By Akin Ojumu

Of the many foibles that beset mankind none has some of us in their addictive clutches, none is our Achilles heels. By the grace of Almighty God, we are not dipsomaniacs, nicotine has never touched our tongues or reached our lungs, gluttons we are not, and philogyny is not encoded in our DNA.

But being the mere mortals that we are, our inadequacies are as many as the stars in the skies, and our blemishes are like the sand on the seashore. Like a light house that can be seen from a far distance, our imperfections are glaring for all to see. While we have been able to escape the clutches of alcohol, nicotine, gluttony, and womanizing, scholarly argument is a vice that has got our number pretty good, and a non-conforming mind is the bane of our existence.

For those of us who are not the sharpest knives in the drawer, a predilection for cerebral dialogue poses a unique set of improbable challenges. A reasonable person would think our slow-wittedness should discourage us from dabbling in anything that would expose our mental inaptitude. Nay! Like a masochist, that’s exactly what we do; we stray out of our slow lane of dimwittedness into the thoroughfare of the erudite and we plunge into the highway of those blessed with fecund mind.

When the brain cells are like wet spark plugs like ours, they are a tad slow in firing unlike the brain of very smart people. As such, those of our kind are apt to adapt. And in order to catch up with those gifted with savvy minds, we develop coping mechanisms and acquire peculiar learning skills. These particular set of skills are especially important for those of us who are also unapologetically non-conformists.

A proven strategy we’ve deployed to cope with our obtusity is our tendency to relentlessly scour for, and pay keen attention to, information. To aid our understanding, we go precept upon precept, line upon line, a little here and a little there. In addition, we have a consuming passion for facts and truths, and an uncompromising intolerance for falsehoods.

While others get high on dope, as renegade slow learners, challenging assumptions and cross-examining beliefs is our high. With IQs at the very bottom of the barrel, the one way we get our juices flowing is by questioning customs and scrutinizing traditions. We do this not because we find no value in customs or have no regard for beliefs. On the contrary, our need to be rooted in a solid foundation of canon of faith is what rouses us to test all professed beliefs and to only accept and hold on to that which is true.

Knowing where we stand in the intelligence totem pole, we never approach a discourse with a closed mind. We are driven not by a sense that we know it all, but by a realization that we know nothing at all. While we may not be smart, we are smart enough to know what we don't know. It is the paucity of what we know that fuels our quest to want to know, and a conscious awareness of the fallibility of what we do know spurs our drive for vigorous debate. It is the recognition of our own limitations in insight and a deep appreciation of the wealth of knowledge that others possess that makes civil discourse such an attractive and a worthwhile endeavor for us bozos.

And it is with a thirsty mindset and a hungry mentality that we approach every argument; hoping that by drawing from the well of knowledge of those with whom we debate, we may, perhaps, have our thirst quenched and hunger sated. We always come with an earnest anticipation to glean a scoop of intelligence that will affirm, expand, inform, or refine our vastly limited knowledge base.

Be that as it may, we don't come to an argument simply to rollover, accept and acquiesce. We are not one to swallow anything and everything. You can be sure we will contest every point fiercely, every fact fearlessly, and every proof passionately. But we always endeavor to do so respectfully and we make every effort to extend grace to anyone who challenges our point of view.

The willingness to respectfully disagree, a hallmark of civility, is an ideal to which we subscribe. Graciousness displayed through genuine and honest discourse is a virtue we always strive to pursue. However, that genteelness to disagree without being disagreeable is a human trait that is lacking in many people who engage others in interlocution, and that includes us as well. From time to time, we fail to live up to this ideal, and we often fall short of what we aspire to be.

It takes great discipline and extraordinary self-control not come off as a jackass in the heat of passionate argument. The desire to come up on top in a dialogue causes many to take a dive down the rabbit hole. And many there are for whom the desire to vanquish the foe is a climax of ultimate pleasure they seek in every debate.

Such people are wont to engage in bad-faith arguments which are easily spotted at one hundred paces. Instead of marshaling their point of view with factual erudition, they default to gimmickry and stoop to chicanery. Their tool box overflows with mendacity and their lips spew prevarication. They shower on you their rhetoric that deflects and confuses instead of enlightens and engages. Rather than seek a way to agree to disagree, their modus operandi is always to disagree to agree. But if you sieve through the filibuster and speechification, you can easily tell the trees from the forest.

But unlike these who view arguments as an occasion for pompous pontification and opportunity to harangue with ponderous sermonizing, the motivation of slow-witted contrarian like us in every colloquy is the hope that we will come out on the other side enriched in knowledge, evolved in understand, and by so doing become better persons.


Popular posts from this blog