Editing History

This one comes after “Things That Happen”, but you can read them in either order.

It has been my experience that it is useless to argue with somebody who sees the presentation of evidence as a sign of weakness.

I’ve crashed up against a brick wall of ignorance before, so a certain recent argument over Doctor Who wasn’t infuriating so much as just frustrating. I knew the instant I went in that I wasn’t going to convince anyone that I was right. Even so, I was taken aback by just how insulting some of the comments were. It’s so easy, when somebody uses an example to back up their point, to say, “Oh, is that ALL you’ve got? Just one example?” Uh no, I refrained from giving you a zillion more examples because I didn’t want to waste your time. People see what they want to see. If they want to claim that you’re being unfair and arbitrary, all they have to do is find something you didn’t mention and act as if that disproves your point. Well, that, or it’s just a counterexample. There’s a difference. What is remarkable to me about Doctor Who is that for a show that is ostensibly about time travel, it seems less interested in the mechanics and paradoxes of time travel than virtually any other time travel story I can name. There are no episodes (none that I’ve seen, anyway), in which somebody steps on a butterfly in the distant past, then returns to their present and finds that everything has changed. The Doctor isn’t afraid to change things every now and then, but up until the last few seasons, he has always been dead-set against oh, let’s say, taking Vincent Van Gogh to a modern-day exhibition of his work in the hopes of convincing him not to kill himself. (In “Genesis of the Daleks”, he basically does refuse to kill Hitler, and it’s one of the most famous serials in Who history, for good reason.) It’s not so much that the Doctor has never changed the past or that he never gets caught up in some weird dimensional tangent, just that he never does so casually or just because it’s convenient. That all changed with the Vincent Van Gogh episode, and let me tell you, I was angry as hell.

Not Van Gogh's fault, though.

Not Van Gogh’s fault, though.

I find that it’s usually best to stop the instant you think you’ve hit upon an argument that’s so rock-solid that your opponent will immediately recant their position. That’s usually the part where they just scream, “No, you’re wrong!”, and either ignore you or get violent. You have to quit while you’re ahead, is all, and more important than refuting the other person’s every point is showing them that you have other shit to worry about. So that’s why I always try to walk away as soon as I realize I’m not getting through. At a certain point, the disagreement gets to whether the sky is blue or just a very light purplish color, and that’s when I realize that it’s time to bow out, even if it looks to everyone else like I’m just a coward in an ivory tower. So I’m moving on.

I’ve always hated false equivalencies. I have no use for the notion that for every issue, there must be two equally valid points of view. That’s not just unfair to the issues that have only one valid position (gay marriage, anyone?), but unfair to the issues that have more than two valid points of view. It’s unfair for one person to pretend to be wiser than another just because they’re older and more educated, but not unfair for them to assume that they know something the younger and less experienced don’t. You can disagree with the past, but not dismiss it, is what I’m saying, because we’re all products of our parents, blah blah blah. Understand your own history, don’t pretend that it’s no longer relevant.

I’ve heard history described as “just one fucking thing after another”. That’s kind of the fun of it. By studying how we got here, we figure out where we’re going and all that lovely crap. And since people are basically the same, it’s nice to be reminded that even in Victorian England, people still laughed at crude jokes. The biopic is one of the safest and least interesting movie genres because biopics all follow the same formula and tend to smooth the rough edges of what is usually a very interesting life. Part of the reason that we’ve never gotten a biopic about Martin Luther King could be because the dude, at first glance, was so saintly that it’s almost difficult to make him human. He probably had his prickly moments, though, just like anyone. (Digression: Is Jeffrey Wright too old to play the part? Because if anyone is considering making that movie and isn’t considering him, they’re insane.) But it is possible to make a great film about a great man. Malcolm X would probably be the best example of that, as it’s not only well-made and entertaining, but worth watching more than once. I can’t really say the same for Gandhi.

I have to finish this quickly, as I’m writing this at work, a practice which I keep trying to rid myself of. I sort of have an excuse, though, as I finished the project that I’m supposed to spend my downtime doing and will get a new one next week (although I could easily find something else to do if I tried.) I’m still tired, though, from the past week. A lot has happened in the past few days, and I haven’t gotten much rest. Funny that the most drama came from an argument about Doctor Who. Hey, this shit matters to me. Nobody is taking that away, but believe me, they’re trying.


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