Sunday, November 14, 2010

My favorite insult

Again for those who have been following the comments on this week's blog posts: my friend Calyx has been making some great points about insults being both valuable and entertaining. I absolutely agree with her ... I would also add that insults are sometimes necessary. This is to do with respect, a concept that IMO is often misunderstood. Respect is a two-way street - it has to be earned, it can't be demanded. Respect is also something that is only due to ... let's call it real entities. I as a person, an individual, may be worthy of respect, on the strength of my being an independent sentient creature, a human being and allegedly endowed with certain inalienable rights. My thoughts, however, have no automatic claim on anyone's respect. Any ideology that I follow, any religion, if I had one, any political convictions ... these are not entitled to any respect. They are, and must be, subject to any kind of criticism - including insults - arguments and ridicule.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is our duty as responsible citizens to do just that - insult and ridicule ideologies and beliefs that we find reprehensible and potentially damaging to our community and/or society. Criticism is necessary, absolutely necessary ... and it is very often at its most effective when it takes the form of ridicule. Making something ridiculous is a great way of making it less threatening and frightening. This will of course often be offensive to those who place their faith in that which is being ridiculed ... whether they are Muslims, Tea Partyers (Partiers?), James Blunt fans, Progress Party voters, or anything else ... atheists, BookCrossers, historians or Labor voters (I added those last four for objectivity's sake, could you tell?) ... persons in the relevant group may choose to feel offended, but that doesn't matter. Hurt feelings are not valid arguments.

Of course by saying this I do not mean that ridicule and insult is the only form of argument we should be interested in and that anyone should just shut up and take it. Of course I don't mean that. (Straw men need not apply.) But it does every debate a great disservice to remove these verbal weapons from the debaters' arsenal. And of course the same applies to ridicule as to any other form of argument - you can say what you want, but you may be asked to back it up. You may have to take ridicule in return. That's the way it works. But if someone makes fun of your beliefs - religious, political or otherwise - then claiming hurt feelings is not an argument.

It is also very important to remember that if someone makes fun of your beliefs, that doesn't automatically mean that they're making fun of you. This is something that a lot of theists, especially Muslims, really struggle to comprehend. To the point that it's actually very tiresome. So Calyx, I don't see that what Elizabeth Moon wrote on her livejournal can be called racist. But that's another blog post. :-)

Because this post is called My favorite insult, and that was indeed what I intended it to be about. The best insult I ever heard. It's a true story. I wish I could have been there.

This happened years and years ago, back when someone who made their living with basically nothing but talk could be relied on to actually have a superior command of the language. It happened in Stortinget, the Norwegian Parliament. I wish I could remember who the guy was who said it. I love him. :-)

I also don't remember what the debate was about, but it was a heated issue and a lot of emotionally charged arguments were flying back and forth. Finally, one of the MPs got sick of this, asked to be allowed to speak, went up onto the speaker's podium and said that after listening to this debate, he was forced to conclude the following: that half my colleagues in this hall are idiots. Having said this, he went calmly back to his seat.

This of course caused a huge uproar and the debate was totally sidetracked. People were furious with our man and demanded an apology. He showed no signs of planning any such thing ... but many of the others were really very angry and finally the President of Parliament* had to speak up to put a stop to the hullabaloo. He said that this behavior is not acceptable here and you will have to apologize. Alright, fine. Our man went back up onto the podium and said - and this is just too brilliant - I apologize for the offense I've caused, I take it back; half my colleagues in this hall are not idiots.

Then he went back to his seat and refused to get up again for love or money. :-D Gotta love it.

*A mostly ceremonial position; the President has extremely high rank but little actual power. Our head of state is the monarch and our leader of government is the prime minister. Being President of Parliament is an honor bestowed upon senior MPs which is supposed to mostly remove them from politics. :-)


Paz said...

I like the Lady Astor one to Churchill and his reply "Sir, if you were my husband, I would poison your drink."
"Madam, if you were my wife, I would drink it."
Irish politics is more personal "You have a failed ideology, you have the most hopeless policy that I ever heard pursued by any nitwit. You are a failed person, you were rejected and your political philosophy has been rejected"
But see below is what we get reported on, the shame is that the guy that looses his cool is quite intelligent for a "Green"

James said...

Ah, what a load of bollocks. I stopped reading halfway through...

...but only because I realised I haven't replied to your e-mail yet.

In answer to the question in your e-mail, you gave me De Dodes Tjern for Christmas last year (and I love it very much) ... or at least you gave the present to K & K to give to me when they came back from visiting you. Whenever that was. Was that this year? Was it actually last year? Was it last year that they came to Norway and this year that I saw themm? What was I saying?

I haven't seen either of the other films you mentioned, though. But it has to be said that this year's birthday was a shit one for one huge reason so there's no need to worry about giving me anything for it.

Except that letter mentioned in your e-mail, that is...

Leisha Camden said...

@Paz: You guys have been in the media here a lot lately! Every day there's something about Ireland. Unfortunately these are stories that may be construed as insulting, I'm afraid ... ;-)

Another great one with Churchill: Noël Coward was one of his arch enemies, and one time when the latter had a new play about to open he sent a much-publicized letter to Churchill with two free tickets, inviting him to the opening night, saying that there was one ticket for C. and one that he could give to a friend, 'if you have one'. C. replied that unfortunately he couldn't make it that night, but he would be happy to attend a later performance, 'if there is one'. :-D

Leisha Camden said...

@James: I'm sorry, but I will be sending you a birthday present anyway ... and a Christmas one too, there's no stopping me. Sorry.

Paz said...

Its not looking good here either, we have an idiot for Taoiseach (tea-shock ie Prime Minister) and the opposition are worse, we are fucked.