Your own people aren't always exactly your own people.

In the past month, in terms of the tough standards I set for myself, I failed at life (out of exhaustion over exponentially-increased teaching duties) in that I allowed myself to be surprised by certain human behaviour.
In one instance, this surprise morphed within me into the enemy of the human being, the feeling of injustice. Intellectually I know that righteous indignation is a dead-end street: called in some languages a "blind corner", which is exactly what I mean here. I don't know that I would be blogging about this quite in this way, had I not come across the sentence I used as the subject here: "Your own people aren't always exactly your own people." It is a fecund sentence for contemplation. One illustration could be of quondam parentals leaving children to choose their own adventure with absolutely no guidance after the first teen year, who later think they have a right to be critical of said children.
But there is another meaning of the quoted sentence that I have been musing over. Another could be related to patriotism. My family has members living all over the world; I have always taken it for granted that one can be both a patriot and a cosmopolite (who can be humble enough to learn from other cultures). To a certain degree (and to be not at all humble for a moment), I also thought that such a generous patriotism was easier for compatriots like myself than for people hailing from other countries (for historical reasons). Compatriots who reach cosmopolite status share a curiosity for esoteric aspects of other cultures and have the intellectual capacity for such appreciation (gaining, for example, expert knowledge of their antiques), and are crowned by a humility, in part stemming from a knowledge of the complexities of the history of their own country...

But today, this approach has come under fire. There is a new kind of patriotism defined in more narrow terms, as if, if one does not comply with these narrow qualifications, one does not love one's country. I can understand that somewhat - it is a kind of reactionism, not unlike my own of righteous indignation mentioned above. But on the other hand, such an approach would warrant if not a fail then a very low grade in not only my class on culture but also my composition class.
To begin with the (advanced) composition class, I set the intellectual exercise that opinions are not academically valid; what is valid is a thesis that has support and is able to articulate and respond to (through rebuttal or concession) viewpoints that challenge one's thesis. In other words, students are welcome to their 'opinions' so long as they can articulate them in terms of viewpoints that might challenge them (yes, this is derived from δόξα). Part of the course is built on cultivating an imagination that can articulate other viewpoints (which I - again not humbly - take to be part of the intellectual legacy of my native land). Similarly, my advanced class on culture demonstrates through examples that a single culture can be paradoxical, and is often comprised of myriad competing world views. This even came up in my intro class: through the example, for instance, of how not all former colonies immediately ratified the Articles of the Confederation. Unity does not necessarily mean unanimity.
How do we respond to scarcity of agreement?
For some, this means that it is no longer a time for the "college games" of dialectics; to them, it means war. Truth can come back another day.

So I ask myself: how do I talk to someone who from the get-go is approaching questions through their agenda? (The new orthodoxy of secularism, or of zealous liberalism, is no more tolerant or different than any religion.) Are you, readers, also wanting to ask me why it's a problem to approach life through an agenda? When I tried, with my interlocutors of late, to explain the complexities of statecraft and the importance of grappling - as contradictory as it may seem - with even abstract ideas like 'truth' in the practical business of statesmanship, if I dared call on Plato, my interlocutors' eyes would glaze over. Which I know from teaching means I need to change my approach. So, in answer to my question of how to talk with agenda-driven interlocutors, reason is not the way. Or, one must learn to package reason differently.
Since yesterday, every time I think about this, I am left with an anecdote from Rumer Godden's autobiography, A House With Four Rooms, with which I shall close this blog post. She writes of how back in the day, authors would often receive requests for an autograph and/or signed photograph. She explains that before she knew better to respond only to those who sent return postage, she would oblige at least the many signature requests though the postage was costly (obliging the photograph requests would have been far too costly). "I had a letter from America with the usual request, sent an autograph and a little later" she writes, "had a second letter; 'Thank you for your autograph. We have had your handwriting analysed. You are mean, petty, selfish and greedy.'"

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