Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Giving up snark

with 16 comments

Maybe snark is as bad for a person as is junk food—snark does seem to be “junk emotion.” Here’s an article by a woman who foreswore snark and found herself feeling much better, much as if she had stopped eating junk food:

Last week, if you’d asked me what I thought of Gadhafi, I’d have said something like, “I appreciate his whimsical taste in uniforms.” That’s because I’d vowed for one month to live up to the gold standard we all internalized to some degree as children: If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

It started when my husband, baby and I drove away from a visit with my aunt, who has Stage 4 breast cancer. I thought back on the 30-some years I’ve known her. I have never once in all that time heard her say anything unkind. Not even in the subtext of her words. That’s one hell — or, in this case, heaven — of a legacy.

While I’m not known for being unkind, I’m not above the occasional barbed joke. Looking at my dad’s “Refudiate Obama” bumper sticker a while back, I remarked to my right-wing brother, “That’s a pretty big word.” Sure, it’s a mild quip, but it feeds into a current of savage speech that underlies much of our public discourse. Personal invectives dominate everything from political commentary to You Tube comments. Snark, it seems, is something to which people aspire.

I began to wonder, how would holding my tongue — or at least changing what came off it — alter my relationships? Would I be forced into becoming a pushover or would I find more direct ways to deal with disagreement? Would I be less interesting? Would I still feel like myself, even? And in a bigger, moral way: Is it actually better?

There was one way to find out. I began my month-long campaign of kind with the following rules: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 March 2011 at 11:32 am

16 Responses

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  1. Four points are in order:
    (1) Americans are basically “middle of the road” people;
    (2) Conservatives tend to be crazy;
    (3) Liberals tend to be lazy; and,
    (4) the crazier Conservatives become the less lazy Liberals tend to become.
    In the current political climate, if the best that Conservatives can offer are the likes of Palin, Bachman, Gingrich, etc. then Democrats will have a particularly easy reelection cycle ahead.

    In regard to political discourse, it seems to me that citizens should be respectful to everyone while politicians should take the gloves off and fight for what they believe.

    Professor Weatherwick

    29 March 2011 at 11:45 am

  2. I sort of understand the laziness—it’s the cowardice that bothers me.

    Why do conservatives possess so much crazy? I’ve thought it was because they want to “conserve”: i.e., resist change. An example: the mission statement of the National Review, written by the eminent conservative icon William F. Buckley, Jr., begins:

    November 19, 1955 8:00 A.M.
    Our Mission Statement

    There is, we like to think, solid reason for rejoicing. Prodigious efforts, by many people, are responsible for NATIONAL REVIEW. But since it will be the policy of this magazine to reject the hypodermic approach to world affairs, we may as well start out at once, and admit that the joy is not unconfined.

    Let’s face it: Unlike Vienna, it seems altogether possible that did NATIONAL REVIEW not exist, no one would have invented it. The launching of a conservative weekly journal of opinion in a country widely assumed to be a bastion of conservatism at first glance looks like a work of supererogation, rather like publishing a royalist weekly within the walls of Buckingham Palace. It is not that, of course; if NATIONAL REVIEW is superfluous, it is so for very different reasons: It stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it…

    Once you are committed to the idea of resisting change (a position easily adopted by those most successful and powerful under the status quo: change could undermine their positions), then you must begin to practice selective ignorance: because while certain changes would undoubtedly produce bad outcomes for the nation as a whole, other changes are desirable and even essential. One must gather information and make informed judgments, but that path leads to more ideas for changes and improvements.

    The result, perhaps, is that conservatives, resisting change strongly, become more and more removed from reality in their outlook and arguments—and indeed that is what we seem to see.

    Conservatism seems far more dangerous than liberalism.


    29 March 2011 at 11:57 am

  3. Laziness in the sense of not taking the time to vote.

    Basically, in regard to political potiteness, I view politics as akin to football which is a contact sport. Politicians are paid to bash and smash.
    Citizens, on the other hand, should view politics as a spectator sport BUT always treat other citizens (not politicians acting in the capacity of politicians) with the respect they are due as fellow Americans.

    Professor Weatherwick

    29 March 2011 at 12:05 pm

  4. Politicians are also paid to lead. Cowardice is indeed the problem. People do not trust themselves to form opinions that lead to effective actions.

    Bob Slaughter

    29 March 2011 at 7:24 pm

  5. I would say that it is the citizens who lead the governments (Federal, State, County and Municipality) THROUGH their elected representatives. If the politicians are not properly representing the people they serve, then trrough democracy they will be thrown out of office.

    Professor Weatherwick

    30 March 2011 at 6:53 am

  6. In the abstract, I agree, and that is certainly the intended mechanism of democracy. But as I look about the US today, I see that corporations with a global base are using their financial resources in a multi-pronged attack on traditional US democracy:

    1. Corporations spend freely their rapidly increasing store of money to support and elect compliant politicians, increasingly members of their own corporate community and philosophy (cf. Rick Scott, new governor of Florida, and his scheme to direct government funds to his former company, now headed by his wife). In effect, corporations are buying control of governments.

    2. Corporations also understand the power of the vote from citizens voting on the issues—but citizens who on the whole rely on the mainstream press for their information. So corporations buy control of the mainstream press and make sure that press supports corporate directions. (And, of course, major newspapers have long since adopted the corporate mentality and values—thus Bill Keller, editor of the NY Times, has described how he clears stories with the Administration in power and holds or slants the story as the government requests.)

    3. Education also seems not to be doing the job we had hoped for, and of course the current attack on education and on teacher salaries will undermine it more. (The wealthy tend not to use public education and thus don’t much care about it.)

    So, in theory and in a small democracy with a strong sense of community and good and reliable news, the process you describe might well work. But that is not the situation in the US today.


    30 March 2011 at 7:09 am

  7. I agree with you that global corporations can and do subvert the democratic rights of citizens. When this occurs, the citizens in a particular country always have the right to punish the offending global corporation through the imposition of punative taxes and fees. The problem is that the global corporations “buy off” the politicians to prevent such punishment and the citizens do not follow through by throwing the weak politicians out and electing true representatives in their place.

    Professor Weatherwick

    30 March 2011 at 7:24 am

  8. To vote is not to lead in any effective sense. This is a representative democracy. Politicians have a grave responsibility to lead.

    Bob Slaughter

    30 March 2011 at 7:28 am

  9. By their very title, Representatives should “represent” the views of their citizens. If they don’t, the citizens should kick them out and replace them with true representatives.

    Professor Weatherwick

    30 March 2011 at 7:31 am

  10. I don’t think that a group of voters can “lead” in any effective sense. Leaders are individuals who lead groups. The very language makes the point.

    In particular, a politician’s job (it seems to me) consists of clearly explaining his/her priorities and political position, and then, once in office, acting on those convictions and communicating accurately to his/her constituents what s/he’s doing.

    The average citizen is quite busy and simply lacks the time and expertise and knowledge to deal with legislation as it moves through the legislative body. That’s exactly why we elect our representatives: to represent us by taking action on issues that arise, not by calling us to ask what to do.

    Politicians have generally offered leadership: they confront a crisis, explain the nature and source of the problem(s), and articulate a solution, then lead us in implementing that solution.


    30 March 2011 at 7:43 am

  11. First, there is a profound difference among the duties of a legislator, executive and judge. Focusing exclusively on the duties of a legislator, I would say that if the citizens took a more active role in selecting legislators and demanding their pursuit of the citizens’ desires, then, many of our problems could be overcome.

    An interesting reality is that legislators (particularly in Washington) generally do not read the Bills they are voting on. Rather, they rely on staff to read the Bills which means that Laws are passed without the citizens’ direct authorization.

    It seems to me that many of our problems could be overcome if the citizens took their governments back and enforced the founding principle of this Nation, namely, “We The People”. In this regard, legislators would only be selected if they truly represented the interests of the citizens. Legislators who subverted the will of the people would be voted out of office while global corporations who subverted the will of the people would have additional taxes and fees imposed on them. If all countries followed democratic principles, the world would be a better place. (Note: I suspect that a benevolent despot may be appropriate for some countries during the course of their transition to democracy).

    Professor Weatherwick

    30 March 2011 at 7:59 am

  12. No doubt both citizens and politicians have a lot to feel inadequate about; but that is just exactly the point. We can call for ideal behavior in citizenship (the professor’s points are replete with “if’s” and “should’s”) but will it happen?

    GLENDOWER: “I can call the spirits from the vasty deep.”
    HOTSPUR: “So can I, and so can any man, but will they come?”

    Bob Slaughter

    30 March 2011 at 8:25 am

  13. If we want to correct our Nation’s current problems, it must happen. An informed citizenry is essential to the survival of our way of life. Citizens have let the Legislators subvert them for too long. The answer was clear to Ben Franklin and it should be clear to us now.

    Professor Weatherwick

    30 March 2011 at 8:44 am

  14. I’m not sure what you’re saying must happen, but I can tell you that the forces I describe above, with corporations gaining increasing control over government, mean that an informed and active citzenry is highly unlikely. We are mired in the reality of our current culture.


    30 March 2011 at 9:03 am

  15. My point is that citizens must take back their governments. That’s what must happen.

    There is an old story that after the Declaration of Independence was signed, a woman asked Benjamin Franklin what type of government have the people been given. Franklin answered her “…a democracy madam if you can keep it”.

    In essence, I think the only cure for our current problemns is the emergence of an informed citizenry. If such an informed citizenry does not emerge, then, we may go the route of former empires such as the Romans.

    Professor Weatherwick

    30 March 2011 at 9:29 am

  16. And my point is that any such emergence will be difficult: it will be attempting to swim upstream against well-funded contemporary cultural and corporate counterforces. I think we’re pretty clear now on each other’s points.


    30 March 2011 at 11:20 am

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