Dan Van Riper, the Albany Weblog guy, first wrote to Ask Roger Anything:
Roger, I… I’m sorry, I can’t think of anything to ask. I really want to but… I can’t. Why not?
Because my life’s an open book? Because you’re having dental work done?
But then he came back and asked:
Wait, I just thought of a question. It’s actually been in the back of my head for some time. You’ve said more than once that you don’t like conflict between people, that when it happens you tend to shy away from it. I know several people who are like that. My question is, why? Do you have any idea where that comes from? Or is that too personal?
To answer the last, easiest, question, no, it’s not too personal.
I suppose I need to define the terms. My daughter’s favorite Beatles song is “We Can Work It Out,” which features the line: “Life is very short, and there’s no time for fussing and fighting, my friend.”
Watching the Sunday morning news shows, or Bill O’Reilly, or the like, I realize I would not do very well. People are rapidly throwing around facts and pseudo-facts, often yelling over each other. It would create in me too much agita to think clearly. Later, I’d have some treppenwitz moments, thinking of what I SHOULD have said.
I’ll state my positions – say on this blog – and I’m sure there are people who like them, and people who don’t, and that’s fine. People – you or others – will have a reasonable response. Maybe we’ll change each other’s minds or maybe we won’t, but it’s OK because it seems to be done with a level of mutual respect.
Whereas on the Times Union blogs, or national newspaper websites, the conflict tends to escalate, with one side trying to out-shout the other. No one will be convinced of the position of the other, so what’s the point, really? I’ve posted some things on the TU site, where I made my initial observation, then others blithely go off in directions I hadn’t intended. I let them, but after a while, I get bored with it all. It seems futile.
Then there’s the uncertainty thing, the sign of a good humanities student. I certainly don’t pretend that I know all the answers – others may think so, but it’s not true – and I put forth the possibility, in SOME topics, that I could be at least partially mistaken. I don’t have the need to badger others about those things.
I’m an old political science major, but political arguing I find demoralizing. Often, “victory” is seen as stopping government, or a corporate entity under its jurisdiction, from doing what it ought not to have been doing in the first place.
None of this, though, is the REAL answer. The REAL answer is how I was raised. My mother was great with the aphorisms such as “You get more bees with honey than vinegar.” My father’s message is that the angry young black man thing doesn’t work well in a primarily white society.
I was always a GOOD kid. I had anger, but it was quite suppressed growing up. I expelled a LOT of it in my twenties, no small portion of it at my rather controlling father. And once I let it go, a lot of it was just gone. I just don’t get as angry as I used to; sad, frustrated, even occasionally in despair about the world The Daughter is going to inherit – pollution, global warming creating ecological catastrophes, economic and cultural inequality, to name a few. But anger just doesn’t work for me, most of the time.
In fact, anger makes me feel out of control. It’s been known to give me a raging headache. I’ve been told I look like a crazy person (crazier person?).
Interestingly, then, it means that the rate times I REALLY get angry, it’s usually more effective. If I’m a known hothead, then its effectiveness is compromised.