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This is a question Tactless

As grandmasterfluffles puts it, "My ex once told me, "That's the best sex I've ever had... Well, apart from with my cousin..."
What's the most tactless thing you've heard? And was it you saying it?

(, Thu 3 Nov 2011, 22:40)
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I was taking International Relations at university
because I had to have at least one political science elective. The class met on Mondays and Wednesdays at 9am, which meant that I had to bring my coffee into the class with me and finish waking up during the lecture. As a rule I sat in the center of the front row- it was easier to get a seat, and I never had a problem reading the notes he put up on the board.

One day he started teaching us the theories of Karl Marx. It was a rather broad overview, of course, but he explained Marx's theory that if society worked together cooperatively, everyone would only need to work a few hours a week, leaving most of their time for higher pursuits such as music, literature and art.

I listened to this for about five minutes, coffee in hand, blearily glaring at the board, and growled, "What a crock of bullshit."

There was a collective gasp from the auditorium as the professor stopped in his tracks and turned to me. "Why do you say it's bullshit?"

I took a hit of coffee and said, "Marx apparently didn't understand human nature. Humans are basically lazy and greedy. Communism won't work for the long term."

The professor looked astonished. "Why do you say that?"

"Look, if humans weren't inherently lazy we would still be hunter gatherers. Why did agriculture come to be? Because Thog got tired of chasing antelopes and bashing them on the head with a stick for food. He didn't want to wander around the woods looking for berries, he wanted them right outside his house. Why do we have technology? Because we don't like having to spend our efforts in basic sustenance. You drive a car to work because it's easier than riding a horse or walking. We have grocery stores because we don't want to kill animals and skin them every morning.

"Humans are also greedy. We want the most we can get for the least amount of effort. That's part of why we have police, to keep the stronger guys from beating the shit out of the smaller guys and taking their stuff, right?

"So if the government is feeding you, clothing you and giving you a place to live, what motivation do you have for not just staying drunk and sitting around your house wanking? Altruism, that if you don't work the society will collapse? Not likely. Some will work harder to keep the system going, but others will slack off. The way the Russians countered that was with secret police and brutality, but even that didn't work very well.

"Marx is full of shit."

The professor listened to me all the way through, looking increasingly amused, while the rest of the class was frozen in terror. We then spent about ten minutes or so arguing it back and forth before we agreed to continue the discussion after class, and he finished the lecture.

I got an A in the course, and we were pretty good friends for the rest of the year. Tactless though I was, at least I contributed to his class...
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 2:12, closed)
needless to say, you had the last lau...
But I'm curious here, what exactly did you contribute to the class? Negative criticism? Did you offer any amazing insights of your own?

At this point, I'd like to point out that I've been reading Qotw (off and on)for ten years now and over this time I have enjoyed many of your fine stories.
This one, however, leaves me wondering if you had a croissant with that coffee?
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 3:06, closed)
I contributed a contrasting view.
I provoked an unscripted discussion of an idea that had (at least on the surface) some logical merit to it. I demonstrated that at least one of his students (and after that, a few of us) was actively engaged in listening rather than just taking notes, and thinking about what was said. I unexpectedly gave the rest of the class something to think about.

In truth, good teachers love it when that happens. I'm married to a professor, her father is a professor, and my sister is a teacher married to a professor. They all tell stories of having these unexpected interactions and how they love it.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 11:57, closed)
That is actually
really lovely.
Thank you.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 16:01, closed)
you're AMAZING.

(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 3:14, closed)
We should always provoke thought
Essentially we're slaves to human nature, especially when it comes to large groups. This seems to be ignored in many arguments.

Any point of view should be able to withstand scrutiny, which is what I would think you were contributing. The sign of the reasoned thinker is to debate both sides, without trying to just completely ignore your argument.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 7:58, closed)
A free and frank exchange of ideas during a policial science class, isn't tactless.
It's exactly the right thing to do.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 9:24, closed)
This is why our bodies are so wrecked
We evolved to work hard all day and keep moving, but we've made things easy for ourselves and evolution hasn't kept up.

Anyway, education isn't supposed to be a lecturer feeding information to passive students, it's supposed to be interactive. Lecture theatres of a few decades ago were probably much more interesting places to be.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 9:36, closed)
Wow.
It looks like you totally found a fatal flaw in Marx's thought that had been completely missed by a century and a half of scholarship! And you did so while only half-awake! And presumably without actaully having read much - or any - of Marx or the subsequent work! Well done you!

(OK, I'll grant you that, from the sounds of it, your teacher was pretty awful; had he had much idea about Marx, he'd've been able to point out quickly and easily that your questions hinged on a set of premises that Marx would not have accepted - not least the idea that there's such a thing as a human nature that is wholly separate from the historical context in which its found, and the idea that we must look at humans as competing individuals; for Marxism, there is no unencumbered human nature, and - on at least some accounts - the idea that humans are separable from each other is dependent on a particular socio-historical contingency. Have a look at his essay on alienation in the 1844 Manuscripts. It's superb.)
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 10:17, closed)
I kinda figured you'd be annoyed. *laugh*
No, I haven't read Marx. I'm sure you could cite me chapter and verse where he demolishes the argument. You've studied him, I haven't.

I was reacting to the general overview as presented (actually the teacher was very good, he just had to cover a lot of ground that day so he oversimplified) at an early hour of the day when I hadn't had enough coffee and was feeling grumpy. I'd probably have argued against democracy that morning.

As to Marx not accepting the concept of human nature- here I really do disagree. People do in fact have an underlying nature that affects their behaviors and personalities. For evidence I tend to point to siblings- my own three kids have very different personalities, despite being raised by the same parents and being very close in age. The same could be said of my own siblings, and of every other bunch of siblings I've ever met.

But also, though Marx would probably not care to admit it, human beings are still essentially animals. We have conscious minds, I grant you, but that doesn't really mean that our superior intellect stops us from doing things that we know we shouldn't. Why not? Because of our underlying natures. Willpower only goes so far.

In any case. it was a tale of me being a bit tactless in class with an unexpectedly good result.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 11:52, closed)
Not angry. Just disappointed.
Tee hee.

Your claim about your siblings, though, doesn't really speak to the denial that there's such a thing as "human nature". There might be humans with characteristics, but that won't tell you that those characteristics could not have been otherwise, or that they're anything much to do with being human. (I'll admit here that there is a tinge of human nature stuff in some of Marx's writings, but it's open to dispute just how important it is.) And Marx would have had no problem at all with humanity's animalism.

I don't understand your democracy claim, by the way. It's not as if there're no perfectly good arguments against that.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 14:28, closed)
True. Democracy is mob rule, when you boil it down.
I meant that at the time I was feeling a bit surly and argumentative anyway, and would have picked an argument just for the sake of arguing. Early morning is not a good time for me in general, and discussing political theories is generally not one of my favorite things anyway.

Similarly I took a class titled "Ethics and Health Care" that semester, as I had to have an ethics elective of some sort. The class was taught by a nun who ultimately took a liking to me, especially after I argued in favor of executing criminals by exsanguination to supply the blood banks. (I was ripping off Larry Niven at the time.) I had the class in a minor uproar as I defended my position that it would be a way for violent criminals to repay society by saving lives, and she stood to one side grinning.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 14:40, closed)
Bwahahahaha!

(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 16:06, closed)
Nah.
"Why did agriculture come to be? Because Thog got tired of chasing antelopes and bashing them on the head with a stick for food. He didn't want to wander around the woods looking for berries, he wanted them right outside his house."

That's a lovely view in hindsight, but given the complexity of actually building a worthwhile agricultural system, and that settled hunter-gathering can actually be hugely efficient, it's vanishingly unlikely that agriculture was developed intentionally. In short, Thog had never seen a farm, it's much more likely that the idea developed gradually by a process of serendipity and trial and error.

Incidentally, your interjection sounds massively annoying given that the lecturer doesn't sound like he was endorsing Marxism, that he probably did have something interesting to say in the 10 minutes that you used up, and that a huge proportion of the class probably had the same idea but just chose not to voice it.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 16:12, closed)
You bloody don. If I could shake your hand I would.
Have a click.
(, Fri 4 Nov 2011, 16:47, closed)
I really don't know what part of what you said was tactless.
Blunt and rude perhaps but tactless? You sat through a lecture for a few minutes, interrupted said lecture and had a go at the lecturer for teaching something as part of the course material. So you interrupted your entire class's teaching with something you probably would have been given time to share when there's a natural pause in the lecture or at the end when a lecturer asks if there are any questions. Also you sounded really rude too or does being polite not cut it when you're "being passionate".

I probably sound quite rude here and I generally enjoy your posts but this one isn't very good. If I was there and didn't know you I might just have muttered, 'twat' under my breath.
(, Sun 6 Nov 2011, 0:32, closed)

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