I have lost online friends. I have co-workers avoid me. People hesitate to speak their mind in my presence because they think I might jump down their throat. I will quibble over the silliest of points. I will spend hours debating the meaning of a certain inflection you used when talking to me. I will unfailingly point out flaws in your arguments when you talk to me, especially when you use a logical fallacy against me.
So what gives? Why am I such an asshole?
The short answer:
I don’t think I am an asshole. I think people don’t understand what motivates me.
The long answer:
I love to debate. Seriously. I really, really, really love it. I am a lifelong student and lover of knowledge. I seek, ever constantly, to expand my knowledge. I seek, actively, to challenge my own beliefs.
That’s the key statement, people: I seek, actively, to challenge my own beliefs.
I love the debate for the sake of the debate. I love the verbal sparring. The fencing between two opponents as they debate is beautiful to watch. It is exciting to be a part of it.
I don’t have to be right when I debate; in fact I love being proven wrong. I look forward to finding someone who can poke holes in my logic and leave me scratching my head. That’s a person I want to hang around – they challenge me. I enjoy the mental tightrope of knowing I am right and trying to find the perfect way to present it so the truth is . .. well . . . as obvious to you as it is to me.
The thing is, other people don’t like that. In fact, most of you don’t like it at all. You hate it. And I don’t understand you at all. I don’t understand why you don’t demand more of yourself. I don’t understand why or how you can blindly accept as dogma the things you hear and see and not ever question it but instead strike back at me when I ask simple questions. It’s not MY fault you haven’t thought your position through and have only emotional responses to give me.
I have watched you get downright angry – spitting angry – when you feel like I back you into a corner with my questions. You hate, hate, hate having to admit that what you think or believe is illogical at best – irrational at worst. You are disgusted with those of us who challenge you, but you absolutely loathe and despise those of us who categorically state that we do NOT share your belief, especially when we see them to be irrational.
And the thing is, I am not trying to offend you. I am doing what I do – what I would like others to do to me more often. I am digging into the things you say to me, freely and of your own will, and trying to weed through emotional responses and get to the heart of the issue.
I don’t think I am doing you a favor – your personal gratification has nothing to do with it. I do it because I must. Because that’s who I am.
I understand now that most people are debater haters – they’re content to accept what they know and leave it at that. The problem is – I am not so content. To me, that blind acceptance of what you “know” to be true has caused most of the problems we’ve faced in the history of our race. After all, we all “knew” that there were only four elements a few thousand years ago. We “knew” that the best way to deal with sickness was to bleed a patient nigh unto death. We “knew” that the Earth was flat. We “knew” that it was a natural order that some must be masters and other slaves.
How many things to you “know” and accept blindly? We all do, to some extent. Even me. The big difference between me and most others, though, is I WANT to find these blind beliefs of mine and excise them from my system. I consider them dark blemishes and I want to shine a light on them.
You may not like me for disagreeing with your opinion, but you hate me for pushing to to find out exactly why you have your opinion. And I have a theory as to why some hate me for it.
They hate me for it because I expose them to be shallow and unthinking. They hate me for forcing them to recognize that they are blind followers of people in their social circle. They hate me for making them realize that they have given up so much of themselves just so they can get the transient comfort of feeling like they belong.
Not everyone hates the debate. Not everyone despises me and my incessant questions, my pointing out of fallacies, and my general love of debate. Many of you reading this are just like me – you are my equals and we spar verbally all the time. Some of you are my superiors – I strive to think as clearly about issues as you do.
Some of you have felt the sting of my words and assumed I was attacking you because I debated you. But it’s not true. I attack issues. I don’t attack people. It’s just too bad that so many people assume I am making a personal attack when I just want o talk about an issue.
I can hate the idea you just presented to me, and still love you dearly as a person. That’s how I roll. How do you roll?