Wednesday, February 15, 2012



"A term used by others, usually being suburban "gangsters", whose lives are absolutely and undeniably defined by what others think. These people "rumble" often and think of themselves as original and/or indestructible. People that use the term "haters" are the lowest stage of the evolutionary scale. They bleed the fastest and have thought processes similar to that of a mentally underdeveloped cat." -Urban Dictionary

Good evening, class. The lesson today will consist of proper composure, maturity and eloquence when facing a debate.

Let me begin with a quick history, if you'll allow me.

In 1804, Vice President Andrew Burr shot and fatally wounded Alexander Hamilton, the first US Secretary of the Treasury. The duel that spurred legend was held in response to years of verbal public jabbing on both sides.

At that time, the Northern United States were outlawing such barbaric practices in hopes that all people could learn to use their words in such a way that they could not only express their feelings, but do so in a respectful way.

208 years later, in the age of the Internet and the Beiber (Beeber? Seeger?Beuber? I don't know...), the collective conversation of ideas can be paraphrased as this:

All of the passion of a political duel, but it lacks humanity, no?

Which brings us to this lesson. In this lesson, we will learn to accept dissent, analyze it, and respond in a way that would be more so what Mrs. Hamilton was probably hoping for.

Our subject this evening will be movies, prominently "Sucker-Punch," the all-sizzle, no-steak mindless film made for the adoration of incessant tweens.

Now I hear the rumblings in the back of the class. When people--in this case critics, which are sometimes barely human-- make statements like the one I just made, they are commonly answered in two ways. If the reply is in agreement, it's a simple matter of praise. However, if the reply is in dissent you will see all manner of juvenile retorts. Such as this:

CRITIC: "The movie spins out of control, until it collapses in a heap, senseless."

READER RESPONSE: "Well apparently you dont get the message of this movie its not just about fighting!!! Maybe somday sense will smack you in the face and you'll kno how much of a amazing movie this is!"

The replier made their point, but at the cost of any possible respect to be earned. If the movie is "not just about fighting," perhaps the reader should volunteer what other elements the critic had missed. Such an answer, if done properly would debase the critic's talent and earn the replier a valid point.

The other comment is rather hostile. To say the critic needs to be physically assaulted by sense itself is not only improbable; it's also being ranted in a statement riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors. Sense seems to have left the debate before it began!

Let's try another:

CRITIC: "I'm glad I saw Twilight for one reason: It made the phrase 'jump the shark' obsolete, to be potentially replaced with 'The vampires are playing baseball.'"

READER: "your an idiot. i can admit that it wasnt an unbelievable film but this film was made for fans of the books (mostly teenage girls) and not old, cranky, male critics! the cast and crew continuously said 'oh, well were doing this for you guys, the fans of the books.'"

A rather creative hit from the critic, leaving the response falling short. Rule of thumb, everyone: to make a valid argument, it's a battle of wits; if you don't stack up, shut up. Write that down, that's on the test.

Also, the reader made two major mistakes. First, they made an excluding statement. Saying things like "X is just not for you!" or "You just don't get Y!" than you are limiting the art in question. Major motion pictures, in this instance, are made for the general public. Corporate studios don't give millions of dollars to only entertain SOME people. So if someone "just doesn't get it," then in a certain way what you're defending has failed.

Second, the reader made it an issue of sex. Suddenly, the debate isn't about the merit of the work, it's a matter of only a certain sex or creed or mindset can enjoy it. Maybe that makes it special, but again, it leaves it open to more scrutiny. By saying something can only be enjoyed by a certain group, you're fortifying the fact that the person you arre debating is correct in not liking it. This is more of a retreating tactic. If you resort to either of these two arguments, you are waving a white flag.

The idea of debate is to respectfully state sides of an argument until you reach an understanding of each other, even if you don't agree. When someone says something that you don't agree with, learn to use the English language to your advantage. It's simple to make a blanket statement and then retreat from the discussion. It's common these days; the Internet is slowly breeding a generation of cowards and cynics who will not be able to argue about something without it leading to divorce, violence or murder.

It is impossible to distance yourself from the Internet, so the best thing you can do is take part in a discussion. If someone you know makes a statement you disagree with, start here: State your belief, state why you believe it, ask questions about their statement IN ORDER TO GAIN CLARITY. No need for barbed comments, insulting statements or name calling.

One of the greatest gifts is the gift of communication. It's right up there with Lemon Ginger tea and the wheel. And the last thing we need is a generation of people who can't debate things without throwing hot tea at each other and running our pets over.

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