Thursday, October 20, 2011

Say what?

 Most thoughts you might entertain about the effects of sound reason and logic on opinions are quickly put to rest when you read the “Letters to the Editor” section of the community newspaper for which you contribute a weekly book review column.  Although the demographic of right- and left-leaning political preferences are about at a balance in Montecito, CA, 93108, at least the owner-publisher, and his editor-in-chief son tilt decidedly toward Libertarian, and the associate editor/publisher rails at the chicanery and pettifoggery of anyone whose politics are in any way approaching centrist.  You neither exaggerate nor have to go looking for editorial instances where the Montecito Journal, with its circulation of about 25000 in any way gives the progressive vision with sympathy, much less without open scorn.

On numerous occasions, some readers have advocated for a measured, considerate dialogue within the Montecito Journal, only to be met with more letters to the editor, as written by the tip of the pyramid among those of emotional and/or intelligence deficit.

It is also your observation that broader landscapes than these Montecito voices also sound the tocsin for the measured dialogue and conversation for which America is so famous throughout the world.  Who among us does not in some way relish the ideal of a civilized conversation instead of a frenetic rant?

But this is more often than not an abstraction.  The democratic discourse, in which everyone has her or his say, is, alas, a myth.  The myth of civilized conversation.

When translated into dramatic settings, civilized conversation becomes even more an abstraction or, at least, an example of something that cannot hold its ground.  By its nature of civility, dramatic conversation becomes boring.  We are not interested in it for long.  In our hearts, we yearn for dialogue, for the disputaceous, the argumentative, the non-responsive.  We love it best of all when the conversation reflects two or more characters launched on two or more vectors, often at right angles or in direct opposition.

Now, we are talking.

Now, we may begin to present the human condition simultaneously at its best and worst which, by the way, is a staple of the human condition.  True enough, there are some morbidly awful individuals lurking about and on the other side of the bell curve, at the same rat-tail proportion, there are seemingly angelic sorts.  Most of us roam about in the middle, that portion of the bell curve that resembles an anaconda in the process of ingesting a large number of Famous Nathan’s hot dogs.
There is a class of individuals who attempt to bring us down to earth when we take off on flights of dialogue, which is to say the dramatic equivalent of anti-aircraft fire.  These individuals urge us to be rational, to calm down, to expose our dramatic selves to the effects of measured, thoughtful conversation, supported with facts, data, calmness, and consideration.  Role models of civilized and informed conversations are held forth almost as though they were communion wafers.  A subject often neglected when such conversational meals are brought forth is the copious quantities of liquor consumed at such events.  No less neglected is the need for copious amounts of alcohol to make the conversations bearable.  A cynic would say that the alcohol made these conversations less intelligible than they were.  A dramatist would say that conversation has little chance of being remembered, less chance yet of being interpreted as intended.

Dialogue sets the whole process to rights:  a group of the aforementioned participants in a proper conversation, desperate not to get home where they may at least pass out in familiar territory; now they are all leaving the parking lot at the same time, amid the implacable sounds of fender meeting fender in grudging regard for the available spaces.



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