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Semiformalishmaybe

101s

This applies to most kinds of activism.

I think we need to avoid *ever* writing documents like "Our Cause 101" for the purpose of pointing people in an argument at it, even if their argument is (or seems to be) a standard one for which we have a well-written rebuttal.

The reasons are this:

  • In doing so we forget to talk to people, and lose touch with the fact that people mioght disagree with us, sometimes in surprising ways
  • We neglect that others might reasonably decide not to use our terminology; we usually will write such documents from our worlds-of-terms, and neglect that the world-of-terms on which an argument rests needs to come from negotiation between the people (even if not explicit)
  • On that world-of-terms thing, we easily accidentally will decide that our world-of-terms is as important as the foundations of our worldview, and get frustrated when people don't accept those terms (this is pretty much always invalid and stupid), if we don't stay in the habit of negotiating definitions and frameworks for sake of conversations
So, for any "Our Cause 101" that involves scripting of arguments, sure, that's fine, but it's for *us* in discussion, not for *them*. We can't just point people at that stuff because we're apalled at their "ignorance", telling them to sod off and read a mountain of text before we deign to talk to them and by the way if they disagree they're an enemy. That's lazy, that's too simple, that's not going to convince anyone, it just serves as a wedge by which we can pretend we're better than people who don't already understand our foundations.

We have an obligation to have those conversations. We have an obligation to figure out which parts of our philosophy are standards of decency we put on everyone, which are things we consider to be nice things to convince people of but it's okay if they disagree, and which things are high theory we're not going to insist on in any way. We also need to remember that no matter how clever or solid or moral we think our cause is, it is not necessarily a failing or a lack of education if people are exposed to our ideas and are not convinced.

Let us imagine how cumbersome it would be if, say, there were 4 very active sides to every issue, they all insisted that the others were wrong, and whenever discussions start, they each referred to an encyclopedia set sized group of standard arguments they have. Imagine further what that would do to people who might have somewhat unorthodox but equally decent (or perhaps better) frameworks than their elaborate theory. Not helpful for discourse!

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