Sitting down to dinner recently with Korean Cigarette Smoking Moriarty Man (KCSMM), he leveled a rather harsh claim against me that he’s leveled before when we’ve had disagreements. He called me “arrogant.”
To put it in context, KCSMM leveled this claim because, after enlisting a complete stranger at another table to try to get me “admit” I am “wrong” about a matter of opinion, and my basic refusal to change my mind so as to agree with him completely, he called me “arrogant.”
This pejorative was leveled at me recently when I declared a growing appreciation of beer as well, both by everyone’s favorite misanthrope and by Agent Bun herself. This is a hurtful and untrue accusation.
I’m going to take that basic argument, and address it very completely and hopefully put the matter to rest. The basic gist of it all will be “No, Dear Readers, I Am Not Arrogant At All.”
Misuse of a Term
First and foremost is a global misuse of the term “arrogant.” In order for one to be arrogant, one must be “disposed to exaggerate one’s own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner.” This is according to the definition at the Merriam Webster dictionary site; similar and consistent definitions, accounting for necessary variance in verbiage, are avaiable via dictionary sites across the entire Interwebs.
However, the dictionary definition of a term does not limit its misuse. People have seemingly, as a general rule, taken to using the term to mean anyone who is sure of themselves. Confidence, it seems, is now generically frowned upon.
This is consistent, however, with our culture in general. “We” don’t like being told that someone disagrees with us. We’ve been conditioned to believe that no one has the right to tell us what we don’t want to hear. Both Jar Jar Hater and KCSMM have taken to this very blog to claim that no one has any right to tell anyone else that what they’re doing might be a bad idea (though Jar Jar Hater later directly contradicted herself.).
Sticks and Stones
Further, the issue is that it reduces the argument to name–calling and defensiveness. Resisting the urge to take the “just because someone is arrogant doesn’t invalidate their argument” route, I’ll instead hammer at the last refuge of the person who must concede they’ve run out of argument.
The reason that KCSMM has leveled the charge against me in this instance, and before, is because he ran out of arguments to make. Obviously I didn’t change his mind (otherwise he would have gracefully admitted that his arguments had been defeated), but instead of simply being able to say that he refused to change his mind—an important point in this context I’ll be returning to shortly—he hurled the word “arrogant” at me and changed the argument.
So instead of either declaring a draw or saying he had no intention of listening to my arguments in turn, he just kept repeating that I was arrogant since I didn’t change my mind to agree with him. The worst it could be is obstinate, but that would denote I don’t listen or respond to his arguments, which is untrue.
I openly discuss a willingness to change and appreciate things in a different light, if not expanding my horizons altogether. This belies the notion that I’m arrogant, as it’s used here, and it disproves the additional theory that I’m stubborn. Arrogant and stubborn people are less likely to open their minds to new possibilities.
Ironically, in the context of his own argument that a refusal to change my mind to agree with his opinion is arrogant, he is arrogant himself. Two plus two is four, regardless of who’s doing the math.
So if the baseline of someone’s argument is that if someone does not change their opinion, they are arrogant. If everyone is arrogant, the word loses meaning. Therefore, KCSMM believes that no one is arrogant.
Even though I generally subscribe to the idea that all people have the capacity for unlimited good at their core, I think that’s a little overly optimistic.
I know that KCSMM doesn’t really think I’m arrogant. He’s just frustrated by the fact that I’m likely not to change my opinion about a specific set of films we’ve both seen. I don’t know why that would bother him, but it does.
I know also that it has to be very frustrating to try to argue Star Wars with me. The main reason is that I really have spent a large amount of brain juice considering all of the angles. I’ve read literal libraries full of reference material on the films. It’s pretty hard to find an argument I have not considered.
This is not because I’m arrogant, just that on this specific topic I’m disappointingly well–read. It would be like arguing economic theory with Milton Friedman. You might not like his conclusions, and you might never agree with his data. But the guy knows the topic on which he’s speaking, because he’s spent a great deal of time thinking it through and refining his positions through argument.
Besides, I love the prequels. There are people who do not. It’s a matter of artistic opinion.
It shouldn’t matter whether everyone agrees with me, or no one does. I enjoy offering alternative interpretations of things that people may not have considered, hence the blog. Further, since 1999, I’ve found prequel haters are the ones far less likely to listen to conclusions challenging their own presumptions.
So maybe just by virtue of disagreeing with me, Korean Cigarette Smoking Man (and by implication, Jar Jar Hater) is the one who’s arrogant.