26
Feb
11

I Agree With You But…

A few weeks ago, I and some friends were protesting an unfair policy at my college. Exactly what the policy was isn’t important, suffice it gave the student body unequal treatment, depending on which class you belonged you. So as I and my friend stood in hallway, holding homemade signs, the students getting the special treatment began to file past us. Some ignored our calls for them to refuse the preferential treatment they were being offered, a few stopped to talk to us, and some even listened to us and turned around and left. For the most part, however, the students smiled at us and said “I agree with you but-“. Exactly what there justification was isn’t really important either- it tended to be something along the lines of “-but I don’t want to stand in the other line…” or “-but my friends are waiting for me in there…” or “-but they’re going to give your class something nice as well…” and so on. As I said, the justification isn’t really important- it’s the “I agree with you but-” part.

 

Now I wanted to tell them “Hey- you either agree or you don’t- you’ll either take our side or you won’t”. If you agree that killing kittens for sport is unethical (don’t panic- that not what the college was doing) then you won’t kill kittens- if you don’t agree, then you’ll have no issue with it. However, you can’t ever say that “I believe killing kittens for sport is wrong, but [insert excuse here]”. Again, you either agree or you don’t.

 

And the issue I have isn’t with which side people take- it’s with attempt to hold two conflicting positions. In the words of one of my favorite rappers, “Hypocrisy- it bothers me” (Lowkey- I recommend his song “Terrorist”). You see, this “I agree with you but…” scenario is reflective of a much greater problem we have in society. On one hand we say we believe something- most of the time we believe that we believe- but when it comes to acting on our purported beliefs we’re nowhere to be seen. I saw this issue earlier when I was going door to door collecting signatures for a boycott of Coca-Cola. I’d ask if the residents believed that sweatshop labor was wrong- they’d say “Yes.”. I’d ask them if they thought people should boycott sweatshop made products- they’d say “Yes.”. I’d ask them if they would boycott Coke and they’d say “No- we agree with you but-“. Again I want to yell at these people “No, you don’t agree with me! I don’t care if I get your signature or not- just don’t tell me you agree with me but you won’t do anything!”.

 

Maybe it’s a post-modernist thing- values are held for the aesthetic qualities, not for their application. When you get a poster of Picasso’s Guernica, it’s because the picture fits well with the general decor of the room you’re hanging it in- not because you espouse an anti-war view. In the same way, you might have (or rather, claim to have) an anti-war view because it looks good- not because you’d ever act on it.

 

Or maybe I’m over thinking it. Maybe the “I agree with you but…” is just a human problem.

 

Not too long ago, I was listening to a Socialist give a lecture on human nature. She made the claim that in times of disaster, humans didn’t immediately turn on each or hunt each other down. Melodramatic, yes, but her point was that even when you strip away government, the police, the army, and all social constructs for the protection of humans against each other, people didn’t start murdering each other left and right. She argued that this disproves the belief that human nature is inherently evil. Of course, while the points she offered are correct, the conclusions she drew are all wrong. Humans aren’t basically evil because we do terrible things to each other- humans are basically evil because we do nothing. One of my favorite movies, The Boondock Saints, opens with a priest giving a sermon on the murder of a young woman who was killed in public, with no one responding in any ways to her calls for help. The priest declares “We must all fear evil men, but there is another kind of evil that we must fear most, and this the indifference of good men…”.

 

Maybe the problem is here. Maybe we’re just too egocentric to imagine anything as unfair unless we’re being affected. Maybe we’re just naturally apathetic.

 

Of course, that’s no excuse. Just because we have a proclivity towards selfishness, hypocrisy, and laziness doesn’t mean we should get away with it. Is it right to tolerate injustice and oppression? Of course not. Should we resist, engage, dissent, and fight for what is moral and right? Naturally. So we’re going to shake ourselves out of apathy?

 

Well, I agree with you, but…

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3 Responses to “I Agree With You But…”


  1. February 26, 2011 at 11:06 pm

    None of us perfectly live out what we believe, and almost all of us could do more to make the world better. That being said, there are some legitimate intellectual difficulties with trying to do that. I want to briefly explore three of them.

    1.How committed do I have to be in order to be “down for the struggle?” Is it good enough if I just reject the preferential treatment, or do I have to stand with you and hold a sign. If one student leaves the school in protest and asks you to do the same, wouldn’t you have to say, “I agree with you, but…”

    2. How separated from the evil do I have to be in order to stay pure? Is it enough to not drink coke, or should I refuse to eat at restaurants that serve it? Can I attend concerts or sporting events where it is served? Can I watch programs on which it is advertised? Does the person who drinks coke have exactly the same level of moral culpability as the person who creates and implements sweatshop policies?

    3. Does it matter that the social and economic costs of involvement vary greatly from person to person?

    In the past, I have used this space to poke fun at this blogger and his blog, and I will probably do so again in the future. So I want to make clear that just this once I was really trying to legitimately engage.

    • 2 trotskyite
      February 27, 2011 at 12:41 am

      I really don’t have all the answers, and while you offer some legitimate points, I’d go back to my argument of “Either one agrees or one doesn’t”. I don’t judge people with economic difficulties for shopping and big-box stores like Walmart because of there economic constraints. However, if I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t say “I agree with the Walmart boycott but…”, I’d say “I disagree with the Walmart boycott due to my financial situation”. Hypocrisy, not commitment, is the issue here.

  2. 3 seo
    January 31, 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Hello! I’ve been reading your blog for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Austin Texas! Just wanted to mention keep up the excellent work!


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