Howdy folks. Hopefully this will be entertaining for all.
"This page was (or thread) was only made by request"
My request was to avoid further derailing Bert's thread with posts all about me. The subject of that thread wasn't supposed to be me, and since it was a very sensitive topic (personal loss) I wasn't comfortable talking about myself any further in that context.
I don't think I have, in the ten years I've posted here, even questioned any of the seniors on matters specific to Uechi-Ryu karate-do. On that subject I regard them as my unequivocal superiors, and my own perspective to be nearly without value. If anyone can remember or point to an example where I have shown anything but deference in this regard, I will eat my words.
However, I don't approach non-martial subjects with the same mindset. In matters of philosophy and politics, I assert my opinion with some confidence that my perspective does have value. The fact that Van, Bill, and many others are unquestionably my betters when it comes to karate does not imply that they are my betters when it comes to every other subject as well. Nor, I would point out, do I think that I am necessarily their betters in every (or even any) other subject, just that my opinion is equally valid where nobody has any particular credentials. I have great personal respect for almost everyone who posts on these forums, but that doesn't mean that I think they are automatically right about everything or that their seniority renders their opinions beyond criticism.
I extend this same egalitarian view to those younger than me as to those older. I don't think that someone who is, say, 20 should be written off as too young to have insight. Nor would I think it impudent of them to naysay me on any subject. If I'm right, then my argument will prevail, and if I'm wrong, I don't think my age or any other credential is an automatic victory card. If any of you were to challenge me on a subject of software architecture or programming in general (my personal areas of expertised, and presumably not yours) I would explain as best I could my opinion, and if you disagreed I wouldn't take it as an affront based on some notion of assumed superiority. If I'm sure that I'm right and don't feel like arguing, then I just won't. It's as simple as that.
If you look at my posting history you will find that I rarely, if ever, resort to namecalling, or outright dismissal of a person rather than an idea, or an attitude. I try never to outright insult anyone (such as by calling them a dumbass), but there are certainly times that I get frustrated, and become sarcastic or snappy or unduly blunt. That's a personality flaw I will readily admit to. Ideally I would remain detached all the time and not rise to the bait. For the most part, I do ignore that kind of goading, but on occasion I fail. Sorry. And certainly I fail to phrase things as cautiously as I should, when they're likely to be sensitive subjects. Never would I suggest that I'm the embodiment of the perfect poster.
"Perhaps it is just that Internet forums make some people forget that they're talking to real people."
On the contrary, I'm well aware that the people I'm talking to are real people. I've taken classes with Van, talked to him socially at camp. I've always enjoyed talking to him in person (and usually on the forums as well). In none of those conversations has Van been as insulting as he routinely is here, and as far as I can tell (correct me if I'm wrong) I've never particularly pissed him off in person. It seems to me that people who didn't grow up communicating online have kind of a different perspective on it from people who did. There is a bit of a generational divide at work. Everybody I have spoken with that grew up using the internet takes what's said online with a grain of salt.
It's not so much a matter of forgetting that there are real people reading, as it is remembering that communication in text is flawed and miscommunication rampant. Debates in forms in particular are regarded with skepticism. Have you heard the joke that arguing on the internet is like competing in the special olympics: even if you win, you're still retarded? Not a very PC joke, but it highlights the fact that people generally realize that debates on the internet shouldn't be taken too seriously. Before anyone says it, yes I realize that real conseqences can occur based on internet disagreements. But you can get shot for honking your horn too.
I also don't feel like having one's ideas questions should be taken as an insult. If you don't question my ideas and my thought process, it basically says you don't respect me at all; it says you regard my potential for insight as so insignificant that it doesn't even merit analysis. The ultimate insult, as far as I'm concerned, is to decide that someone is just so useless that all of their ideas are worthless and not even interesting enough to think about. That they have nothing worthwhile to offer the world and may as well not exist.
One interesting difference that seems to exist between me and most posters on these forums is the attitude towards authorty. The majority of folks here seem authority-minded either by training or inclination. I, on the other hand, strongly dislike authority, whether it is in my own hands or another's. In operational situations you need rigid leadership in order to respond quickly (in the military, for example) but in social situations I believe that everybody deserves equal respect. Mike spoke about verbal incontinence with one's elders. In my opinion I owe just as much respect to a 15 year old as I do to a 45 year old or a 90 year old (I am 31). Expertise in a specific domain is a different matter, but I don't believe that there's any general property a person can have that makes their ideas automatically worthy of greater consideration. Not rank, not age, not title.
Part of this, I tend to think of as humility. While, I feel like I've consistantly improved in some ways, as I've grown older, there are also ways in which I've degraded. My mindset is less flexible, less quick to adapt to new ideas. It gets harder to change my habits, and easy to get behind as culture chugs along at a rapid pace. Maybe this is just some unique defect of mine. Maybe everyone else finds that as they age their faculties only improve. To me, it seems like a mixed bag. There are definitely ideas I've had time to think through in a way I hadn't when I was 15 or 20 or 25, but there are also a million new ideas that I haven't really incoporated into my worldview. It's tempting to me to feel that I'm overall superior to what I was at a youngern age, but I think there's a much greater variation between individuals than between age groups. That is, even if older correlates with wiser, the difference in wisdom between individuals is much larger than the difference age makes, and dismissing those younger than me based on age alone has never felt, well, wise.
And there, my internet friends, is a very long and self-indulgent post that I doubt anyone will bother reading in its entirety.
- Justin Powell