Monday, December 4, 2017
Nicholas Reid reflects in essay form on general matters and ideas related to literature, history, popular culture and the arts, or just life in general. You are free to agree or disagree with him.
“BOTH / AND” NOT “EITHER / OR”
There’s a type of argument that I have become tired of hearing, especially on radio but also in certain quarters of the internet.
It’s the type of argument that assumes things are mutually exclusive when they are in fact complementary.
I give two examples.
I tune in to a speech on prisons and incarceration. The speaker is earnestly arguing that we should not have prisons as places of punishment, but that we should have better education to prevent criminality and better rehabilitation schemes.
Of course I applaud fully education and rehabilitation schemes and I would oppose no plans to extend them. But this is the fatal either/or dichotomy. While we are rehabilitating young criminals, or educating young people who are in danger of becoming criminals, what do we do about the hardened criminals and multiple offenders who are already at odds with society? Unpleasant though it may be to contemplate, there are people who are beyond rehabilitation. The reality is that there will still have to be some punitive incarceration (unless you want to bring back capital punishment). It is a case of both/and, not either/or.
In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein affair, I read on line a polemic about how we should deal with the sexual predation of women. The woman who writes it says that what is needed is a massive re-education of men and boys. En route to making her case, she ridicules programmes that aim to make girls and women safe by teaching them self-defence, caution in their behaviour and care around the men they associate with. This, she says, is laying the onus on women while restricting their freedom. Since males are the offenders, males alone should have their behaviour modified and limited.
And again I hear that dire either/or thinking rather than both/and.
Sure, educate men and boys to behave with respect around women (you might fruitfully begin by removing all the pornography available on line). But if you are a young woman, is it not prudent to know how to look after yourself, be aware of (sexual) dangers you might face and know how to avoid them? Yep – not dressing like a hooker and not getting drunk around men you hardly know might be good advice too. Or is such common sense an example of oppressive patriarchal stereotyping?
I could extend my both/and argument by referring to the matter of government welfare and private charity, but I have already made my case that these are complementary, in my post The Guv’mentOrda.
Beware the unbalanced argument that needlessly speaks in terms of mutual exclusivity.