March 20, 2006 11:19 AM   Subscribe

Conversation is an art. "Hume suggested that politeness was not, in fact, "natural to the human mind," but "presumption and arrogance" were. Society depends on artifice. Conversation is an art." "American conversation now prides itself on angry authenticity or on being kind and "nonjudgmental"; it is meant to be "natural" and full of "self-expression." This does not make for great conversation or a vital political life."
posted by semmi (21 comments total)
"Mr. Hume, I'd like to introduce you to Miss Manners. I'm sure you'll have a perfectly delightful conversation together. If you'll excuse me..."

*leaves room, has a "natural" and "vehement" conversation with another boisterous American over a 6-pack of Schlitz*
posted by kozad at 11:39 AM on March 20, 2006

Man, this thing is chock full of taglines.

MetaFilter: Priding itself on angry authenticity.
MetaFilter: Politeness is not natural.
MetaFilter: A democratic rebellion against the artifice and artfulness of 18th-century conversation.
MetaFilter: Conversation for its own sake.
posted by Plutor at 12:20 PM on March 20, 2006

Conversation isn't an art. That's stupid and stuff.

Hey, did you see teevie last night? Buh-huh -- it was funny and everything. I can't really describe it. But, you know.


posted by CheeseburgerBrown at 12:20 PM on March 20, 2006

Yeah, semmi, what's your fucking problem, don't like the way we discuss around here, think you'll slip this in all passive-agressive, trying to tell us what to do?

Well fuck you and all your sanctimonious little retarded debate club friends, go somewhere else with your fancy hoity toi polite discussion.

[spoiler] Above, is joke. [/spoiler]
posted by Meatbomb at 1:12 PM on March 20, 2006

Cool stuff semmi. See also Richard Rorty and Jurgen Habermas for an extrapolation to the societal level, sort of.
posted by bardic at 1:13 PM on March 20, 2006

[spoiler] Above, is joke. [/spoiler]

posted by public at 1:24 PM on March 20, 2006

I happen to agree that conversation is an art, literally. The trick now is covincing the guggenheim to give me $5 million for it.
posted by shmegegge at 1:38 PM on March 20, 2006

Here, I think you dropped this: "
posted by soiled cowboy at 2:29 PM on March 20, 2006

Journalistic integrity is an art.
posted by birdie birdington at 2:37 PM on March 20, 2006

Y'know, I've noticed an increasing tendency on the liberal side (dunno about the conservative, I only hang out in the liberal echo chamber) to disdain even communication with the "other side." From biologists who think publicly defending evolution means giving intelligent design unwarranted legitimacy, to pro-choice activists who sneer at the idea of polite discourse with pro-lifers.

It's a hard topic. Telling gay people to politely ask for the right to marry seems perverse. But just yelling louder and louder doesn't seem right to me, either. If I were sitting on the fence on these issues - and plenty of other people are - I might just pick the side that seemed less obnoxiously self-righteous.
posted by lbergstr at 3:03 PM on March 20, 2006

Telling gay people to politely ask for the right to marry seems perverse. But just yelling louder and louder doesn't seem right to me, either.

Whatever happened to "polite but firm insistence"? Perhaps that is a dying art.
posted by davejay at 3:14 PM on March 20, 2006

Suck's take on social graces.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:37 PM on March 20, 2006

BTW, regarding the first post, kozad's views do not necessarily represent my own. As is the wont of Internet posters everywhere, even (or especially) here, fictional characters are invented for polemic purposes. If there were a polite 18th century conversation held in one room, and a Schlitz-driven argument in the other, I would certainly opt for the conversation.

And politeness is natural, inasmuch as any human tendency, whether gene-drive or cultural-driven,
is a temporary end-product of what we have come to be, as intelligent cooperative mammals.
posted by kozad at 5:49 PM on March 20, 2006

although if I were talking, my grammar and spelling would be better...
posted by kozad at 6:29 PM on March 20, 2006

or "conversating," as I've heard way too many times as a linguistic back-formation...
posted by kozad at 6:30 PM on March 20, 2006

lbergstr makes an incredibly valuable point. I'm gonna flag it as a fantastic comment.

but I disagree a little bit. I think the point's he's made are based on completely valid observations and that his interpretation is also valid, but I see it differently. I think that when scientists or liberals don't want to give intelligent design the validity it craves, it's not because of a refusal to communicate, but rather because of a wariness of any debate framed by the likes of Mr. Rove.

for instance: look at gay marriage. all of a sudden we're discussing the definition of marriage rather than the legal protections of two people in love. that's a fucked way to frame the debate. we're not the oxford english dictionary. we're a people who should, in all things, seek to protect the rights of those who cannot protect their rights for themselves. no person can say "I deserve [x] legal protection in the event of my beloved's demise" for themself if the state won't be a party to it. so we've made marriage the legal avenue to that protection, rather than just a religious ceremony. the same SHOULD be true for gays, but no. we have to talk about the religious nature of the debate, and the definition of marriage. framing the debate that way is nothing less than poisonous to our legal system and our entire national discourse. so, to my mind, THAT'S what we're seeing when liberals don't want to legitimize something. but that's just my opinion.

as far as the idea of yelling louder and louder, I tend to agree, but I fall on the other side. I think yelling louder and louder is stupid and pointless, and there comes a point where you simply have to act instead of talk. how? dunno. I have no mind for politics and demographics, but I imagine that if, say, the entire gay community put up an independent candidate for just one election and voted for him unanimously, then all of a sudden they're a party and whoever LOST that election would say "if we'd only had the gay vote." all of a sudden gay marriage isn't just a way for republicans to get the religious vote. all of a sudden gays are everybody's best friend, and all of a sudden serving them becomes the road to victory and REAL change happens.

don't believe me? look at evangelicals. it keeps looking like they're deciding elections and policy decisions all over the place, now. Why? because they were an untapped voter base for a long time. There are exceptions, but by and large it was considered a bad idea to be overly religious as a politician for a long time. And then they started voting as one massive unit, and they voted for bush.

So no. I don't think the democrats need to start communicating more with the right. I think they need to start solidifying and fighting the right even harder. If they don't, then they won't have a voice to discuss with at all.

posted by shmegegge at 6:39 PM on March 20, 2006

Yes Yes Yes!
posted by OmieWise at 7:43 PM on March 20, 2006

wait, so why isn't it possible to reframe the debate while still keeping lines of communication open?

talking to Republicans doesn't necessarily mean playing Rove's game. I'm not talking about going on O'Reilly, just a willingness to admit that there might be non-insane people on the other side who simply haven't been properly convinced yet.

yeah, some Republicans have an aversion to reasoning about these things, and they have a "strict father" view of government, and blah blah blah. (sorry, shmegegge, i know you didn't say anything about that, leftover frustration from another argument.) whatever. just because most Democrats are crappy at rhetoric doesn't mean we give up trying to spread our ideas.

winning elections would be even better than polite conversation. but i'm not sure why we have to pick between them.
posted by lbergstr at 11:09 PM on March 20, 2006

What is the difference between talking to people who believe in creation and people who believe in slavery? The one belief is doomed to obsolescence and the other has already arrived. You could not have a polite discussion with a person in the second camp. Is there really a point in attempting to have a polite discussion with a person in the first?
posted by bukvich at 6:20 AM on March 21, 2006

well, lbergstr, this is just my opinion. But I would say that the democrats, until about 5 years ago, were trying to talk things out and have reasoned discourse on the issues.

then along comes a born again who acts without the approval of his people or any body of government whatsoever, and all of a sudden discourse is out the window one way or the other.

but again, that's my opinion. I could be entirely wrong. But I honestly think that by now, democrats are tired of being the ones who talk things out only to find that the republicans have been cheating behind their back and getting away with it. Intelligent Design wasn't ever brought up as a conversation. It was brought up as a series of lawsuits.

clearly I'm biased.
posted by shmegegge at 7:48 AM on March 21, 2006

I hope there's a point (and the inverse). Wasn't that part of lbergstr's original point?

Good post, though i'm a little disappointed that its opening query - "what is there to talk about?" - got only "politics... gurgle... zzz" in response here. I would have been so happy to wake up to a big long thread about discourse analysis and pragmatics.

I'll be back there by the fire exit reading those Rorty and Habermas links, if someone who wants to talk about them should happen to show up.
posted by xanthippe at 3:44 PM on March 21, 2006

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