No, I don't think so. (was Re: missing the point)

Sat, 11 Feb 1995 04:12:03 EST

Being utterly disinterested in the manifesto-driven silliness that was
proposed as an alternative to name-callling, I've been pondering my
original post, the follow-ups, Hugh's post, and life in general. For
a while I thought the problem just might be me and pondered why name-
calling doesn't bother me as much as it seems to bother some people on
this list. That line of thought got too relativist too quickly, so I
dropped it. Then I spent a while trying to remember why I thought
scientists need thick skins (that line of thought got dogmatic very
quickly, but it was useful). Tonight, I spent 90 minutes skimming
thorugh the Anthro-L WWW site looking at various sign-off notices,
old complaints about name-calling, and other related commentaries.
Then I realized I was taking an awfully long time to think, and
decided "To hell with it , I'll just throw another tantrum".

On Thu, 26 Jan 1995 20:22:31 EST Hugh Jarvis said:

>You have totally missed her point about getting off anthro-l. She has a
>very valid point. People insist on using anthro-l to preach their own
>opinions about subjects which they would never discuss in such a manner
>had they been face-to-face with the other parties in the dialogue.

Huh. This last sentence keeps echoing around my head, because I keep
thinking the discussion on Anthro-L isn't any especially worse than
anything I *have* seen face-to-face. Do I just hang out with really
rude people or something? No, I don't think so. I just talk to too
many non-academics.

I mean, sure, *we* have got our vaunted ideals of logical, sensitive, and
polite academic discussion, but face it, the rest of the human race shows
a distinct preference for Rhetoric, not Dialectic. Look at Rutgers
University right now. Protestors there have what's probably a legitimate
greviance (if their President actually thinks like he talks), but things
are getting drowned out in the yelling. If the race/genetics/academics
issue were to come up at a school *I* attended, would I be tempted to
enter the debate? Damn straight I would. Is everybody at the school
going to politely debate me? No damn way.

*That* has been the sticking point (to me) of every one of those "I
can't take it any more" posts. I'd go out on a limb here, and guess
that every member of this list thinks academic anthropology needs to
be able to communicate with (and contribute to) the rest of the species.
Now then, what are the people who ran away from here, where it's all
just words on the screen, going to do when it's a 200 pound protestor
yelling in their faces? A native offended by a question? A twitchy
imperialist-yahoo soldier telling them anthropologists aren't welcome?
Give them a good-bye note? I think not.

So, here, in no uncertain terms, is my bitter, cynical, and unapologetic

*Anthropologists who can't handle the intensity of debate on this mailing
list will probably never accomplish a damn thing in the "real world",
because they will run away in fear from the first normal human being who
disagrees with them. Such anthropologists are not showing much potential.*

That's my big reason for wanting tougher undergraduates. Anthropologists
have to be able to function in a conflicted world! Now if anybody wants to
tell me how I'm wrong there, I'm all ears.

(Go back and look at Kharyssa's original message. When assigning faults
to the list populace, she ends a sentence with "and even swearing". Fucking
`ay, but I refuse to give up my occasional obscenties--they're one of those
little psychological venting devices that keep me from getting really mean.
Unless something big changed after I started college, I'm pretty sure
people off-campus swear, too. At other people, even.)

Kharyssa said she's soon to start her graduate career. Maybe she hasn't
done enough fieldwork yet to experience that First Big Screw-up, where she
asks the Wrong Question and gets an icy reply from an informant. I have.
It hurts, yes; it's an ego-deflating reality check that all social anthro-
pologists have to experience in our anthropological careers. (Archaeol-
ogists and bioanthropologists get to deal with repatriation arguments,
instead, which is nothing I envy, I assure you.) It's a lot heavier
experience (to me, anyway) than name-calling.

If someone on this list thinks someone else is being unprofessional with
name-calling, then for God's sake, write "I think you're being unprofess-
ional with that name-calling". (Come to think of it, if they're getting
out of line face-to-face, tell them face-to-face, too.) Don't bury one
legitimate complaint in a "Dear John" letter, and don't let hurt feelings
get in the way of using whatever useful information comes through this
list. Sometimes you just need to tough things out for a little while.

I retain my opinion that running away does not accomplish anything of
academic merit. If I'm surrounded by idiots, I will do what I've done
with everything else in my short life--do things the way I think they
should be done and hope that somebody gets the hint. It's a principle,
I suppose. (Not that anyone ever gets the hint, but that's another
matter entirely.)

>This is very unfortunate. Why? Because it interferes with the friendly
>environment which is necessary for a good dialogue. The result is that
>a few get their high off making some (quite probably meaningless) point,
>and many others just get turned off and gain nothing.

I'm not really sure what to say about that sentence, other than it strikes
me as a bitterly ironic comment for an anthropology list. There are still
millions (billions?) of people who think we do nothing but make meaningless
points and that there's nothing to gain from anthropology. Please be
careful using the word `meaningless' without a specific example. Otherwise,
it doesn't have much meaning itself.

>Regrettably, this is the norm on the Net.

Complete and Utter Tangent: I'm still against this concept of "the Net"
having "the norm". The subculture has too many distinct groups (sub-sub-
cultures?) to make generalizations like that. But I digress....

Michael Bauser <mbauser@kentvm.bitnet or>
Dept. of Anthropology, Kent State University, Kent OH 44242, USA