Arguing 1/31/21

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

A friend of mine posted a meme about the absurdity of the argument that raising minimum wage will raise the cost of living by pointing out that the cost of living has been raising anyway. One of her friends commented that perhaps we should do away with the minimum wage altogether and let the free market reign. The problem with this argument, of course, is that if employers could be trusted to give pay raises ethically, based on either their success or the cost of living, then there wouldn’t be so many people living on minimum wage now. And like a fool, I pointed this out in a reply to his reply.

Bob (yes, his actual name) immediately shot back some kind of a comment, and my first thought was, “oh, God, here we go.” Of course, it was completely my fault. I was the idiot that decided to comment on his comment instead of just letting it drop, and to this day, I have no idea why I didn’t do just that.

And the argument ensued. But much to my surprise, Bob gave a great argument. No, he didn’t sway me, and I’m sure I didn’t make a dent in his opinions, but throughout, even as the argument became heated, his arguments were based on lucid and informed points and we never resorted to name-calling or petty emotion-based arguments. I have to admit, I have gained great respect for him.

Contrast this with the only other person who jumped in on our thread. Obviously siding with Bob, he made a short statement in reply to me, and asked if I was an idiot. There was nothing to support his stand, just an accusation regarding my intelligence. Okay, seriously, I’m not a genius, this I know, but I am smart enough to recognize and appreciate an intellectual discussion over childish name-calling. From his comment, it was clear he didn’t read the entire thread, which I pointed out to him and (literally) thanked him for his input.

After which, I made a last comment to Bob, not to sway him or continue the debate, but simply to thank him for the exchange of ideas and express my appreciation for the discussion. Bob replied, one final time, to agree with at the very least that point. He made the comment that we need more open and respectful discussion even among those with differences of opinion in our society, and he is absolutely correct. I appreciate his desire to believe in the goodness of people, even the wealthy, to do what’s right without the need of regulations like minimum wage, but I’ve seen enough to disagree with him despite the fact that I would like to have such faith again.

As far as the individual who tried to turn the argument ugly, I’m reminded of the movie “Better Off Dead”. In this comedy (yes, a comedy), the main character and his friend are in a dance (both males) when the bully in the movie made a comment of how he liked the main character’s date, but next time he should shave him a little bit closer. Instead of becoming angry, the main character’s friend just started laughing at the joke. But he laughed far too deeply, and far too long, all the while pointing at the bully and repeating the joke to the point where the bully just had to move on. Throughout the dance, his friend would just pop up repeating the joke and continuing to laugh.

This is kind of how I dealt with this individual who jumped in on our debate. I didn’t fight with him, but instead just thanked him for his “kind comment” (yes, I literally thanked him for his kind comment). You can’t win an argument with people who argue from a point of anger and insults. They are impervious to logic, facts or data because their argument is based on emotion, and not even just emotion but, frankly, on negative emotions. Unfortunately, negativity draws people in. When faced with anger and insults, people often become angry and resort to insults whether or not it’s their style or intention. Our emotions just get the better of us, whether we like it or not. So, the old adage “kill them with kindness” becomes a powerful tool for ending an argument with such an individual. I don’t think that people who are angry actually know how to respond to kindness and courtesy, probably because they’re expecting the usual reaction of returned anger and hostility, but with that response it simply becomes a test of will.

So, thank you, Bob, for the heated but respectful argument.

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