On the Other Hand…

If I had to sum up my theory of life in one phrase, it’d be ‘on the other hand’.

In a way, that’s not surprising – arguing, to my family, was like backyard cricket or watching the evening news – a bonding experience.  Sometimes Dad would start the ball rolling..

The human body is disgusting, and should be covered up except for the purposes of procreation.

Sometimes it’d be my only brother.

You really should get into mind-altering substances (he’d say to the parents over dinner).  It gives you a much BROADER perspective on things…

Controlled apoplexy was Dad’s specialty.

To me, life is a continual battle about where to put the golden mean.  It’s like six billion (and counting) carpenters tugging at the same spirit level.

Last month Steven Landsburg, an economist at the University of Rochester, published a post on his personal blog laying out a series of hypothetical public-policy “dilemmas.” Anticipating the usual abstract debates with his community of regular readers, he set forth three rhetorical queries…..This week students and alumni are urging the university to censure the professor based on those remarks; others beyond the campus have called for him to be fired.

On the one hand, give peace a chance.  On the other hand, aren’t we glad we invented the bomb before Hitler did?  On the one hand, we have buddhists stepping around ants.  On the other hand, we have research psychologists sticking baby primates in solitary to ‘see what happens’.  Unlimited faith leads to bankruptcy and STDs.  On the other hand, who can really rationalise love?

Despite a protest by academics, climate change sceptic Lord Christopher Monckton has started his latest Australian speaking tour. More than 50 academics have signed a petition calling Lord Monckton ignorant and urging the cancellation of tonight’s speech at Fremantle’s Notre Dame University.

On the one hand, we all feel sympathy with indigenous people, disgust at rape and sexism, distaste for race-related prejudices, and concern about environmental degradation.

On the other hand – well we should admit that there IS another hand – a hand that’s as useful, ultimately, as our right hand is to our left or vice versa.  The human race will never point in one direction, like a Chinese state rally.  It’s always going to be a tug of war, where we’re all pulling to get the ‘other’ side just that inch further to ‘our’ side of the line.  And THEN we can move the line.

That’s why I’ll never be a big fan of ists and isms and sitting in front of university halls trying to stop people with ‘diverse views’ getting in to their speaking engagements.  What I’d like to see is MORE debate, not less.  Let’s not say ‘how dare you say that!’, let’s say ‘this is how I think you’re wrong’.  On the other hand…

What’s your sticking point? Have you got one? Are there things that shouldn’t be the subject of debate? Like what?

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34 comments

  1. Absolutely, totally agree with you. That the professor may be censured or fired is ridiculous. The problem is that people are afraid to actually think about what their positions mean. They’re unwilling to extend the logic of their positions. They don’t want to see what it could all mean. Better to close your mind and live in the world you feel comfort in then to open it and see the discomfort you cause.

    • I think the comment about how he teaches enquiring young minds and therefore we should be careful what he comes out with is very telling. I’m pretty sure this line’s been trotted out by many major totalitarian states when sacking academics. Young minds need to know how to argue back.

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      • Yes. That we’re supposed to be careful when our youth are at the age when they should ask and analyze and evaluate is pretty amazing to me. Clearly, I hope my kids reach similar conclusions to what I believe is the right approach, but I don’t want them to reach those conclusions in a vacuum. I want them to be challenged and exposed to every view possible and then have the intelligence to recognize the right approach, the right view.

      • Me too. Totally agree about kids. What do you do though when your kid decides on a position that’s totally opposed to whatever you believe in politically? It’s an interesting challenge – Mr F is a big fan of Thatcher and any other far right figure you can name (he stops short at the fascist ones). I wish I had the erudition to challenge him properly with facts and figures, but I just don’t. My only hope is that he’ll change with increasing age. Still, I’ve always told my kids that they’re quite free to form their own views on things, so I guess I should be pleased that he has! (and I am proud of him in that he’s very well read and knowledgeable in his chosen political/economic area).

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      • My kids are still developing, so we’ll see in the next few years. So far, they’re in general agreement with me on politics and culture. The oldest will be leaving for college soon. It’ll be interesting to see what he’s like in a few years.

  2. In the end, regardless of which hand you pick, you have to decide and act in one direction.
    Which isn’t to say that direction can’t change for each situation…

  3. How boring is no-one is willing to stand up for something he or she feels strongly about. Aren’t we allowed to have an opinion? Should we see the other side of the coin and possibly get new insight?

    What I am against is physical fighting over ideas: I’m right / No, I’m right and you’re wrong, etc. Smash, clash, bash.

    Fabulous post, Rose.

    • Me too, I wouldn’t go for physical stuff. Unless the ideas themselves were physical, like ethnic cleansing. I think personally there are a lot of things I don’t really feel that strongly about, and a very few that I do, to the extent that I have to restrain myself from proselytising. Like fur, cruelty to animals…that’s about it. Cruelty to people I also feel strongly about and would act on if I saw it.

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  4. “GIVE me a one-handed economist. All my economists say, ‘on the one hand…on the other’” (US President Harry Truman)

    Before acting on any decision, one has to way each hand …. and sometimes even more hands. Yes, at times the decision is a no brainer … other times, much more difficult. Nonetheless, one must also use a reasonable rationale … if not, who know how much gibberish one would encounter.

  5. Late to the party as usual.

    Sorry. I’m protesting the intellectual downfall of the human race: too much time spent on Facebook … been trying to tame the tiger. Researchers say that blogging and painting [they] are much better for the environment AND expand your mind without hangovers. OH DEAR sarcasm (i’ve heard) is the lowest-brow humor, on the other hand, it’s much more fun than reading Torte Laws.

    … on the other hand, I’ve been happily watching “Noah’s Ark” float by.

    For me, the saying “there are two kinds of people” has ALWAYS driven me CRAZY! BUT, i like the comparison to “on the other hand”. I think they make sense in that regard.

    This I know though for sure; (non-related) … there are more than two kinds of people!

    Yes, good to read your post. You are always enlightening and SO FUN!!!!

    P.S. On the Merm: I have some BIG FACED merms (with nothing “done” to them) to see if you like the face size. I’ll email under separate cover. The prissy merm is rather “small-mouthed”. If i altered her eyebrows she’d look a little more devilish: In fact that’s how she started out. xo

    • Whenever you’re ready xoxo soon we will pick a merm to go with! There are two kinds of people…nah I just wanted to make you annoyed! No really though, there are – only there are infinite possibilities about how you categorise them. There are the blonde and the not-blonde. The people who blog and those who don’t. The ones with willies and the ones with vjs. And the ones with willies AND vjs. Are you with us or against us? You could say there are (at least) two human drives – the one towards simplification – the grand theory of everything – and the one towards complexification – ‘don’t talk about Mel as if she’s a homogenous group!’. If I was a lol user I would put lol here, just to show that I’m not totally serious!

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  6. No debate should be forbidden, I completely agree with that. On the other hand, a lot of people who claim the intent of debating really just want to propagade something and use every possible means to push their agenda.
    It is, I think, completely legit to try and contain such attempts, especially when the reputations of others are attacked and the opportunity to refute arguments is limited.

    • There’s a difference between debate and pointing fingers (or libel). Sometimes a fine line though. I think everyone who enters a debate wants to push their agenda, unless they’re on a debating show and their topic has been randomly selected. That’s ok as long as they keep in the rules of civilised discussion – no cussing, hitting or calling on a righteous god to strike the other guy down (at least, I think them’s the rules…?)

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  7. You have all fired up with your passion for change, “Let’s not say ‘how dare you say that!’, let’s say ‘this is how I think you’re wrong’. ” We need to hear more of these and more people to open their eyes to the truth. Awesome post!

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