Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn
dachte

For Better or For Woes

Hooray for political conversations where people can talk about their concerns as things that can be considered alongside other concerns, instead of saying "X is right!". At the very least, it's more pleasant to take part or listen - I like it because it feels close to the semi-mythical "honest conversation" in politics/philosophy where people don't have catchphrases and don't use tricks to defend their positions - it feels more like a shared brainstorm. I call this mythical because I don't think anyone really manages to get all the way there, but the approach is very pleasant. Hmm... a brief daydream of a home like there where one never really goes all the way to a dwelling but the places traversed "on the way" are enough to inspire trips. On the topic of traversals, the 61c café has been good at providing random meetings with people I know recently, and some good conversations on books. I was a bit worried in the last one because I was talking about Rushdie while a Muslim-looking guy (see below) was sitting nearby, and while he jumped into the conversation a bit initially, later he just sat there looking as if he'd like to talk but wasn't sure if he should. *shrug*

(I refer above to muslim-looking meaning visibly part of a muslim subculture in the United States that adopts, as per their understanding of Islam and some traditions, a certain look that covers their hairstyle, clothes, and demeanor. Not all Muslims I've met (especially Indian Muslims) have had this look, but I've seen the look at Ohio State and among Pitt students).

With my enthusiasm about learning about other philosophies and cultures, a lot of people easily get confused about my identity or level of friendliness towards those philosophies/cultures. This is particularly pronounced when I use Buddhust, Muslim, or Hebrew philosophical terms as analogies when talking philosophy, and also with my circle of friends (many of whom would probably not get along). Strategically speaking, there are bits of enemy and friend in everyone I know, and I suspect that anyone who honestly looks at people they know would see the same. Perfectionism in that realm would represent a kind of insanity that only a certain kind of zealot would admire - some fundies I've spoken with restrict themselves to friendships with other fundies, and simular with some political types. I don't think that people shouldn't care at all about the ethics of people around them either - there have to be thresholds (whether conscious or not). Someone who's value-active would presumably hope to gently steer people they know towards compliance with values they choose to universalise (by my framework, morals and ethics) and have vague ideas about which people to keep at arm's length or dissociate from. In any case, while thinking strategically is necessary to be value-active, I don't think think it's the only lens people should see people through - pleasantness/fun should be more prominent (an area I really need to work on).

A lot of fuss was made over a recent discovery on Wikipedia -- that Essjay, a prominent Admin recently hired by Wikia (a kinda-sorta commercial cousin to the Wikimedia Foundation with a lot of the same people and software at the highest levels of each), was posing as a Professor of Theology (while being a 24-year old without a Bachelor's Degree). He went further than simply using it as an "identity" on Wikipedia, writing to community outsiders as a professor involved in the project, doing interviews with newspapers under his assumed identity, etc etc. He argues that everyone knew that things didn't add up with his profile, and that he should be able to choose his online identity as he likes. This is rubbish - first, people shouldn't need to play investigator to know who they're talking to. It's presently acceptable on Wikipedia to provide minimal information about oneself. I don't think it is acceptable, nor should it be, to lie, especially on a matter where people reasonably might treat one's statements different based on these things. There's the old half-truth that for arguments, it shouldn't matter who one's talking with, and that appeals to authority are worthless - it's ultimately too pessimistic to be workable - authority is challengable in the right places in the right ways, and it's possible to use it spuriously in which case it should be ignored, but the kind of authority where it's implicit that "I know what I'm talking about, and I have the judgement based on experience or knowledge well-grounded in the currently established scientific mainstream, as appropriate by my field, to back up my statement" is the missing part of that half-truth that people with big egos tend to overlook. In short, I think that university degrees are actually very meaningful. They're not the final word, but they're far more than just a piece of paper. I find it incredibly disappointing both how Essjay's response to this has been "If you're my friend, you won't see this as a big deal", and that so many people are simply circling the wagons and insulting those who criticise Essjay for such dishonesty. It's amusing to me that, given the idealism we tend to attach to our online communities, we still end up having people do relevant-to-the-job stupid shit that mirrors the stuff we're cynical about real-world politics for - megalomaniac nutcases like Eloquence/Erik Möller and now disturbingly dishonest prominent community members like Essjay.. it's all very human.. and very disappointing.

Tags: wikipedia
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