Monday, September 8, 2008

I'm inflammatory

It was Sunday. I was en route to a dinner with friends, and my friend Bob* was on his cell phone. I overhead him saying, "Oh, yeah. I know. Well Michael's right here, you want to talk to him? Ok."

So I get the phone. It is Bob's and my mutual friend Georgina*. We dispense with pleasantries, then I say, "I read your blog all the time." To which she replies, "I read yours sometimes, but it's really inflammatory." Then she said, "Come to think of it, you're pretty inflammatory, and I don't know why I'm saying this, but yeah." So I said, "Could it be because we're on the phone and you can't say it to my face?" To which she said, "I think that proves my point. I don't think I could say it to your face."

So I'm inflammatory. I get that. In some ways that is fair. Everything I touch burns. It's a general statement, but it could easily be agreed upon by more than one person I'm sure. So not long after the phone call, I thought of how I could maintain my newly discovered 'inflammatory' status. Well, the most obvious thing is to react adversely and take the opposite position on anything and everything anyone around me says, and then do all that is humanly possible to get a rise out of them. But I think it would probably be even more fun to be literal. I could let out my inner 'Pyro' and burn things. Now that would be fun.

But before I indulge in either of those possible methods, I would like to break down my own psyche for the average reader. I am a student of political science, philosophy, and I love good arguments (not screaming contests, but methodically logical/sometimes flawed discourse), and debate. For example, to this point in college I have taken three parliamentary and world debate classes, and I am currently taking a class on Alexis de Tocqueville and another class on the philosophy of the social sciences. What that entails is a lot of reading, digestion of information, and then a careful, logical, analysis, often followed by discussion in class. Now this discussion is not heated. I in fact find it quite easy to detach my emotions and biases to look at the merits of the arguments. Philosophically I like to deconstruct arguments and poke holes in them, putting forth my best critiques not to detract from the other side, but to understand it better. If I do not put forth a good argument, I expect my fellow students will find its flaws and help reconstruct or negate it thoroughly. Again, it's hardly personal. In order to get the best feedback and counter-arguments, I have found that I need to put forth a good, well-conceived argument of my own. 

Now here's the problem. With this mindset, often times I take umbrage with friends, colleagues, and family members when they put forth weak arguments. I sometimes unwittingly offend, because I'm trying to understand their argument, and so I question, and even brashly challenge their line of reasoning. But instead of getting it handed to me, and hearing a good argument in return, as I would with my political science/debate/philosophy student colleagues, I get a flustered response and often times extremely bothered friends or family members.

So I am a confrontational person. I know I should let more things go, and remove myself from the philosopher/debater mindset sometimes. But, for now I think I'll just light things on fire, and apologize with a bucket of icy water.

*note: real names not used to protect the people who think I'm inflammatory


jdprice said...

I enjoy your opinions. That's all I have to say.

Anonymous said...

It wouldn't be very fun if we were all polite to each other all the time, now would it? I like parliamentary style debate, too.

And though I think you're frequently out of your mind, it's always a good sparring match.

Michael Powers said...

Thank you Ben. I think I can safely say I am in almost complete accordance.

Anonymous said...

Right on, brother.