Rant: The Bubble of the Upper Middle Class

This is probably one of the dumbest rants I’ve made.  I mean, I know why it bugged me, but my reaction was entirely out of proportion.  On the other hand, that’s why I created the “rant” category.  So here goes:

This came across my twitter feed a couple of days ago:

The person who has the most power over your life is the person you have not forgiven. That person holds a part of you in bondage.

Seriously?  That is who has the most power over your life?  It’s not the boss who decides if you make rent next month?  It’s not the cop who might or might not decide to shoot you because he doesn’t like how you look?  It’s not the government clerk who decides if your child support should continue?  It’s not the insurance company functionary who decides if you’re going to get that medical treatment you need?  It’s not the executive making millions by failing to supply your city with clean drinking water?  It’s not the abusive spouse you can’t leave because you have no way of feeding the children without him?  It’s not the guy giving the order to send a drone missile strike that will make your home collateral damage? It’s the person you haven’t forgiven?  That’s who has the most power over you?

Yeah, yeah, I know.  The sentiment is that we ought to forgive those who have wronged us.  Sure, fine.  But the way it’s put, I mean, just what sort of comfort,  security, and isolation do you have to have in order to be so completely unaware of what life is like for the mass of humanity?  When I lose patience with the thinking of the upper middle class, this is why.

Okay, rant over; thanks for listening.  And to the person who made the tweet: I forgive you.



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74 thoughts on “Rant: The Bubble of the Upper Middle Class”

  1. Boy, lots of levels to this. Somebody like Trump really needs to forgive because hate and vengeance are his daily bread.

    The advice comes from Christian teachings, but saying it is the most important thing in your life is over the top. As you say, you need to be in a pretty comfortable place for this to rise to the top. It’s good to not dwell on past hurts, it’s bad for your health and mental well being.

    I can see why you feel that a person giving this advice must be upper middle class, so that something like this is the most important thing left to worry about. But poor Christians may feel the same way. Namely they honor the idea of forgiveness. But most important?

  2. It’s how the Jacobins came to power. They forgave those people who were involved in the Ancien Régime. Also, didn’t the Bolsheviks forgive the Romanovs and the Russian provisional government?

  3. I went to a concert my granddaughters were singing at one of those prosperity churches. There was a lecture/sermon from someone telling us how important forgiving was. And boy did she have cause to forgive. But she did, and she won (getting custody back from her ex). So now her “forgiveness” appears to be eating away at her. She told the audience to picture the person we need to forgive, with the assumption that we all have such a person. Her assumption was wrong.

  4. If your continuing reactions to some past injustice are keeping you from responding effectively to your current challenges, then that is vitally important to you.

    Responding better to today’s challenges has a multiplicative effect.

    So I think it’s useful to at least get closure on old things that are bugging you, if old stuff is bugging you. I’m not sure forgiveness is the only way.

    If you believe in magic, you might try doing black magic spells against people who have wronged you. If you believe the spells work and that lets you put aside the old issues and concentrate on what you need to deal with now, it might be good for you independent of whether the spells actually harm the people you want revenge on. But if you don’t believe in magic you will probably only feel silly.

    Any solution that lets your unresolved feelings stop interfering with your solutions to today’s problems, is likely to be better than any solution that doesn’t.

    On the other hand, if you don’t have unresolved feelings that interfere with your life, that’s great! Different people have different problems and we can’t expect one improvement to be good for everybody.

  5. I think there is an unstated premise here–“The person who has the most power over your life [[that you can voluntarily retrieve]] is the person you have not forgiven.”

    I am far from sure that this is generally true, much less universally true, but the statement makes a lot more sense when you think of it with that in mind.

  6. Like Wickersham’s Conscience, I know people who have let anger at people dominate their lives. Basically, the anger became their life to some degree and somewhat defines what they are. It is kind of trite to say they should just forgive. These people are not capable of forgiving because their anger is just too much of their identity.

    That must be a horrible way to live, at least from my point of view. But hey, maybe they (like Trump) enjoy it.

  7. So it was actually, “the person who has the most power over your life who doesn’t in fact have any power over your life”? Okay, that makes a certain sort of sense, I suppose.

  8. maybe it’s “the person who has power over your life that you could actually effectively take away”? because the others are hella more frustrating.

  9. So now the statement reads: “If you haven’t forgiven someone, that person has some amount of power over your life.” Which is a valid reminder, if trivially obvious. This only leaves the question, if that’s what the individual meant, why didn’t he say that?

  10. skzb, I’d say some people who have intense anger have it toward “safe” people. People that are not really a threat and who do not have any real control over the angry person. At least that is the case for the two people I had in mind. It’s much safer that way. Who said this anger had to be rational.

  11. “The class that has the most power over your life is the class you have not expropriated. That class holds a part of you in bondage.”

    There, fixed it.

  12. The class that has the most power over your life is the class you have not personally expropriated.

    If you assist one class in expropriating another class, you have only changed which class has the power over your life.

  13. Jonah:Once all property is held in common by one class, there is no longer any outside class that is holding power over another class. There is only a group of equals (i.e. everybody) and power is held co-equally by all.

  14. “Once all property is held in common by one class, there is no longer any outside class that is holding power over another class.”

    That does sound like it would solve the problem, once that happened. Unless the single class somehow split up into two or more classes that did not share completely.

    A similar solution would prevent sexual deprivation. If everyone was required to have sex with anybody who wanted them, so that all sexuality was held in common with no one left out, then we could achieve equality in that dimension also.

  15. Somehow this turned into a rant about property instead of anger and forgiveness. I don’t see how communal ownership has that much to do with the OP question. People can still hate co-equals. I suppose the assumption is that the anger would be because of economic oppression. But that is just one of dozens of reasons why somebody might get angry.

    The OP says that if you hate somebody (it doesn’t have to be rational or justified), they have power over you. Not that if somebody has power over you, you will hate them. The OP statement is really a motivational tool to get you to forgive or at least to consider forgiveness. I think to that extent, it has some value and validity.

  16. Sex is not property.
    Property is not social status.
    Social status is not power.
    Power is not information.
    Information is not knowledge.
    Knowledge is not wisdom.
    Wisdom is not truth.
    Truth is not beauty.
    Beauty is not love.
    Love is not music.
    Music is THE BEST.

  17. It isn’t enough to hold all the property in common. Don’t we also all need equal social status? And equal power. Equal information. Equal knowledge. I get lost somewhere around there.

  18. It was never about anger and forgiveness. It is about being so entitled and isolated that you imagine issues of anger and forgiveness are the most important things in people’s lives.

  19. “The person who has the most power over your life is the person you have not forgiven. That person holds a part of you in bondage.”

    skzb, you assume somebody has to be well off to believe the above. It ain’t necessarily so. To be sure, it is much easier to fall into the anger trap if one is financially comfortable because one is not focusing on paying next month’s rent. Also, the wealthy often feel entitled to get their way.

    You say that someone who feels that forgiveness is important must be well off. Again, it ain’t necessarily so. Plenty of poor people harbor anger and hate, to their detriment. Plenty of poor people believe in forgiveness and would agree with the quote.

    Or is this just a way for you to express your personal un-forgiven anger at the upper middle class? The OP quote is just a distraction for that. If it all was all about property and wealth and not anger and forgiveness, why even mention the OP quote? It just confuses things.

  20. “skzb, you assume somebody has to be well off to believe the above. It ain’t necessarily so.”

    Uh, right. At the point I’m being bombed by a drone missile, or dying because the insurance company won’t approve treatment, or about to be made homeless, my biggest problem is the person I haven’t forgiven. I should be worried about that above all. Bunk.

    “You say that someone who feels that forgiveness is important must be well off. ”

    No, the person who thinks that, for most people, the person “you haven’t forgiven” HAS THE MOST CONTROL OVER YOUR LIFE. Are you being deliberately obtuse, or do you actually imagine that most people are so comfortable that no one in their lives has more control over them than someone they hold a grudge against? FFS. Do you also believe that if you’re falling from a 50 story building your biggest problem is that you forgot to cancel your dentist appointment tomorrow?

    Nothing wrong with being comfortable; the problem is when you imagine everyone else in the world is as comfortable as you, and so the aches and pains and annoyances in your life must be the biggest problem other people face. The level of entitlement here is simply stunning.

  21. Gee, I guess over the top sarcasm and exaggeration obviously makes it all true. ;>) It sounds like the OP struck a nerve in you.

    You need an example to expand your consideration. Let’s consider a poor young black man who has been hassled all his life by the local cops who want to “teach him a lesson.” There are probably a million black kids that might fit here. The kid is not wealthy, he may not have a reliable bed, but he sure hates the local cops with a passion. So much so that this hate/anger negatively affects the life and death decisions he makes. “If they already think I’m a criminal, I might as well do crimes. That will teach them.” Lets say he drops out of school and starts selling drugs. That can even seem to be a rational choice in his situation. Or he gets in the cop’s face and ends up dead. The OP quote sure seems to apply to him.

    Where in my very probable hypothetical is the kid part of that upper middle class that you hate so much?

  22. Gee, how about the cops who threaten his life having more control over him than some particular cop he hates? Because they can, like, kill him. Then he’d be dead. That is a great deal of control, don’t you think?

  23. “You can’t really win an argument against somebody’s feeling that something is just plain wrong. Papa always says that.” John Barnes, _Orbital Resonance_

  24. Gee, isn’t that what I said. “cops”, plural. Yes, those cops do have a lot of control over the kid, one way or another, as I pointed out. Both physically and mentally. So the OP quote really does apply. The quote does not imply that the anger is unjustified. It is talking about what is going on in a person’s mind. And not to belabor the point, but the kid is not financially well off, even though his hate can be a big part of his every day.

    So are you trying to say that because there could be more than one person (cop) pissing off the kid and that there is some actual control involved, that the OP quote does not apply? The kid can certainly emotionally envision all cops as being the same universal “cop” or we could change the story to be one specific cop to make you happy.

    Would the kid agree with the quote? Probably not, or he wouldn’t be in the position he is in. His mother or aunt, however, would likely stand by the quote. And neither of them is likely to be wealthy. They just want the kid to survive.

    This is metaphysics, not physics.

  25. I think the kid in your example probably has a lot of anger against all cops, and for good reason. But his anger toward them is not controlling his life, actual threat of death by cop, with or without provocation, is the issue here. That’s control. And furthermore, that’s a social issue. It’s not some individualist, feel good swill, like the quote Steven offered.

    In a world like ours, simply not forgiving someone for some past wrong is jack-squat compared to the daily real-life threats that billions of people face every day. The person who utters such drivel is obviously living in some bubble of economic privilege. It’s not complicated.

  26. There is a deeper issue here.

    What happens if the various oppressed people forgive their oppressors? What happens then?

    We need for the oppressed to nurture their rage. Cherish it. Nourish it with bellows and oxygen until it shines white-hot.

    Let the hate flow through you. More and more, until you don’t care whether you die in the next ten minutes, provided you can kill one of your enemies. Nurture your rage until you don’t care about anything else. Build on it until it consumes you and there is nothing else left.

    Only then can we get the revolution.

    All this forgiveness shit is just helping the oppressors be oppressors. We have to kill them. Kill them all. Kill every oppressor until there is no one left but the single class of people who none of them have power over any other.

    Then we can die in peace.

  27. Jonah, your fondness for overstatement does not help.

    We don’t need to hate individuals to hate a system. Social revolutions tend to deal harshly with the people who were the faces of the brutal system they’re rejecting, but they don’t deal harshly with everyone. You may be confusing social revolution with racial revolution.

  28. Further, the call to forgive is usually a call to forgive people who wronged you in the past so you can leave them in the past. It’s not a call to forgive someone who is kicking you while you’re down.

  29. The point of the forgiveness, as Will points out, is not to help the oppressor or the guy who looked at you nasty at the bus stop. It is to unburden yourself of a continual hate that is affecting your life in a negative way. Go to a shrink, she will tell you the same thing.

    Some of you seem so focused on your personal anger that you are locked in, or at least you give that impression. One does not have to be well off to see that there can be value to yourself in forgiveness. Forgiveness is not the same as forgetting.

  30. David, you got me curious about how Martin Luther King balanced forgiveness and protest. I found this:

    “Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship. Forgiveness is a catalyst creating the atmosphere necessary for a fresh start and a new beginning.” -Martin Luther King

  31. “the call to forgive is usually a call to forgive people who wronged you in the past so you can leave them in the past.”

    Yes, that’s a good point. But skzb has a good point too.

    Forgiving your enemies is an important survival tactic. Somebody or other said that holding onto hate is like drinking poison hoping it will make your enemy sick.

    But who says you should try to survive in a bad system? Maybe it’s better to sacrifice your own life to help destroy that system. When the people who wronged you in the past were part of the continuing system that still wrongs you now, maybe it’s better to do your part to destroy that system than to survive.

    If even 10% of Americans got guns and went out to kill people who were better off than them, and kept killing until they themselves were killed, I guarantee US society would be irrevocably changed.

  32. Some white guy in Texas just acted out on this anger and killed around 26 people attending a church service. Boy, that will teach them a lesson.

    Jonah, the problem with your approach is that you will kill many of the wrong people and die in the process. That just doesn’t sound good to me. The people you need to attack are well out of your reach and have their own guards. Just because somebody is better off than you doesn’t make them an evil person who deserves death.

    Once you have reduced everybody down to illiterate peasants (kill the educated too), there isn’t much of a society left. So I really don’t like the approach you suggested. It has been tried.

  33. David, you have a point. Maybe it has to be some other revolution, fueled by the rage of the oppressed who refuse to forgive.

    I haven’t found another purpose in not forgiving, when forgiveness aids your personal survival.

  34. The entire point of class politics is that the personal is *not* the political. It’s not this or that person who is the problem, it’s how things are set up on a systemic level. That’s why socialists have historically opposed individualist/terrorist tactics.

  35. Jonas, I agree that is how it’s done, but it doesn’t seem to work all that well. I get the impression that pretty much the entire world is controlled directly or indirectly by a relatively small number of people that control the money. Then they give orders to the next level down and so on.

    But as I said elsewhere, these people are very well protected. So that even with a revolution or war that kills a significant percentage of people, after the smoke clears, these few people remain in charge through different surrogates. So that even with violent revolution, the system remains in place. Maybe I’m too pessimistic or too poor an historian, but that seems to be what has happened.

  36. David, if the few people who control everything through surrogates are an unfalsifiable hypothesis, maybe it would be worthwhile to try out assuming they don’t exist and see whether it changes anything.

    If it does change something, that might suggest a way to find them.

  37. I wasn’t thinking of these people as micromanaging everything. Just setting the stage for each action being one that gives them more money, regardless of the consequences. I should have said “relatively few people.” That could vary from dozens to thousands depending on the issue in question.

    Actually the recent data dump of people with off shore tax free investments is one source of names. The Panama Papers, another. The lists of people going to the Bohemian Grove events might be another. Things like the top 100 wealthiest people might be another. So there is no question that the people exist. The question is what influence mechanisms they have and can it be stopped.

    The current austerity fad is one example of control by these people. No interest on savings is another. Slave labor in prisons is another. Destroying education is another. Preventing Puerto Rico from getting the aide they needed is another. Trump’s new tax ripoff is another. Trying to kill SS and Medicare is another. So the fix is in. The system is broken from the little man’s point of view and getting exponentially worse.

    Iceland’s taking over their banks was one good example of something that can be done to fight the “system”.

  38. These people don’t need to be killed to be disempowered. They don’t even need to be overthrown. They just need to be made irrelevant. Their power is conceptual; they can do nothing directly, and their actions are only manifested through the actions of the working class. That’s the whole point of socialism, after all. If we seize control of the machinery of production, all the fictional money in all the offshore bank accounts won’t mean anything.

  39. David – you are purposely missing the point. Let’s be reeeeeaaaalllllllll simple here. If someone has a gun to my head and my mother comes along and says, “you know, you should forgive your ex-husband for being a dick, ” my answer will not be,” you are right! That’s what I need in my life at this moment.” I need someone to stop the guy with the gun! You are conflating “privilege” with money. In my life, I have the privilege to think “wow, holding a grudge can really hurt you, not the other person.” Unlike my students from El Salvador who had to flee the violence of their country. Some folks don’t have the luxury to spend time thinking about forgiving their enemies. They are just hoping not to die. Also, it’s fallacious reasoning to use Bernie, a man of privilege, to prove a point about how this is not an example of privilege. And he would agree with skzb.

  40. Sandra, I could accuse you and skzb of deliberately missing the point and changing the subject on top of it. skzb wants this to be all about economic privilege. But the OP quote is about something else entirely. If you guys want to argue privilege, fine. But drop the quote as it is about something else.

    “The person who has the most power over your life is the person you have not forgiven. That person holds a part of you in bondage.” I have to keep going back to the OP because you want to argue something else.

    The quote is not about somebody threatening your life, that is something else entirely and needs to be addressed differently. It is about somebody who is letting their anger about the past affect their lives today in a negative way. It is your call, if you don’t believe in forgiveness. Martin Luther King had a lot to say about this kind of thing. You and your students might benefit by reading some of his writings.

    To change your example to apply: Your ex-husband is now dead. But each day you blow on the embers of your hate toward him. You don’t have the energy to deal with your children because that anger consumes your energy. You are short with the people you work with and yell at any guy who does something harmless to remind you of your dead husband.

    I am fully aware that privilege exists and that it is rampant in society, as it has been for at least 10,000 years. But attempts to ascribe everything you don’t like to privilege is possibly an example of what the OP quote was all about. Which may be why skzb reacted so strongly to the quote.

    Your El Salvadorian students are at risk of PTSD. They could be reliving the horrors of their past lives. If they are in this country (USA), they are now in a position where there is no imminent physical threat to their lives from those of the past. To behave as if they are would be dysfunctional. So they do have the luxury to consider whether they want to forgive people. You can call that privilege if you like, but it is a misuse of the word.

  41. One thing I want to make very clear is that forgiveness is not the same as forgetting. So if you forgive someone for cheating on a bar tab, that doesn’t mean that you will let them get away with that in the future.

    It also does not mean you need to be passive or submissive. If somebody wants to hurt you, the wise thing is to get the hell away from them. Report them to the police if that is what is needed. People in abusive relationships too often accept the abuse, thinking it is forgiveness. It is not. It is weakness.

  42. The OP quote is about forgiveness. The OP is about exactly what Sandra said. I am at a loss about how my post changed the subject of the post I wrote. There’s some sort of weird mental gymnastics at work here, and my brain is in danger of pulling a muscle just trying to figure it out.

  43. skzb, What happened is that you used the OP quote as specific evidence for a position of privilege because a person must be in a position of privilege if they think the OP quote has value. Therefore it has no value. Or that the quote does not apply in situations of abuse, or something to that affect. I hope we are on the same page so far.

    Maybe I’m being too technical here with seeing a fallacy in that reasoning and trying to explain the fallacy. But that is what I’ve been trying to address. Not whether there are abuses or that reactions to abuse are needed and justified. More just plain, is the quote direct evidence of privilege and does the quote have value and in what situations.

    I have tried to show that one need not be in a position of privilege to think the quote has some validity or that it might be of some use. I’ve also said that to using the quote in a discussion about abuse and privilege is confusing (as you seem to agree), because they address different things (as you seem to agree). But they are also not totally unrelated as abuse generates anger that needs to be dealt with one way or another. Talk about an emotional mess.

    My reading of the quote is not that one has to passively accept abuse in the name of forgiveness. Abuse is abuse and needs to be dealt with appropriately. The quote is about what harm your anger over the past could do to you if it continues.

    Or maybe more simply; abuse is now, forgiveness is for the past.

    I hope that makes sense. And yes, there are mental gymnastics involved as this is tricky stuff.

  44. David- at risk of dragging this out even further…

    ““The person who has the MOST power over your life is the person you have not forgiven. That person holds a part of you in bondage.” [emphasis added]

    There is a reason that this statement is dangerously banal. The reason is that one word “most”. It diminishes any legitimate grievance into a petty personality flaw. If you are abused by any means, stolen from, raped, tortured, is it really your inability to forgive that injury that continues the harm? Not if the agent of that harm is unrepentant and still possesses the power to hurt you again. You decision to forgive someone at the higher end of a power dynamic really is immaterial, to them in particular. They hold a part of you in bondage whether you forgive them or not. They will abuse you whether you forgive them or not. That is why that statement is utter nonsense for anyone who does not live a life of privilege. If Steve Forbes wants to forgive the valet that accidentally scratched his Lexus, well, good for Steve! He probably will feel much better about himself. If the valet wants to forgive Steve Forbes for getting him fired, well, that is up to him. He might feel better too, but he is still getting evicted for failing to pay his rent.

    The self-actualization industry is a vital and predatory part of the control mechanisms of our out of control capitalism. When Deepak Chopra, or Dr. Phil, or any of those greedy asses sells you the idea that your life woes can all be fixed by letting go of negative attitudes and resentment of past injuries, they are telling you that what is wrong in your life is all your fault. They reinforce the feelings of inferiority and shame that anyone in the underclass is told to feel all the time. If you are poor, if you are hungry, if you are homeless, you are to blame. It isn’t that the economic system you are living under requires a large percentage of the population to be needy, to suppress wages and create an artificial sense of scarcity. Should hungry children forgive Trump and company for trying to destroy their schools and take away food stamps and school lunch programs? Should any of us?

    So, to complete your phrase, forgiveness is for the past, abuse is now, and outrage is for the future. Forgiveness will not mend our broken society. Forgiveness will not undo the ongoing abuse by the powerful. Forgiveness is a luxury for people who are not living in bondage. Outrage drives action and change will not come without action. How you feel about your abuser means nothing to anyone but you.

  45. Larswyrdson, I see where you are coming from and I agree that the word “most” is over the top and shouldn’t be there . I also can see how the quote could easily be used in a manipulative way, but then lots of things can. I was going to mention that possibility, but as you say, this had dragged on a bit.

    I was trying to address the quote on its face value. I don’t read the quote as implying that the victim is at fault for their situation. What it implies is that a person is responsible for how they deal with their anger. I think that is legitimate and something different.

    The class stuff including abuse and manipulation is just that. The quote doesn’t really apply to that. It is a different axis of thought. The only intersection is that privilege and abuse cause anger and the quote talks about addressing anger.

    It isn’t about fixing the country. “How you feel about your abuser means nothing to anyone but you.” Exactly. Now you’ve got it.

  46. Larswyrdson: Yes. It was the word “most” that set my teeth on edge. Without it, I’d have seen the tweet go by and moved on with my life.

  47. The people whose tweets we can’t ignore are the people who have the most power over our lives.

    Hmm. Actually, given our current president, there’s some truth to that.

  48. “The self-actualization industry is a vital and predatory part of the control mechanisms of our out of control capitalism… any of those greedy asses sells you the idea that your life woes can all be fixed by letting go of negative attitudes and resentment of past injuries, they are telling you that what is wrong in your life is all your fault. They reinforce the feelings of inferiority and shame that anyone in the underclass is told to feel all the time. If you are poor, if you are hungry, if you are homeless, you are to blame.”

    You have made the best comment, Lars Son Of Fate! :)
    Outrage is for the future, indeed!

    Although I think that David Hajicek has some points, as well.

  49. When pondering philosophies, Taoism makes sense to those who feel they have no real power over their lives and who have no hope in changing their condition, or that of others.

    When everything else has failed and you just can’t fight anymore, try the solace of convincing yourself that the good and bad things in your life are only perceived as such by you because of the arbitrary judgements you and others have made for yourself. It probably won’t work, but at that point you might as well give it a try.

    Forgiveness is important, but should be the last stage of freeing yourself from some person’s or some system’s power. Not the first.

    So, until then, be an Enemy of the People (a la Ibsen or Flavor Flav… your choice).

  50. Can I drop the, I think Heine’s apt quote that “We should forgive our enemies but not before they’re hanged.” ?

    There’s plenty cases where forgiveness, for any meaningful definition of “forgive” will bite you in the ass horribly.

  51. David – are you a victim of abuse? If not, please don’t try to define it or explain it. Weakness is not a part of it. And, yes…..I am a survivor. And a fucking bad ass.

    As someone who teaches argumentation, please name the fallacy you are operating under to try and prove the quotation wrong. You need to be specific.

    My kids have more important worries than forgiving someone. Like working for rent and food. They may have more privilege than before, but don’t mistake them for privileged.

    Finally, MLK would agree with me. He also had to worry about other things than forgiveness. He talked about it because he’s a fucking priest and that’s his job.

    You like to argue. I see it on many threads. Relax. Quit being all reductio. (That’s an actual fallacy.)

  52. Yes, I am a victim of abuse. Most people are. You are not very good at being a bad ass, you lack the self discipline. Simply being angry hardly qualifies.

    Begging the question was skzb’s fallacy that I objected to. I am not operating under any fallacy.

    skzb is arguing that forgiveness is a sign of privilege, not me. I am arguing for practicability and rational behavior.

    http://www.azquotes.com/author/8044-Martin_Luther_King_Jr/tag/forgiveness Try actually reading some.

    No, I don’t like to argue. It turns into a pissing contest.

    Reducto ad absurdum is NOT a fallacy, it is a way of analysis and it really doesn’t apply here. Maybe you need to hit the books again before you go around insulting people.

  53. “skzb is arguing that forgiveness is a sign of privilege, not me. I am arguing for practicability and rational behavior.”

    *sigh* Okay, one more time, before I give up. No, I am arguing that the belief that the person you haven’t forgiven *is the most important person in most people’s lives* is a sign of living in a middle class bubble. “The most important person.” “The most important person.” “most” “most” Get it? Had the word “most” not appeared in the tweet, I wouldn’t have made the post.

  54. “Reducto ad absurdum is NOT a fallacy, it is a way of analysis and it really doesn’t apply here.”

    RAA is a respected technique in mathematics. There are some purists who don’t accept it. They say that any time you use an indirect proof, you can find a direct proof and you should find it and use it. But RAA works.

    Here’s an example. The natural numbers are the numbers you can count, starting at 1. 1,2,3, etc. A natural number x is even if there is another natural number y so x = y+y.

    Suppose somebody said that all natural numbers are even. Of course you can easily disprove that. 1 is a natural number and 1 is not even. It would take a little effort to prove that 1 is not even. Sometimes RAA is easier.

    If every natural number is even, then for any natural number x we can find a natural number y which is smaller. There can’t be a first natural number. But 1 is the first natural number. That’s a contradiction. So there are natural numbers which are not even.

    But when we try that method in the real world it’s harder.

    “We should be compassionate to every living being.”

    RAA argument against that:

    If you are compassionate to cattle you will not eat beef. If you are compassionate to pigs you will not eat bacon. You must not kill any living being or pay anyone to kill. Before you eat a cabbage you must wait for it to die and turn brown, and if its corpse is infected by some other living being you still must not eat it.

    If you are compassionate to every living being you must starve to death. If you are compassionate to wheat kernels you will save them all and replant them, without eating any. Although if you are compassionate to sparrows in the winter you will give the wheat kernels to them so they won’t starve.

    And if you are compassionate to Nazis they will kill everybody they think is inferior. To be compassionate to their victims you must have no compassion for Nazis, you must kill them all as quickly as possible.

    Believing in compassion results in absurd results. Therefore compassion for all living beings is wrong.

    This RAA argument has some problems. It is taken to an extreme. You can be compassionate to someone or something without taking it to the extreme of sacrificing your life. If necessary you can find compassionate ways to kill Nazis. It isn’t a choice between letting them do anything they want versus throwing them live into the woodchipper.

    In general, when you make a reductio ad absurdum argument about a real-life situation, not math, the people who agree with you already about the conclusion will say it’s a good argument, and the people who disagree will say it’s a fallacy.

    Whether it’s really a fallacy depends on the particular arguments you make. Does each step really lead logically to the next, with no alternative interpretation? And it also depends on whether the final result is in fact absurd. Some people say that there’s nothing wrong with sacrificing your own life for those you care about. It might be perfectly OK to live a short life being compassionate to everybody. Or not. Somebody has to choose whether it’s absurd or not.

    In real life, RAA arguments tend to be evocative. They give people an emotional sense of the point. And they tend not to be airtight logic, which in a sense makes them fallacies. But in real life it’s very hard to make a substantive argument about things that matter, that isn’t a fallacy.

  55. I have a different tack:

    Perhaps the “most” is akin to the “best” in, “My grandfather’s lángos is the best in the world.” Not objectively factual, but contains a truth nonetheless. Ask a person who’s fighting depression what they think of the tweet – the person who runs their life, makes their decisions, and is with them every waking and sleeping second remains unforgiven.

    Or perhaps you’re right, and it is indicative of the blindness of the upper middle class to the problems of those less fortunate. Misery is a dangerous competition, however, and can lead to some very unfortunate outcomes, both in a reductio ad absurdum hypotheticals and in real life.

    Interesting scene that this topic reminded me of: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s9TOWIc_KLU

  56. Ah, David…….I am not angry. Not with anyone except a 24 year old who murdered a 17 year old student of mine right here at school. I was trying to point out that you are being purposely obtuse. Which is what everyone here was basically doing. It’s not that you didn’t have a valid point initially but after piles and piles of evidence you continue to hold on to your original argument as if conceding makes you less intelligent or less worthy. I won’t pretend I can make that judgement about you as I only see what you are typing here. I’m sorry to hear you felt you were weak because you were a victim. One actually has nothing to do with the other but if telling yourself you were weak and became strong helps you live with it, more power to you. You think I’m 1.) dumb and 2) weak because (ultimately) I disagree with you. Hope that helps you.

  57. skzb, got it. I just couldn’t think of a simple way to say it as Sandra wanted a fallacy identified. And maybe that wasn’t the best one either.

  58. Sandra, let’s try and sort out that gory mess a bit.

    Ad Hominiem attack. Ad Populum. More ad Hominiem and so on. Plus lots of talking down and twisting statements.

    I don’t think you are dumb, I think you would rather argue and insult people you disagree with than consider what they say on the merits of the argument. If what I said in the past was valid, then it is still valid today as nothing changed.

    I do like the way you first said I couldn’t possibly have a valid position because I wasn’t a victim like you were. Then here you turned my being a victim against me, saying if I was a victim I was weak and that affected my judgment.

    You are arguing, trying to win something. Most everybody else is discussing things, making good points in the process. The goal is not winning, or at least it shouldn’t be.

  59. @Sandra Spaulding “If someone has a gun to my head and my mother comes along and says, “you know, you should forgive your ex-husband for being a dick, ” my answer will not be,” you are right! That’s what I need in my life at this moment.” I need someone to stop the guy with the gun!”

    This may seem like a side issue, but maybe it isn’t.

    If somebody has a gun to your head and they haven’t shot you yet, they have a reason to not shoot you. If they just wanted to kill you, they would have already done it. They want something else, and your life might depend on finding out what that is.

    Sometimes they mainly want to be listened to, or at least that’s the first thing they want. They think that if they have a gun people have to listen to them.

    Sometimes they got into some sequence of events they didn’t know how to stop, and now they’d like to get out of it but they don’t know how to do that and feel good about themselves.

    Sometimes they want power over you, they want you to do everything they want including go to a private place with them and fulfill all their sex fantasies and then be so grateful to them for not killing you that they suffer no consequences.

    It varies.

    But in every case, there is a reason you are still alive. If they shoot you, you will never listen to them again. They can’t undo their sequence of events. You will never fulfill their fantasies.

    A distraction can be very useful to you. If your mother tells you to forgive your ex, you can see how the gunman responds. If he angrily demands your attention, he wants attention. If he gets involved in the conversation about your ex, he’s looking for a way out. If he tells your mother he’ll shoot you unless she does exactly what he says, he probably has fantasies about two victims. He isn’t likely to shoot you over it, for the same reason he hasn’t shot you yet.

    Anything that distracts, that disrupts the sequence of events, can be useful to you. Because the sequence the other guy is following, whether he feels like he’s in charge of it or not, is not intended for your advantage. Any disruption (not defiance, which fits into the pattern, but something which does not compute) might help you.

    Pointing guns at people is a game. Usually the goal is to dominate you. Winning does not involve shooting you now. You could get shot anyway, because he might be crazy or just bad at the game. That’s a risk you take no matter what you do. Gun training always teaches students not to point a gun at anybody unless you are shooting them. Because they are not teaching how to play this game.

    Sometimes it works to say “Listen, I’ve had a really hard day and all I want is to go home and fall asleep. Could we continue this some other night?” Sometimes the guy with the gun is looking for human contact, and being treated like a fellow human who’s playing a game with you, is enough.

    In general, if you are in a trap, you don’t find a way out of the trap by nurturing your feelings about being trapped. You have a right to your feelings. And you are more likely to find something useful if you approach the problem with an attitude of curiousity, and look for opportunities.

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