Henning's 82nd maxim for Staying Sane on the Internet

Against random individual opponents I will defend the reasonableness of my opinions, but not my moral right to hold and express them. If the latter cannot be assumed granted, then why are we having a conversation in the first place?

(I will, however, occasionally defend the right of others to hold and express their opinions, when it needs doing and does not appear to be too pointless. That's different.)


Dear Abby

Normally I don't read this kind of thing. But the Evil HR Lady mentioned Dear Abby, with a link that I was feeling bored enough to click.

Today, on her front page Abby is relaying a plea from a group of people who use speech synthesizers. They write:

  1. Please be patient. It takes us a little bit longer to get our messages out than it does you.
  2. Feel free to ask questions. Don't pretend to understand us if you don't.
  3. Do not think we are stupid. Have you ever tried to communicate using one of these things?
  4. If it looks like we're having trouble, ask if we need help.
  5. Treat us like adults – just as you would want to be treated.

and so forth. Abby's response?

I'm pleased to help spread the word. For people who are vocally challenged, you have written an eloquent letter. [...]

Since when is the bar for written eloquence supposed to be lower because the writer can't speak? Has Abby actually read point 3 in the letter she's reprinting? Mysteries abound.

Dear Abby: Well put. For a woman, you write pretty neat yourself.


The book of Job

I've neglected to write anything here recently. Perhaps I should save some of the more self-contained comments I write in other places, to give people a better chance to tell me how mistaken I am. Here's my reaction to a recent Slacktivist post:

I've tried several times to read the Book of Job, but always had to give up about a third way in. The prose set-up is readable enough, but then the speeches start, and they make my eyes glaze over. The only content I can get from them is "a really, really verbose shouting match". The speakers assert their position with great eloquence, repetition, and doubtless masterful poetry in the original language. But while there is much asserting going on, essentially no arguments are presented. And I've not found a line where anyone even pretends to address a point their opponent has made.

The friends repeatedly implore Job to step down and make peace with God again and then everything will be alright (despite, as told in the prologue, that everything went bad while Job was behaving examplary), mixed with alternately chiding Job for complaining and hinting that it must all, somehow, be his own fault. Job, in turn, does not attempt to clear up this misunderstanding but prefers to switch between heaping big flowery loquacious abuse on God and heaping big flowery loquacious abuse on his friends for their (admittedly inexpert) attempts to cheer him up.

This goes on at least until about chapter twenty-something, at which time I admit defeat and put down the bible in exasperation.

If it's a play one could at least try to defend it as a magnificently tongue-in-cheek satire on how different religious viewpoints simply cannot communicate in any meaningful way, because they fail to listen to each other. But that somehow sounds a bit too modern of a morale.

I think I even prefer Plato. Yes, everyone Socrates speaks to is a strawman, but at least they're strawmen who pretend to care what Socrates is saying, and vice versa.

[Original comment thread].