Over the past month, I have been accused of being arrogant on at least four occasions. The accusers didn’t say I was arrogant but that what I was saying was arrogant. According to Meriam Webster’s definition of arrogant;
1 : exaggerating or disposed to exaggerate one’s own worth or importance often by an overbearing manner an arrogant official
2 : showing an offensive attitude of superiority : proceeding from or characterized by arrogance an arrogant reply
I concede that what I said was controversial and worded in a way as to provoke debate but the only dog I have in the race is my opinion. I didn’t exaggerate or express superiority in my position even knowing that the people I was talking with held, a strong polar position. Am I responsible for how my views make you feel about yours? Can I express a differing proposition and allow you to express yours without delving into accusations of assumptive presumption?
If I state, as I did, that “I have easily and comfortably moved from an agnostic to an atheist”, which carries with it a challenge to understand am I pretentious? In these cases, I am sure that if I had said ” I am a follower of Christ”, these individuals may have seen pious sensibility rather than arrogance. Are superiority and inferiority built into differing opinions? I recognize that I see confidence in some leaders, who I share some agreement, while other people that I know look for high-handed pompousness. If I disagree with a policy, I can view the politician as mean-spirited while a supporter sees practicality.
Are my monikers and labels just laziness and laxness? Do I choose mean-spirited for its impact? Should pompous, haughty, proud, insolent, overbearing and arrogant be saved for circumstances that warrant their definition? Have I resorted to a logical fallacy when I create a straw man by invoking a fascist or pervert label when the words or behavior that I am critical of is neither? Did I get a taste of my own exaggerated medicine?
When I make a comparison between two things that share some characteristics, I need to be careful that the analogy only stretches to the common ground. When I am tempted to make a point by extending a ‘guilt-by-association’ inference I need to step back onside. I hold some strong views on equity, social justice and economy that are shared by people that I find detestable. Does that mean that I am detestable too?
Are the phenomena new or have we been shortcutting and caricaturing for centuries? My sense of awareness around the behavior is heightened, and I would like to blame it on the models we see from world leaders in government, business, and charity. But I am not sure that is a valid assessment. I have found examples of biting political satire from the 15th Century, so maybe this can’t be blamed on President Trump, Prime Minister May, Kim Jong-un, Silvio Berlusconi or Robert Mugabe.
Changing how speechwriters, editors, journalists, and pundits choose to describe ‘the other’ is outside my span of control. I can take everything with a pinch of salt, and I can consider how I choose my descriptors and match my intent to my words. That still leaves me a lot of latitudes and obviously, I can ignore the stated intent and be rancorous and obnoxious, but maybe this will force me to acknowledge my intent and accept responsibility. As in many things that I think and write about, this is easy to say and harder to do.
I keep learning, adapting, improving, faltering and getting excited, disappointed, confused but it id the only way I know I am alive.