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. :-)
3 weeks ago