Apathy Jack writes:
So after school a few days ago and I was bussing into town to go book shopping. Sitting next to me was a Year 13 of my acquaintance who was going into her part-time job. We got to chatting. It was entirely pleasant. We discussed sundry school related things, you know how it is.
As the journey neared it’s end, an American a few seats ahead of us turned back to my girl and said: “All you’ve been doing for ages now is raggin’ on people. There are better things to talk about.”
Now, I’m protective of my hoodrats, and the fact that this guy was talking to her rather than me got me a bit defensive.
“Yeah,” I replied to the American, primarily to buy time as I cast my mind over our conversation to try to remember how negative we had been. “But they’re nowhere near as interesting.”
“I mean, you’ve done nothing but rag on people for, like, forty five minutes now.” He continued.
And there he made his big mistake.
See, I could have explained it to this guy: I could have taken him case by case through what we were discussing, explained that it was ninety percent positive; Old School Balls, past students of outstanding accomplishment, aspirations to join student leadership bodies and the like.
There were negative things, sure, but we’re proud at my school, and we’re careful about what dirty laundry we air in public. It may have sounded like I was raggin’ on someone when I referred to them “making a few mistakes”, but that was a euphemism understood by me and my student to mean “hasn’t come to class in weeks and is spending time in questionable company.” When I said that someone was “a bit silly”, we both knew it was her friend who came to school drunk. My raggin’ a kid for “not being as clever as they usually are” meant the Year 13 who was selling cigarettes and drugs to Year 9s in her pastoral care.
Which brings us back to the ‘context’ thing I occasionally go on about. I could have gone the route of asking him where he was while all of this was going on. These kids are not anecdotes; They are her friends, and my students. We were talking, in only the broadest of terms, about our worries for them. This kid works or trains for sports teams seven days a week, and I was going into town to buy books for my classes because my school doesn’t have the disposable income to buy them what they need. I think we’ve earned the right to be worried about people we care about.
But I didn’t do any of that.
I looked at him with a big shit-eating grin on my face, modulated my voice to convey a friendly, chatty, and utterly self-righteous tone, and replied: “Nonsense! We can’t have been “raggin’” on people for forty five minutes. We’ve only been on the bus for twenty-five minutes.”
“But... You’ve just been raggin’ on people.”
“Certainly. But we can’t have been doing it for forty five minutes, as we’ve barely been travelling for twenty. And at any rate, I don’t think I could “rag” on someone for that long. Thirty minutes is about my limit for “raggin’”, so I’ve been keeping a careful eye on the time.” I smiled and tapped my watch.
The guy turned back around, muttering his point to himself, you know the way people do when they lose an argument, which this sort of was I guess.
Now, that was massively intellectually lazy of me.
Any number of intelligent (or at least convincingly self-righteous) ways I could have explained his faults to him, and I pick on a small semantic error he makes in the middle of a sentence.
This is something I find myself doing more and more.
I should be able to demolish these people in Socratic ways. This is not to say that I should use the Socratic Method, which basically involves repeating “But why?” until you get poisoned by a relieved public, but rather that I should be able to show these fucktards what fucktards they’re being. Instead I go for the easy option – picking on semantics, and being obtusely pedantic
Maybe it’s that as I get older and more curmudgeonly (yes, more curmudgeonly – I was a pretty cantankerous12 year old) I have less and less time for stupid people, or maybe I’ve spent too long arguing with teenagers. Either way, I’m becoming disgracefully intellectually lazy in my old age, and I imagine that all future disputes will see me starting any rebuttals with “Oh yeah, well, nice fuckin’ shirt, asshole” before I fire up the big guns and start in on their mothers...