Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Is anger a gift?

'The truth is born of arguments, but so too are enemies' - Jody Barton, Frontline Gamer Blog, 2011

I've started this blog with a quote, from me, because I think it's exactly where I stand on the issue of arguments, online or otherwise. Although I do so more to ridicule myself than to elevate myself to the same plane as those others I quote in this article. I think that knowledge and progress are born of disagreement, and people's desire to find the truth and to learn, or they should be. And thus by extension prove the other person wrong. However, do we have to have anger for an argument to exist? I don't think so, and in many cases anger clouds an argument and makes any disagreement personal. Anger also ensures we expel energy in useless conflict that furthers neither truth nor discussion. So why am I writing this? Well it's because of an article on HoP written by GMort, which can be found here. Letting rip, can it be cathartic? Yes. Can it be productive? Yes. But invariably it will be destructive, not only to others but also to your own beliefs and position, as it diminishes what you have to say.

'The aim of an argument or discussion should not be victory, but progress' - Joseph Joubert, Pensées, 1842

Here's the thing, Joseph Joubert is right. We have disagreements so we can find the truth, or a version of it, so we further human understanding or our own, not to prove we are 'right'. If we take that further it means we all must accept the horrifying possibility that we might be wrong. Yeah I know, scary thought for some of you isn't it? I freely admit that what I say, write or believe are nothing more than my own opinions on things, and as such I accept the very real possibility that some new piece of information might change my opinion on things. All too often though on the Internet I see people arguing for the sake of being 'right', not for furthering their own understanding. We have all seen others trample over people's opinions and arguments, there is nothing wrong with that, but the manner in which we choose to do that is important, and frames much of how such dissections of arguments are viewed. Shouting somebody down, and being rude, aggressive and vulgar is not the right way to further any argument or discussion in my opinion, because:

'One man's frankness is another man's vulgarity' - Kevin Smith

There are ways and means of going about things that are just more dignified and civil. Anger and rage not only clouds your judgement, but also potentially clouds what could otherwise be a useful message. We sometimes forget that the other voice on the other side of the screen is indeed another person. Just like you. You are not superior, no matter who you are, you're just another voice with an opinion. And opinions as we all know are like assholes, everyone has got one. Although this quote is probably a less aggressive or antagonistic way of looking at things:

'Everybody is a genius.  But, if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its whole life believing that it is stupid'. - Albert Einstein

We have to remember that we all have a right to be heard, and we all have a right to express ourselves, and yes that means others also have the right to disagree with us, but:

'If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail' - Abraham Maslow

Plus you start to sound like a monotonous whinge bag! Always moaning and complaining about things, full of spite, rage and poison. People might find you novel at first, and you might be in danger of confusing their morbid fascination with your rantings and anger as popularity, when in reality it's just rubber necking on a global scale. Yep people will start to see you as a 'car crash' of a personality. When that happens, no matter what you have to say, many will choose to ignore it as just more of the same, as the dull droning thud of yet more opinionated tripe. When that happens you'll quickly become irrelevant, but if the self preservation of your own good character doesn't motivate you to try and be civil, then perhaps this will:

'I am not an Athenian or a Greek, I am a citizen of the world' - Socrates

We all are citizens of the world, and with the Internet the world is becoming an ever smaller space. So do we all want to live with a bunch of angry nerds raging at each other? It is more likely to put us all off of this hobby we love so much, and surely none of us want that do we? And if you do, then may I humbly suggest the community at large won't want, or indeed put up with you. I'm not saying don't express yourself, don't show your emotions or hide how you feel because:

'Nothing great in the world has ever been accomplished without passion' - Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

I get passionate, and I also get angry. I just try to articulate myself in a way that doesn't exclude people or deliberately offends, I don't see the point in doing so. However, I'm more than aware that what I say might actually cause offense to somebody somewhere, because all opinions have a mirror opposite. If I offend somebody I don't do it out of malice, I do it by accident, or extension of who I am. But, I'm aware that the language I use, the tone I set and the intentions behind what I write count, and are as important as what I say, and how I say it. This is why I rarely swear. Language can offend just by existing, and certain words exist to be hurtful or offensive, and using such words we know to deliberately provoke negative responses in others, is to go out of our way to try and do harm to someone, and that is why I rarely do it. That, and if you swear a lot you come across as immature, which is the opposite of what many think swearing is. But, I do resort to profanity, it's just seldom used, so as to increase the impact of it when I do use it. You all have the right to say what you want, as Voltaire wrote:

'Monsieur l'abbé, I detest what you write, but I would give my life to make it possible for you to continue to write' - Voltaire, letter to M. le Riche, February 6, 1770

Just remember that you too have the same responsibility to uphold the right of others who you disagree with to express themselves as well.

You see, it's a peculiar thing the Internet, it educates and stupefies us at the same time. Often we are able to hide behind a veil of anonymity, and this affords us a degree of separation from what we say on the Internet. We often feel emboldened and liberated by this separation from the consequences of what we say online, but that does not necessarily soften the impact of what we say on others. This is why I try to step back sometimes from what I type, and ask myself whether I would say such things to a person's face. If I wouldn't, then why I am I willing to type it? The spread of general ignorance amongst the online population is alarming to say the least. Often we have dichotomous views and arguments, which are neither helpful or illuminating, because lets face it:

'If you see the world in black and white, you're missing important grey matter' - Jack Fyock

Have I at times been guilty of such blistering oversimplification of issues in my own articles? Potentially, yes. However, I accept the possibility that I have been, and that I've been wrong:

'A man should never be ashamed to own he has been in the wrong, which is but saying... that he is wiser today than he was yesterday' - Alexander Pope, in Swift, Miscellanies  

I try to learn, I try to further my understanding of how things are, and I hope I do this whilst being respectful of other people's beliefs and opinions. I hope that all of you feel the same way, and that you too practice what you preach. Remember it's perfectly acceptable to disagree, and even to agree to disagree, let's just all try to do it without resorting to rage and anger. Because just remember that 'facts and truth are seldom the same thing, and we only really ever have opinions on either. And remember, no single person ever posseses the truth or a fact, they just are' - and yes you can quote me on that. And just to prove I can poke fun at myself, and know I'm better than no one else:

'Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation' - Oscar Wilde

So there it is, remember this is just my own opinion. Sorry about the lack of pictures, because although a picture often tells a thousand words, you rarely have control over what those words are, and I wanted this blog to hit home in the way I intended. And for that, I require only the glorious tool we refer to as the English language. Peace out!


  1. Excellent article, and it hits some of the major points of what I think is wrong with GMort's article--although I don't think it gets to the crux of why his entire argument is flawed.

    Oh, sidebar: In my experience, using that many quotations actually tends to weaken an argument. The best parts of this article are where your sincere voice comes through unbroken and powerful. Sometimes, "less is more." ;)

  2. @Abakus, I know and I agree, but I used the quotes to deliberately defuse any potential misunderstanding and aggro it might cause. Plus it set up the final punchline of a quote from Oscar Wilde. Maybe i did pull my punches, in fact I know I pulled my punches, but I did so out of respect for others opinions. ;)

  3. Exactly my thoughts. It's very rare that I swear online, even in communities well known for using such language casually. I don't do it in real life, so I don't see why I should in any other situation.

    Aside: does that final quote carry the meaning you intended? It's basically saying that no one thinks for themself, they just take other people's opinions and use them as their own.

  4. Not quite Kemp, it's just Oscar Wilde in typically playful mood, he's basically saying it's all been said before so whats the point! :P

    I think like everything swearing has its time and place. I just doubt that the time and place is as use as punctuation.

    I also find that a lot of people online force and feign faux anger to try and create controversy where there is none. I mean we're talking about toy soldiers, why so serious? Sometime we all need to lighten up and just chill a bit more rather than hype ourselves up into state of anger. The Internet is angry enough as it is.

  5. It seems you are more cultured than I am :P

    On a related note, I have a couple of "yep, I was wrong" posts to make on my blog. Sometimes I form opinions too quickly, but I know when to admit defeat :)

  6. @Kemp there is nothing wrong with admitting when you're wrong. Just ask Alexander Pope! We all have got things horribly wrong at some point in our lives and more often than not we'll get more things wrong than right. It's one of the ways we learn.

  7. Well said.

    I don't really have a lot to add, except that I think the will to create, to come up with an idea that can help yourself and others, is a far larger part of the development of human knowledge than the petty will to "be right" in an argument or to prove others wrong. Criticism has a place in refining our ideas, but it cannot create their very shape. Without those brave souls who stand up and show their stuff to the world, the critics have no-one upon whom to sharpen their genius.

    And I think anger has a place in war and justice, but no place in the search for truth or the good.

  8. @James S, agreed the formation of ideas, creative thought if you will, is what gives us theories to test. But it is the testing of those theories and hypotheses, via disagreement and challenge (arguments if you will) that firm up the ideas that stand up to scrutiny and turn them into knowledge or truth. Those that we can wear down and erode via disagreement we discard as a society. Knowledge, truth and fact are transient things, the earth being flat was an excepted norm not that long ago. Our generations round earth moment could be around the speed of light it seems. That everything is open to critical thought in our society is a great strength and has helped further our understanding of the universe in which we live. But critical thought and being critical are two very different things. ;)

  9. Don't you think you might be taking GMort a little too literally? ;)

  10. Very well said, these days my anger just bubbles underneath.

  11. @Atreides, no I don't think I am. I like GMots articles, even if I don't agree with what he has to say sometimes, I always respect it because 9 times out of 10 it's a valid position. However, this isn't just aimed at GMort, it's aimed at a lot of people who have written articles in the way GMort suggested things should be tackled and if I'm being honest I've found them depressingly frustrating. Anger is fine if that is genuinely what you feel, but all this forced fake plastic anger just seems lame as hell... I'm not by the way saying GMorts anger is forced or fake, just that others is.

    @The Angry Lurker, I still get angry, very, very angry at times over certain things. But I chose to try and break it down into what I'm actually feeling, or why it has made me angry, because that's more interesting than a rant. Or at least I think it is. lol. There's still a time and a place for being pissed off though!!!

  12. just put this up on the HoP as well. thanks for the well-written counterpoint my man.

  13. @Dethtron, thanks, much appreciated.

  14. Hi, I came across your site and wasn’t able to get an email address to contact you. Would you please consider adding a link to my website on your page. Please email me.


    Joel Houston

  15. @Joel, it depends whether or not you site is wargames related. In term of my blog roll as my own blog is wargames related and that's what people come here for I like to keep my links as wargame related as I can. My email address is:

    I get a lot of spam to that address, so sometimes it'll take a while to sift through it all to get to the nuggets of gold real people have actually sent me, so give me sometime to respond before you send a second angry email please.

  16. I've been thinking on what to comment for a while, but failing. So I'll simply say that this article was truly beautiful.

    I really do love your writting style.

    1. Why thank you kind sir. I do try my best, although often I get it wrong. :P

      Just the way of the world.