The Pleasures of Total Disagreement – Free Ebook

often we’re in search of agreement it’s really nice when someone wholeheartedly concurs with something we’ve said but there’s also a special satisfaction when someone is not just slightly out in what they say they’re not just one or two steps away from our position over dinner listening to the radio in the car or watching YouTube we’re finally in the company of someone who is deeply wildly plainly in the wrong it could happen around some conflicted bit of political history or some key problem of modern life maybe they said that Margaret Thatcher was the best British leader of the 20th century or that she was plainly the worst maybe they’re saying that global warming is a conspiracy of left-wing scientists or that before long cruise ships will be docking in Central Park they could be insisting that everything built since 1945 is desperately ugly or that we’re living in a golden age of architecture that capitalism has brought the world to its knees or that it’s the most successful economic system ever devised just now the final truth of the issue doesn’t really matter we’re getting excited because in our eyes what they’re saying is just monstrously in error we feel we’re totally in the right and they’re totally in the wrong it’s tempting to say we simply can’t believe that they’re actually saying this but behind the scenes and without quite realizing it we’ve been waiting for someone to come along and assert just this particular form of stupidity we’ve entertained it in our own heads as a strikingly absurd option we’ve even maybe made some rapid mental portraits of the sort of person who could say this one aspect of the pleasure is linked to the clear appreciation we get by contrast of our own wisdom and intelligence there’s a thrilling coiling of intellectual energy as one listens to their folly pretty often we’re unsure quite what we think across a wide range of topics we’re conscious of our own ignorance we struggle everyday with issues that we don’t fully understand but now the antithetic stance brings our own happy knowledge and insight to the fore they make us feel slightly brilliant the world starts to divide there are those like you who are right and there are others like this stupid individual who has sunk in so often we’re dealing in nuance and ambiguity so frequently we have to accommodate the notion that there’s something to be said on the other side of the argument but now there’s an end to all that we experience the satisfaction of inhabiting a simpler clearer world this pleasure may be linked to personal history years ago there was perhaps a person who loomed large in your life and who took this kind of view a parent and unsympathetic teacher and overbearing individual you’re at university with there used to spout things along these lines and at that time you couldn’t hold your own but now you can then you felt they were somehow totally mistaken but you couldn’t match their confident assertions yet now you’re not angry there’s no longer any fear or rage or hatred but there is a pleasant feeling of meeting again a representative of a deeply wrong style of thought when you’re strong and skilled enough to stand up to it perfectly the terrors of the past are behind you now you can cope and more than that you can come back with the answer you always wished you could have given one particularly charming special instance of the pleasure occurs when this person is advocating an idea we actually used to believe in ourselves you once thought as they do but life experience better information or clearer thinking have you feel sure shown you the large error of your former convictions and this person has clearly failed to take the crucial steps you have at such a moment we get a compelling sense of our own cognitive progress the way a child who’s currently struggling with multiplication can look pityingly on a younger sibling who still has to ask what number comes after 7 but it’s not all one way if we clear-eyed about this this pleasure the pleasure of feeling that someone is totally wrong is one that we will inevitably from time to time gift to others to people to whom our own cherished beliefs or occasional stray assertions will offer the perfect foil for their own convictions and for whom we will therefore act as that highly satisfying character the perfect idiot you

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