying to get my students to understand that almost every problem imaginable is, at its heart, a communication problem. And I have always believed that more communication, even imperfect communication, is to be preferred over the alternative. Silencing people is never the right thing to do.
When you combine the relatively fast pace of modern life with some of the technological limitations placed on us by the gadgets and software we use to talk to each other, it isn't surprising that people find it difficult to resist the temptation to make their points in as few words as possible. Unfortunately, this tends to increase the temptation to take logical and linguistic shortcuts. And that, in turn, leads to one of the most common errors in reasoning: The fallacy of composition. It is one thing to support or criticize a person or an idea in the course of a rhetorical exchange, but quite another to make sweeping generalizations based on those very limited observations. For instance...
|"You can trust me, I host a show on PBS."|
Just because Neil deGrasse Tyson tells lies doesn't mean all scientists are liars.
Just because Sean Penn admires communist dictators doesn't mean all actors are communists.
|"Disagree with me, go to jail. What's the problem?"|
And just because Sheldon Whitehouse wants to criminalize political viewpoints doesn't mean all liberal Democrats are totalitarian assholes.
This is not to suggest, of course, that one cannot make accurate generalizations about political ideologies at all. There are, in fact, certain beliefs that one sees regularly put forth in public debates by progressives, conservatives, libertarians, etc. It would be foolish indeed to suggest that those linguistic designations are completely empty. (Note: I'm not linking to dictionary definitions of these terms because almost all such definitions are absurdly biased at the moment. More on that problem in a future post.)
What I am suggesting, however, is that it would be better to confine your praise or criticism to the specific idea and/or specific person advancing it, without arguing that that particular idea or person is representative of an entire group of people. We'll do better in our rhetorical interactions if we stop taking that easy shortcut when trying to make our points...
My Feline Bed-and-BreakfastOne night last fall when the weather had turned really cold, I happened to notice a pair of kittens who had taken refuge from the wind on my patio. Actually, my feline roommates noticed them first, through the patio doors, and it was their growling that made me check out what was going on (for some reason, they don't think kittens are as cute as I do).
Soft touch that I am, I found a cardboard box, put an old throw blanket in it, and took it out onto the patio, along with a bowl of food. The kittens ran away momentarily, but came right back for the food once I went inside. The next night, I noticed another, different cat partaking of the food bowl, and...well, you can probably guess the rest. The bowl is replenished daily, and I have observed a variety of neighborhood kitties, large and small, visiting my patio.
|Another satisfied customer this morning...|
Things That Make Me Happy: Big Inning EditionLast night my beloved Kansas City Royals faced what might turn out to be a pivotal moment in their season: Stuck in an offensive slump that had seen them lose six of seven games (and only scoring 7 runs total in those six defeats), they were down 2-1 heading into the bottom of the 3rd inning against the defending American League Cy Young Award winner, Corey Kluber. But two straight singles followed by three consecutive doubles put up a "crooked number," and the Royals led 4-2 (the eventual final score). The second double, which put the Royals ahead for good, was struck by 1st baseman Eric Hosmer...
In the rubber game of the three-game series at Kauffman Stadium tonight, the Royals will send Chris Young (4-1, 1.55) to the mound to duel with the Indians' Trevor Bauer (4-2, 2.97). Should be a great game between division foes...
|"I went to Princeton, their starter went to UCLA. Enough said."|
Microaggression at the Hy-Vee CheckoutSo, I bought a box of this stuff...
|"That 'sting' was probably just your arthritis flaring up, old man."|
You're not funny, you know...
My Current Food Obsession
This is the namesake burger at Kuma's Corner in Chicago:
Unassuming ExcellenceAs an admitted technology geek, I have tried lots and lots of different gadgets and gizmos over the years. As a rule of thumb, anything from Motorola has an awfully good chance of being top-notch. A case in point is my H12 Bluetooth headset:
|"When you're a spy you need reliable communication devices, like my H12."|