Loren at In A Dark Time has been reading the Chuang Tzu, and has made a connection from a selection there to the state of political debate in the blog arena. He makes an excellent point. I think that debate, as practiced in the contemporary political and social arena (and as opposed to the classical debate form) is akin to weeding a garden. I’m not one of those fastiduous gardeners, who must have a perfectly groomed bed of tidy plants standing at attention. I am generally content to make a limited effort at weeding, pulling or chopping those non-wanted plants (a weed merely being a perennial at a place where it isn’t wanted) that are most visible, or are threatening to crowd out a plant that may need some space. This is partly due to a lack of initiative on my part, partly because sometimes I want to see what a particular weed will do if I allow it to grow and flower, and partly to prevent damage to wanted plants. Because invariably, it seems, when I mount a vigorous assault on weeds, I end up inadvertently chopping down a good plant. I did this last night, while I was trying to get the violets out of the big perennial bed in the front. One quick slip of my hoe, and I had cut down half of a purple coneflower. I had gotten too aggressive, and had generalized the target. That’s the way too many debates go now. The intensity builds and mutates into vehemence, and in the ensuing rage some of the target audience is pushed away from an idea they might otherwise have supported, or at least tolerated. The extremes become the only debate points, because the middle ground has become a giant chasm of disinterest. The coneflowers have been replaced by the ragweed.
(Beltway Traffic Jam)