Many of the old men I know are cranky. They are often cranky because they've been fighting long battles. Battles about technology, battles about politics, battles about education, all kind of battles. Most old men have their hot buttons that trigger a rush of memories of these battles. When most old men talk to each other, they sense these hot buttons and generally avoid each other's hot buttons. The rule about avoiding religion and politics as dinner topics comes from the fact that there are many hot buttons in these areas.

Last night I was one of these cranky old men. We were talking about terrorism and profiling. I am a veteran of many battles on privacy and security. I didn't realize how much of a cranky old man I'd become until a friend of mine last night kept pushing that hot button with the opinion that profiling was a good thing and that a few false positives were worth the cost to protect America. I got completely emotional and ruined the tone of the friendly dinner conversation. The problem with a dinner conversation is usually there is some alcohol involved which clouds memory (access to facts stored in cranky old brain) and logical thinking, and you can't page slap people with your previous arguments. As a cranky old man last night I realized how difficult it was for me to have casual conversation about a hot button topic and how difficult it was to have a rigorous discussion about complicated topics when I didn't have access to a method of providing context. I felt like I was just beating my chest to show I felt strongly about the issue...

I think this issue of having difficulty engaging in a discussion with someone on a topic you understand well where you have a strong opinion is an issue that many academics face. This forces them to climb their ivory towers and engage in esoteric debates in an esoteric language with their peers and not reach down to the average person. This is also why many academics avoid publishing in popular media.

I wonder if there is a solution to this problem. I think layers of blogs is one thing that helps. I consult with a number of academic sources to come up with my somewhat simplistic assertions about certain issues. Others write about it even more casually on their blogs. If things are attributed correctly, one can usually drill down to the source (although many academics sources are still not online). Sometimes it works the other way around. I write about something casually and accidentally trigger a bunch of hot buttons which ends up providing more context and rigor.

The scary thing is, I can see myself starting to want to only have discussions with people where we read each other's blogs, a sort of blogademic.

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"The scary thing is, I can see myself starting to want to only have discussions with people where we read each other's blogs, a sort of blogademic."

Not directed at you or this site, but I think what you are talking about has already happened in the 'blogosphere.' I've actually been confronted by several instances of blogger elitism/academia-style old boys/girls network treatment in this new blog world. It's simultaneously hilarious/ridiculous/sad. It's largely soured me on blogs, and blogging. This is one of the few blogs I still have any respect/interest in as a real open forum for the exchange of interesting, and not always in agreement, ideas. As long as you continue allow random guys on this blog to forcefully, but respectfully, disagree with you, I think your blog will retain more value than some of the other similarly well-known ones out there.

"The scary thing is, I can see myself starting to want to only have discussions with people where we read each other's blogs, a sort of blogademic."

aka intellectual ghettoizing.

the more focused our media becomes (via blogs and the like), the easier it gets to stay in a world consisting solely of opinions similar to our own.

Sorry, its a hot button issue of my own...

My crankiness,better called frustration, is not that my hot buttons have been pushed but that I feel I'm lacking the conversational skills to accurately defend what I believe to be true. Reading so many writers who have said so much so eloquently in their blogs has shown me I have lack the skills but that I can learn. That makes me less cranky. Now to do something about the old.

RIO, Abe. Thank you. I'm trying to nip this at the bud. ;-)

i said a bit on this in my own space, but there is something i did want to say here...

it's at the interface between super-specialized fields that interesting things happen. it's a fresh perspective, and sometimes even in the process of bridging the language barrier, that interesting, new things are often created (or at least recognized).

"hey, that's something like something i've been working on myself, let's explore this a bit."

"I am a veteran of many battles on privacy and security. "

Those aren't "battles," they're just arguments. Nothing battlesque about them.

One thing I noticed about reading blogs is that you tend to create this "virtual" friendship to the author. Please don't get me wrong, I don't have stalker tendencies but you feel like you know this person and therefore it makes it easier to discuss issues as you already have fundemental details laid down.
You will have an idea of which "hot buttons" the other haves and so on.

Unless you totally rule out discussing with non-bloggers, I only see this as a natural progression when we get tools like this.

Vanderleun,

Trying to stop the national ID sure felt more like a battle than an argument. I was threatened along with other people I was working with. We lost the battle not because of the weakness of our arguments, but we were out-maneuvered politically.

I have also received numerous personal attacks for taking a stand on privacy.

Anyway... I'll stop arguing about semantics. I have enough to argue about. ;-p

Isaack. I agree, blogs really help in that they provide context that makes communications easier. I think the point is that becoming too comfortable in only one mode of communications can be exclusive of others and isolationist. (Like the Japanese. ;-) )

"Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show."

True enough, but mock heroics neither advance a cause nor distinguish the hero.

Being cranky about profiling is the least you could do. This man's experience is a call for all of us to get cranky -
Maher Arar

Vanderleun,

From where are you quoting these "mock heroics" you mention?

At the risk of pushing your hot button ...

Isn't the Japanese national ID just a Japanese social security number? Is that so bad?

The problem is more the system of family registries, not a national ID.

I experienced the same thing recently, where a civil discussion about ‘smoking’ degenerated into name-calling (I was called a Nazi) and cussing (I told the name caller to F--- off). Sadly, this was at a family baby shower. For my baby. Oops.

Since then, I've tried to figure out what went wrong. I’ve decided in the future to try and turn the debate around – instead of trying to convince others of my view (which might be impossible), I’ll challenge others to convince me of their view, and by doing so, hopefully make their erroneous premises obvious.

To refer to the argument I had (but not to reignite it here, please), I was told that a proprietor ought to have the right to decide if people can smoke in his or her establishment or not. It was evident from the discussion that the person holding that opinion wasn’t really qualified to hold that opinion. By that, I mean only that this person wasn’t well enough informed on what rights and responsibilities proprietors have in our society to make a comparative judgment. Instead of attacking the smoking issue, I think I would have been better off taking a different tact, such as asking questions like, “How do you feel about other safety issues like fire exits? Should they also be optional as an expression of a proprietor’s rights? What about food storage?”

Or perhaps taking a different tact: “What are the air quality requirements here in Canada? How much arsenic and benzene is permitted?”, etc.

Lately, I’ve come to the conclusion that most people don’t have enough basic knowledge to evaluate information in its proper context. As a result, they hold opinions (“HIV doesn’t cause AIDS”) that they think are facts, but are in no position to evaluate. Getting into a discussion with a legitimate expert can be very illuminating. For example, I used to work with a bunch of programmers who were the typical anti-establishment, pro-environment types that we all know and love – going to Quebec to get cudgeled at FTAA protests, etc. When these guys spoke to my wife, an environmental lawyer, it became clear that they really didn’t understand any of the environmental issues that they were so upset about. Not only that, they had no interest whatsoever in getting involved in any of the (presumably more mundane) local issues that my wife brought to their attention. Now I like these guys, and I agree with most of the things they believe in, but it became clear to me that most of the “facts” they clung to in their outrage were more a product of socialization than engagement, and they didn’t really know (or care?) if they were true or not. These guys ended up looking like silly hypocrites, when their hearts were definitely in the right place.

If they had taken a different tact, asking my wife lots of questions and challenging the facts she presented, she probably would have thought they were geniuses. And if her premises fell apart as a result, all the more so.

So in future, I’m going to try to be more inquisitive and less pedantic. I honestly think it will serve me better, and I think even people who violently disagree with me will think I’m smarter for it.

Joi, you cranky? Never! I refuse to believe it. hehe I know what you mean about feeling the need to clarify that you aren't a stalker and we do know one another on a certain level, right?

Cranky old men are not afraid to say what they think, feel and believe. They have context and they have experience.

They remember when there was some semblance of honesty and integrity held up as a commonly-shared value. They no longer need to be desensitized to spin and deceit because they are afraid for their livelihood.

They may remember that there may have been other ways to address terrorism than to suppress it out of existence through dominance and power. They may remember a time when the dominant nation on the planet was not so arrogant that it believed that it was right, and that God was the bat boy - actually, the coach I guess.

Profiling is racist, and wrong, in multicultural North America. It‘s not so necessary in Asia, Africa and Arabia for Caucasians, obviously.

Not making AIDS treatments available more easily to millions of Africans because business models are more important than humans is wrong.

Repeated lying, backed up by ongoing changes in logic and rationale, in order to justify actions and maintain a hold on power, is wrong.

Trying to keep convincing people the economy will be OK, and get back to normal, even tho‘ the the deficits will stretch to infinity and beyond, and individuals‘ use of credit has steadily increased over 20 plus years to the point where it‘s the eccentric person who doesn‘t use credit, is wrong.

I‘m only middle-aged, and I‘m cranky. And if I don‘t use my voice in this lifetime, I will end up loathing myself for watching it all happen without saying something...hating myself by letting myself be bullied, and outsmarted because of a lack of courage and honour.

What's wrong with being a cranky old man? (aside from the fact that Joi, I would hardly characterize you as old...). I'm trying to master being a cranky YOUNG man. Now that's a trick...

I'm also a bit disappointed--didn't the UofC show you that you have nothing to prove about yourself except to yourself, and that many will push your buttons just to push your buttons without having any sort of ostensible discussion goals. That's the big lesson I learned there...that and that there really is no good barbecue outside of Chicago.

Al Gore pointed out in his latest speech that getting more data by watching all citizens all the time actually hurts efforts to prevent terrorism.

Law enforcement doesn't need more data. They already have too much, so they are not able to find the data that matters. When looking for the needle in the haystack, it doesn't help to add hay.

"Becoming a cranky old man" is one of the perks of aging, it is already universally accepted.

drunk and cranky and then sorry is a good cycle. It could be sober and fierce and then righteous.

"how difficult it was to have a rigorous discussion about complicated topics when I didn't have access to a method of providing context. I felt like I was just beating my chest"

So well put!

But Joi, you looked so young at BloggerCon 2003! I've had these feelings for 20 years and I'm only a little older than you! (I think)

well, I have similar hot buttons on privacy and security issues too. a couple month ago while at a group drinking table, some reporter I knew carelessly started saying "these days privacy is a trade item for one to get good services from corps. people may be willing to give up personal information soon" kind. oops, that's the one! I had to blast back with lines of "but the situation has no other choice of not giving out personal information, it is same as mandatory. it is similar to a situation as no privacy that set by big authority." so he was neutralized and silenced.

BTW please do not confuse with Social Security Number as national ID schemes that in many counties including Japan are having. because SSN isn't a national ID issued only to its citizen. I'm a Japanese citizen but have US SSN. you can only refer to SSN when you compare about "numbering scheme" in that context. (ah yeah, this is yet another hot button topic...)

Not really wanting to touch more on your "hot buttons" but I came across this article which I thought you would all appreciate:

Show me the Money
Patriot Act helps the Feds in cases with no ties to terror

http://www.msnbc.com/news/997054.asp?0dm=s147k

great quote here: "Never did the FBI say we needed new tools to keep us safe from strip-club operators"

Not really wanting to touch more on your "hot buttons" but I came across this article which I thought you would all appreciate:

Show me the Money
Patriot Act helps the Feds in cases with no ties to terror

http://www.msnbc.com/news/997054.asp?0dm=s147k

great quote here: "Never did the FBI say we needed new tools to keep us safe from strip-club operators"

That’s the advantage of becoming an old man, that you can be cranky and get away with it. When you are young and cranky people just think you are a jackass.

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