Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"Resorting to Manners"

(I don't have time to look for links right now, but I'm publishing a draft so I don't forget. If you'd like to help me with links, please use the comment section. )

A very wise person (ding) once told me that when the non-brown people run out of arguement, they "resort to manners." By calling someone impolite, they manage to not engage valid points.

For example, once my friend was complaining to me about how Native Americans in Washington have explicit treaty rights to collect shellfish from private property. I said, 'it's a treaty man.' He protested, saying that they should break the treaty to protect private property owners, and I said something like "the United States of America is incapable of upholding a treaty with the Native Americans." He got annoyed, and then called me rude. "You're rude!"

He resorted to manners. That's all he had left.

In high school, I was the president of the ASB, and the newspaper editor came to us halfway through the year, saying that they had spent their budget and they needed $4000 to continue. The student government approved it, but I sent a valentine to the newspaper saying that they should be more responsible. They came back with my valentine the next issue of the paper in two editorials, one by the editor, and one by the FACULTY ADVISOR, saying my note was "unpresidential." What a joke. First of all, nobody cared. Second, the newspaper got off lucky, I should have vetoed that bailout; THAT would have been presidential.

They resorted to manners. That's all they had left.

Now our friend Condi poo-poohs Venezolano president Hugo Chavez for criticizing Bushy-poo, saying his rant is unbecoming. Resorting to manners. That's all she's got.

(is anyone even going to bother to ask why I'm applying this generalization about non-brown people to the most prominant African American in our government?)

You know what I think is unbecoming a head of state? Lying about going to war. Detaining people without habeas corpus. Looking for ways to torture foreigners. Sending loyal, patriotic men and women to die in a war we didn't need to start. Wanting to enshrine homophobia and discrimination in federal law.

It's not that I hate the man. But he is worse than bad at his job. He does not uphold the constitution; he subverts it. He does not protect the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness; he puts people in the line of fire.

I don't think he understand what it means to uphold and protect the Constitution. I think he's upholding and protecting the myth of the "Don't mess with Texas" America that exists in his own hard head.

Or maybe he just is as evil as the people surround him.


KC said...

1. It's also impolite (to say the least) to do the things that bring about these "impolite" reactions - breaking treaties, spending all your club's money and then acting like you're entitled to more, etc. It's just that nobody calls them on it.

2. Also, the types that get to say "you're being rude" are the types that invented this style of politeness. It's designed to give them an advantage. People who already have power benefit from politeness.

3. I loooove the soup I am having for breakfast almost as much as I love your blog.

heebie-geebie said...

Found you off Bitch Phd - enjoying your blog!

Another good one is my grandmother's tactic of pointing out that I'm losing my composure. If I hadn't been, I lose it when she says so. Either way, my content is lost.

I feel embarrassed and ignorant as I type this, but brown people don't do this as well? I thought it was an "immature" thing, not a non-brown thing.

john patrick said...

Hey heebie-geebie,

Good question!

In my culture, in my family at least, we did not "resort to manners." In my family, when we ran out of arguement, we just switched to another older arguement and then continued.

When you're making a generalization about "Brown" people, you're really talking about "everyone in the world that's not White." There are somethings that we all do have in common (e.g., we consume way less dairy per capita, we high-five less).

From my limited perspective, I see it as a White thing, but you're right, there are probably plenty of non-White cultures that do it as well.

Not mine though, and when my friend pointed this phenomenon out to me, it really helped me to understand this culture.

And to tell you the truth, I'm not above using it myself. I never have before, and I was particularly disgusted when Condi Rice used it yesterday, but whatever.

When French people are frustrated with something, they will do what I call a "failed whistle." They will use it to answer questions, and I have to tell my American students what it means.

Likewise, Americans sometimes answer questions with 'mm-hmm" for "yes" and "mmm-mmmm" for "no," and I have to explain to the French people what that means.

The point is, some of the behaviors that we take as universal are really very sharply distributed along cultural lines.

(as you can see, I'm trying to see how long I can get away without discussing the definitions terms Brown and Non-Brown.)

heebie-geebie said...

WHY ARE YOU YELLING AT ME????, um, I mean I see your point.

It's very useful to have things I take for granted pointed out as part of the dominant paradigm, at least the local US dominant paradigm, and not ordained by God. From now on I'll stomp my foot and harumph.

Apropo to nothing, I had the same thought, "Dang, the U of M stadium is incredibly quiet for holding 100,000 people" when I was there. I chalked it up to both the shallow grade of the bleachers and the timidity of the fans.

Gwen said...

You're just being confrontational!
Just kidding. Yes, very unpresidential of you to tell people to stay in budget, very polite to break treaties...
"People who already have power benefit from politeness." I think I'll write that down and put it on my wall.
This seems related to my parents' "you're being argumentative" or "stop talking back." And if I say I'm not being argumentative, or I'm not talking back, then I am, and if I don't, then I agree so I am. So the only solution is to either back down or be sarcastic, which I get in trouble for although my dad has no trouble "ending" arguments with "you're right, I'm wrong, I know nothing." Again, do I agree, which is rude, or do I lose?
Unfair arguing tactics are rude; don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Anonymous said...

Chavez is a Caudillo who is shutting down his political opposition so he can be President For Life and Dictator of Venezuela.

Rice is criticizing him for this. Condi is right, and you people are wrong.

Liberals are defending the Fascist who is shutting down the opposition television station and closing down his opponents newspapers, all in the name of his Bolivarian Revolution.

Liberals can always be counted on to defend fascists. You people defended Stalin, you defended Mao, you defended Castro and his hired killers. And now, you'll defend Chavez.

Lenin was right about Western liberals: "Useful Idiots".

jp 吉平 said...


No one here is defending Chavez. We are saying that Condi's "unpresidential" comment is extremely pathetic as an argument.