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Practice safe irrationality

Kevin Noonan | Monday, February 13, 2012

I think I understand irrationality better than most. It’s a part of my everyday life, even integral to my personality. Ask my friends; they’ll tell you. The amount of unreasonableness with which I approach every possible daily situation can frustrate those around me at times. I know that; it’s one of the main reasons I do it. Things like “maturity” and “rationality” aren’t exactly staples of my vocabularic diet.

And I, more than anyone, understand using irrationality to win an argument. I find myself often following the old proverb “Talk loudest and listen least and eventually your opponent will give up.”

And people are always like, “That’s not true.” And, “You’re an idiot.” And, “Those two statements are not connected.”

But I don’t care. No matter what, as long as I yell that at the top of my lungs and don’t listen to anything they say, I win once they give up.

But irrationality and the abandonment of reason have a time and a place. And that time and place is when you’re trying to get your friends in a huff over some topic of miniscule or, even better, no importance solely for the purpose of your own personal entertainment.

The time and place in which chaos-inducing rhetoric and mind-numbing foolishness are not appropriate is in the discussion of serious topics with the gravity and complexity that demand a measured, respectful debate.

For instance, if two people are discussing the merits of different candidates in this year’s election, and one person is screaming that all Republicans are Nazis and the other is yelling back that all Democrats are secretly Communist sleeper cells, then that conversation is not going to accomplish much.

Or say someone expresses an opinion on the recent controversy over this university being forced to supply birth control in its health care plan.

Now, if that person gives a reasonable argument for or against birth control, and someone responds with incendiary comments that viciously attack and insult the character, morals and/or intelligence of all those with whom he or she disagrees, then that respondent is incorrectly exercising irrationality, and is being a nincompoop.

“But Kevin,” you say, “that’s absurd. No one would do something like that to someone’s face.”

Well yeah. But take five minutes, find a news story on the internet on a controversial topic (or any youtube video) and read the comments. Once you’ve done that, take another five minutes, say a prayer for humanity, and then think about this every time you feel the need to comment on a topic, especially online.

Read your comment aloud to yourself, and ask yourself, “Am I being an irrational jackwagon? Do I sound like Kevin Noonan right now? Because that kid’s an idiot, and nobody really likes him.”

Then, realize that your comment probably won’t make a difference and will probably just serve to fuel the fires of people who haven’t read this. Once you’ve come to that realization, delete your comment, turn off your computer, go outside and be a productive member of society.

Contact Kevin Noonan at knoonan2@nd.edu

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.