Monday, February 20, 2012

Seven People Unfit for Grown-Up Conversations

It’s a busy world out there. There’s never enough time to do what needs to be done and always one more time-sucking moron trying to take precious minutes of your life for their own pet projects.

I know!

Even when you get rid of the one in front of you, there’s always one more. It’s a law of nature, much like the one that says that intelligence and decibel output are inversely correlated, a handy thing to keep in mind this election year.

So as a public service, we here at 4 Quarters, 10 Dimes have compiled a handy guide to some of the people you can simply ignore out of hand, thus preserving those precious minutes for more important things, like blog reading or determining the exact point at which relaxation becomes sloth.

You’re welcome.

And yes, it’s my blog and if I want to slide into the “royal we,” as I did above, there is nobody to stop me. That’s one of the prices you pay for reading other people’s blogs.


You know that the person approaching you is unfit for grown-up conversation, should be kept at least fifty yards from a voting booth or internet comment box, and can be ignored without fear of missing anything important if:

1. They use the word “sheeple” without irony.

If there is any neologism in the last three decades laden with more sand-in-your-underwear irritation and less meaning than this one, I haven’t heard it. It is used by the stupid and the batshit insane to let us know that they are More Aware Than You Are, that they are Mavericks Bucking The Establishment And Flipping Off The Man, that they are Not Fooled For A Minute, Nosirree, Even If You Pathetic Losers Are, but for those of us on the receiving end all it means is that unless you fake a heart attack – up to and including being loaded into an ambulance if necessary – you are about to spend the rest of your evening being freighted down with bizarre and evidence-free conspiracy theories. There will be theatrics, recriminations, and exhortations. You may also end up covered in spittle. Grown-up conversations do not involve spittle.

2. They have emblazoned anywhere on their person or vehicle a Confederate battle flag.

I’ve gone over this before in this space. I’m not sure why people think displaying the flag of traitors a century and a half after they were soundly and deservedly whipped for trying to destroy the American republic and build their own moral hellhole explicitly based on slavery is something to be proud of, but people who think that way need to be told to pass you by and move along. No, no, you say to them, keep moving. Keeeeeep moving. Riiiiiiiight between the white stripes and the double yellow line, just stay there, make yourself at home, and watch the pretty bright lights get closer and closer…

Atta boy.

And yes, the Confederacy was in fact based entirely on slavery. They said so themselves, and attempts to say otherwise just make the speaker look stupid. Said speaker should stop lying about his (almost invariably, “his”) own past, and maybe someday, with intensive training and a passing grade in a sophomore-level US history class, he’ll be fit for grown-up conversation. Maybe.

3. They think any recent American president was a) a Socialist, b) a Fascist, or c) both.

All this means is that they have no idea what Socialism or Fascism actually are, and that attempts at responsible adult conversations with them will be a waste of time. Any attempt you make to enlighten them on their historical errors will probably result in you being called whichever one they are ranting about, or, possibly, a sheeple (vide supra). Spare yourself the agony and beat them soundly about the head and shoulders with whatever is near to hand until they go away, even if all you have to hand is a medium pizza, and you will be better off. And if they seriously argue option c, you have my permission to use something more substantive than the pizza.

4. They have no idea how money works.

I’m not talking about knowing double-entry bookkeeping or basic math, though the math at least helps. I’m talking about how money works in society – what it means, how it moves, where it comes from, what you have to do to get it, what you have to do to maintain it, what happens when you don’t have enough of it (and not just “I can’t buy what I want when I want”), what happens when you have too much of it, and why it can’t simply be willed into existence without consequences.

For example, there are a great many ideas out there that are heartfelt, altruistic, and probably going to help someone if they ever get implemented. But the most basic rule of life is that there is no such thing as a free lunch – you have to figure out the costs of things, and not just the upfront costs but the ongoing costs. Where is this going to come from? And who is going to get it? It is astonishing how many idealistic people there are who seem to think that other people will just pony up money to pay for their castles in the air or devote their time and energy to seek out those who will, and by other people they mean you. These people will spend most of your life draining you with their plans and trying to make you feel guilty for poking reality-based holes in them. Don’t let them get started. That’s not a grown-up conversation.

5. They think education is a luxury.

Welcome to the 21st century, moron. The jobs that pay enough to support a family all require an education. The economies of the world are divided into the ones that support those jobs and the impoverished. The glue that binds neighborhoods and towns together is its schools. The thing that separates a citizen from a subject is education.

And yet in America today stupidity is somehow seen as patriotic. There are legions of idiots who insist that learning in general and schooling in particular is a waste of time, or a frill good only for the already wealthy and powerful, or a drain on what really matters (apparently defined as beer, reality television, and indentured servitude). There is an entire political party dedicated to making sure that American citizens no longer have the opportunity to go to school. This party gets a tremendous amount of support from the very people who would most benefit from an education, in large part one suspects because it tells those people that their ignorance and their hostility to both progress and their own interests is somehow worthy of praise rather than something to be overcome through initiative, discipline, and – yes – education.

Such people should be quarantined in a hostile desert environment far from civilization – Texas, perhaps – and not allowed to interact with civilized folk. Or breed, for that matter. If you don’t think education matters, you have no business talking to grown-ups.

6. They have no grasp of science.

This isn’t about knowing chemical formulae or quantum mechanics. This is about knowing how science – the basic underpinning of modern society – works. It’s about knowing the difference between science and theology. It’s about being able to do the math when confronted with quacks, con artists, perpetual-motion-machine salesmen and politicians scheming to avoid responsibility. People who don’t understand the basics of science lead the charge against modern life. In some cases, such as the fools wearing copper bracelets to improve their health or throwing rocks into their laundry to brighten their whites, they are simply tiresome. In other cases, such as the halfwits systematically reducing the herd immunity of modern society to killer diseases because they read something on the internet about how vaccines will KILL YOU AND EAT YOUR DOG, they are dangerous and should be soundly thrashed. Invariably, they insist that you be as ignorant as they, and if you allow yourself to be sucked into conversations with them, eventually you will be. Grown-up conversations leave both sides better off than before. These people don’t fit that definition.

7. They insist that food is a moral choice and you’re on the wrong side of it.

You’ve met these people. Many of them are vegetarians or – worse – vegans, people who are absolutely aghast at the thought of eating “living things” but who have forgotten that plants were once alive too. They think you’re cruel. The gap between your first bite of a cheeseburger and the invocation of Godwin’s Law is measured in nanoseconds. They insist you eat just like them, or both you and the planet will go straight to hell. On the other side, you’ve got the testosterone-poisoned knuckledraggers who think that anything other than a drawer-sized slab o’ beef swimming in beef sauce with beef jimmies on the top is proof that you are either homosexual, Communist or both. And don’t even get me started on the Atkins people.

There is no good that will come from any conversation with such folks. All that will happen is that your hot meal will get cold (or your cold one will warm up) while you lose valuable IQ points by the sentence. Grown-ups know that once you get beyond issues of sustenance, food is there to facilitate conversation, not be the subject of recriminations.

“Preach not to others what they should eat, but eat as becomes you, and be silent.” (Epictetus)


Now go out there and have some grown-up conversation. The world needs more of that these days.


Tom said...

The whole world is crazy, except for me and thee, and with this post, thee has shown that thou art verily still with the non-crazy!

timb111 said...

This is the most violent post I've seen on 4x25, 10x10.

Just previous to reading this, I read a similar post (not the violent part) that comes to a different conclusion on Bob Carrol's Unnatural Acts blog, backfire effect. He thinks there is some scientific evidence that you can change the mind of a wacko. Of course your piece is much more amusing.

David said...

All my violence is rhetorical. I just get tired of having my time stolen by the unrepentant, and sometimes I snap back.

Nathan said...

Re: being nice to you food...

I saw a fantastic video yesterday. An animal rights group was going to "expose"(?) some bird hunters with video from their brandy new miniature helicopter drone. The drone got some wonderful footage before it was, predictably...shot down by the hunters.


timb111 said...

I didn't really think you'd waste a perfectly good medium pizza on these idiots. French fries maybe, but not a pizza ;-)

David said...

@Tom - Thanks, milord!

@Nathan - Seriously? This I must see. Bwahahahahahahaha.

@Tim - I hope it would never come to that... ;)

Kathleen Rehder said...

mmmm...beef jimmies.

beatrice in Paris said...

Thanks for the "sheeple" reference. I learned a new word today.

David said...

Well, for the sake of all that is holy and good, please don't use it! I would hate to have been the vector by which that word infected Europe.

Mike said...

Thank you for this blogpost. Especially the simplifying use of "fascist" or "communist" for anyone you don't like is not only insulting to any intelligent person, but also not really helpful for the victims of real fascist or communist repression as in the end no one can see the difference.

David said...

Thanks, Mike! And welcome to 4q10d.

It is true that on the ground it can be hard to tell when one is living in a Fascist vs. Communist state - they're both totalitarian and therefore tend to act in similar ways, though for very different reasons. But they are different, and to argue that they are the same - as one recent best-seller has - is simply ludicrous. And, as you point out. disrespectful.