Houses on Fire and Argumentative Ideas

So, this blog post is going to start off a little interestingly. I just finished getting rid of some malware on my computer (I have NO idea how it got there in the first place) and I have an audition in about an hour. My mind is not necessarily in an academic or analytic state of mind! Luckily, this kind of frustration tends to make my mind work more quickly and ferociously. This is my current mood:

I’m also listening to some awesome hip-hop by Aesop Rock. If you haven’t heard of him, I’d recommend a quick YouTube search; the guy is a genius.

Anyway, Professor McDaniel asked us to post on the Minor in Writing Blog about an essay that was assigned for class: Rebecca Solnit’s “By the Way, Your Home is on Fire.” The essay argues for divestment in oil companies. She sees this as the most obvious solution to the encroaching problems caused by global warming and carbon emissions. There are a few problems with her argument, as well as with her analogy of a burning home. The most obvious one is that if your house is on fire, you can probably escape the house in one way or another. We can’t exactly escape the Earth. Plus, it’s rather easy to put out a home fire: call the fire department, and they rush over with a hose to douse the flames with. It seems like Solnit’s analogy could work in this context, but divestment in oil companies wouldn’t just “put out the fire.” It would collapse our civilization if it were done all at once. Plus, there are not any monetary considerations when spraying a fire to death with water. Money is a huge part of the equation win regard to climate change efforts, especially since oil companies wield immense power due to wealth.

I think a better analogy would be that of being trapped in quicksand. One does not purposefully step into it, nor did the generations before mine intend to destroy the planet’s climate by burning fossil fuels. Both are accidental occurrences that include some measure of premeditated thought: one steps on the ground with purpose, and one burns fossil fuels in order to operate a machine. It’s obvious that the consequences are severe at some point after the action, but not before it.

In quicksand, one sinks slowly into danger and potentially into death (if the sand if deep enough). It is the same with global warming. The only way to pull oneself out of the danger is to slowly ease out, without any sudden movements. The more quickly one moves in quicksand, the faster one gets sucked into the pit. If we just completely stop using fossil fuels at this very moment, then society collapses.

It often takes teamwork to get out of quicksand in most instances: another person to help you out by way of a rope, stick, or vine. With fossil fuel consumption, it is no different. We cannot make progress by simply cutting off any one group and trying to go it alone. This breeds discontent, which is not conducive to solving any sort of problem. Teamwork is what will make this work.

We’re stuck in quicksand, slowly sinking into our demise. Only by working together with a slow-moving solution can we hope to escape its grasp.

Now, please enjoy some Aesop Rock:


The other portion of this assignment was to consider arguing in general.

Are there arguments that are absolutely necessary to have? Of course there are. Arguments over slavery, equal rights, foreign policy, and all manner of politically charged topics are essential to the functioning of societies. If there were nobody willing to have these arguments, the world might be a very grim and unpleasant place.

Are there instances where arguing in itself is a mistake? This is a tough question to answer. I’ve actually recently experienced a situation (literally the past two days) where I’ve had to hold my tongue because if I had reacted the way I wanted to, the whole ordeal would end up worse than where it started. I don’t like to do this, but I think that it answers the question above. Sometimes making an argument is not a good idea; it can hurt feelings, breed distrust, and make enemies out of close friends.

Can both coexist? Certainly. I think that an argument that needs to be made out of necessity can still be a mistake. I find myself thinking about satirical journalism when I consider this question. Satire normally makes inflammatory arguments, which often need to be made, but sometimes the way those arguments are made can cause more problems than intended. If an argument needs to made, but has the potential to anger certain parties, then it is essential to consider the manner in which it is made for fear of the argument being an outright mistake.


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