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Fascist, Apparently...

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I was at a get-together at the weekend for my birthday and my Dad invited my (hippy/waster) brother along for my Mun's sake. Everyone knows we tend to keep our conversations short and to-the-point as we don't see eye-to-eye on much at all but the family thought he'd have the sense to keep to small-chat like everyone else was.

It was not to be. I was drawn into a conversation of which I'll give you the high-lights...

My brother started asking my opinion about crime and punishment and mentioned a prominent local case involving a nationally-renowned sportsman who was convicted of a driving offense that left another man crippled. I said that the punishment was tame compared to that suffered by the victim (which my brother agreed on) but when I said that since this person had a previous conviction for a similar offense then this should have been taken into account after guilt is determined, but before sentence is passed. At this point my brother called me a 'bully'. He started quoting statistics but got annoyed when I refuted them with first-hand experience of the reality of reoffending and prisoner attitudes to sentencing.

He then steered the conversation around to economics and I was dragged into a debate about the EU Human Rights Charter. Needless to say, I explained the proper origin,meaning and application of true rights and explained that I am an individualist, not a socialist. He tried to sway me with appeals to helping myself by making things better for all those around me first and I told him he was putting the cart before the horse. So he announced that I was a 'fascist'. I explained that he hadn't even got a clue about what Fascism really meant and that his communist/socialist policies were almost identical to those employed by the Fascists...in fact by any version of Statism.

Then we got onto economics and after challenging me on the moral grounds of Capitalism I defended my views succinctly and then was called a 'Nazi'. At this point my family had had enough and kicked him out.

What struck me was that throughout the whole debacle every time I answered a point he made he seemed to brush it off, ignoring it without answering the validity of my reply, then resorted to emotional appeals, then insults when those appeals failed to dent my resolve to debate rationally and intelligently.

I don't have a problem having debates with people like my brother, but would have wanted it to take place away from everyone else there as I knew how heated it would become (at least from one side). What annoyed me is that my brother reminded me that he had a degree in business/economics so he 'knew how corrupt Capitalism really is'. This is what my taxes have gone to produce...a 33-year-old who has never worked a day in his life, is still at university doing who-knows-what, living in the shadow of ivory towers and acting like his fairy-tale education has some relevence to the real-world.

I'm sure others here have had similar experiences so I apologise if I've belaboured the point, but I wanted to get it off my chest, and I didn't want to upset my parents by reminding them about what happened to their idea for the invite. Thanks :thumbsup:

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Family can be exasperating.

My sister and I get into it constantly because she's a serious Republican and it drives her nuts when I say "I'm a Capitalist, not a Conservative." She wants to convince me they're one-in-the-same, but I'm like a soccer goalie deflecting all her arguments. She's bright, though, and doesn't easily lapse into appeals to emotion or ad hominems - she approaches debates intellectually, and she asks hard questions. Eventually she'll exhaust herself and pick up that copy of Atlas Shrugged I gave her. She's a great gal, and worthy of the head-butting (she'll drive any future husband of hers nuts, that's for sure!). If I "convert" her - or at least get her focused on Objectivism - I'll consider it a serious intellectual achievement. :thumbsup:

Other family members I don't speak to. My sister is adopted (born in Korea), and an extended relative doesn't quite understand why I won't talk to him because he used the word nigger in front of me.

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I treat debates like those as valuable to myself because they both sharpen my debating skills and give me a concrete example for me of how successful I have been in integrating all the information I have read. I am aware of the futility of trying to reason with those that have abandoned all semblance of it but I like to be prepared for when, or if, I am drawn into these debates when companions or collegues(who may lack the intellectual ammo to defend their views) are ambushed by radicals of any ilk.

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For professional intellectuals and a few others, and in certain circumstances, your motivation makes a lot of sense to me. The only remaining question for me, if I were in that situation, would be whether I expected to gain enough from any particular "debate," to justify taking time away from my highest personal values (my work, my friends, and my favorite leisure activities).

One of the defining characteristics of a debate (as distinct from a discussion, for example) is that one of the debaters will win a prize of some sort. I have found that asking myself what prize is at stake helps me decide whether a particular "debate" is worth pursuing.

Further, as you indicated, irrationalists, by definition, cannot be reasoned with. They are out of touch with reality. So, if I did enter a debate with an irrationalist, I would never be upset. Why would a debater be upset if he knows he isn't going to change the other person's position or debating behavior?

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