How do you feel about Provocateurs?
By Dr. Ann
September 28, 2007 2:58am CST
I was raised with the strict admonition that two subjects are impolite to discuss in what my family called "mixed company." The two were religion and politics. The reason given was that you cannot say very much about either one of them without stepping on somebody's toes. If that didn't stop us from continuing the offense of raising these subjects, we were sternly reminded that whatever aging Uncle or another might had been present at the time had a "weak heart" and that if we persisted in talking about forbidden subjects which were bound to get people "riled" up, then we would be guilty of murder if the old guy croaked. One day, when I was about 9 years old, I looked up from a book I was reading and feeling too lazy to go get the dictionary, I asked, "What is a provocateur?" Without raising his head from the newspaper, Dad winked at me and replied, "That is someone who tries to talk politics and religion at the dinner table."To my mind, myLot is very much like a dinner table, because we all come here to feast on the insights and ideas of others. We are very much in mixed company here, too, so I try hard to mind my manners as taught. However, to this day I still look upon provocateuring as an act of violence. What if I had shot off my mouth and Uncle Henry had suffered a heart attack right at my own table? What is your preference for discussion in an online social networking community such as myLot? Free Speech or Courtesy at all Costs? Which do you do? Throw salt in people's wounds or put out fires?
4 people like this
18 Oct 07
I know this is an old topic but i just saw this. Interesting subject matter. Religion and politics are two very sensitive subjects which should not be discuss openly, more so in a social networking site like this, is what i think. People with a good sense should know these two subjects are taboo everywhere. I think free speech still rules in a forum like this but we have to practise courtesy too when putting forth our views here. There are people from all over the world here, each with different life and religious beliefs, and political views. Sometimes, my friends and me do engage in political talk but only among ourselves and not in public. We understand these talks are very sensitive and certainly do not want to attract other people's attention to it. And in a multiracial and multi-religion country like mine, these two subjects are strictly forbidden in public. The thing is, people could easily get caught up in these heated talks once it's started. For a time, when i was young and naive, these two issues fascinated me. I would read up on political concepts and ideologies like Capitalism, Neo-fascism, Socialism, Communism which seemed to have its own 'charm'. If i remember right, fascism and socialism are the complete opposite, although in my simplistic view they reside on the opposite end of the same thing: a state control, authoritarian society with no freedom of thoughts which have been proven to be a failure. An authoritarian society taken to its extreme becomes a totalitarian state, which is perfectly exemplified in George Orwell's novel '1984' with its terrifying 'Big Brother' theme. Are these kind of discussion interesting now? Not anymore. These are all terms created by humans. Most people now don't really care about all these term. Basically people just want the freedom to choose their lives. Freedom to be with their loved ones and generally to live a happy and productive life. If everyone could have these, then the world would be a better place to lived in. I'd probably said too much and wander off the point of this topic (haha). Once started it is difficult to stop. To conclude, there are far more interesting and hopefully more relevant subjects (like music and the state of human nature, perhaps) than politics and religion. We learn nothing by becoming an 'agent provocateur', so to say. There's no reason not to keep our beliefs to ourselves. At the very least, we would never hurt another soul in doing that. And in this age, that would be the sensible thing to do.
• United States
18 Oct 07
I'm glad to find that at least one person agrees with me on this. Someone asked a very pointed question in response to one of my replies to a different topic yesterday, and I had to think a bit just how to politely say that this was not the sort of question I wished to answer here. I did not want to be rude and just ignore the question, but neither did I wish to get anyone riled up. Animal Farm is my favorite story by George Orwell, but when I used it as one of the texts in a composition class it seemed that all of the students had teachers who drilled into them a particular political point of view that was not quite the view Orwell probably intended for readers to take. Well, that is an understatement, because it was a view that had not even been invented yet when Orwell wrote the book. How could he have? I tried very hard as an instructor to leave students in the dark as to what my own political views might have been, and rather to concentrate of the facts. I am not as knowledgeable as you and therefore cannot reply to some of your discussions on music, but I do love literature. There are some similarities, though, as where some people refuse to listen to Wagner because some of the views he held are now regarded as politically incorrect, and probably rightly so. But his music is beyond beautiful, and how can you blame the music for all the thought the composer had? It is like blaming the pencil for what an author writes. The great thing about animal farm is that it has universal appeal. It can just be a story. It can be a parable. It can be more. We can each draw our own conclusions from it and then, as you say, keep them to ourselves..... :-)
20 Oct 07
I did not read 'Animal Farm' itself, but i'd read review that it was the pre-cursorto his novel, 'nineteen-eighty-four'. From the review, he was using animals in a farm as an allegory for his view on a totalitarianism society, if i remember right. I'm just curious here as to whether you share the same view after reading the book, but you don't have to answer me if you mind. Still, different people could take a different views of the story, so that's where the universal appeal of the book lies, as you'd said. Whereas, '1984' the novel, explicitly tells the story of one person's life under a 'totalitarian' state. It was an engrossing read, even though it has been a long time ago. Another thing was, i remember a movie of the same (also a long time ago) which starred John Hurt, i think. From memory, it was not as good as reading the book though. Your other comment about "not knowledgeable enough to reply to my music post", well, i'm not good at making these kind of discussion too. Even though i loved music but it's hard to put it into words. Try to put another topic inside a song. If the song is about a social condition or make a point about something, then it's easier. Otherwise, i just expressed what i feel after listening to a song. Often we have no words to describe the beauty of a musical piece. But it seems there's not much response to these types of discussion, haha. Maybe, i'll just stick to popular subjects like "what's the worst thing that your boss did to you" next time :)
• United States
21 Oct 07
Often movies, even quite good ones, are not as engrossing as the books from which their stories are taken. Yes, the books can operate at many levels, whereas the movies often push a particular point of view and then, too, they do not give one time to think. With the book, we can put it down for a moment and maybe even go back and check on a detail or two. The problem is that most of the people who have popular stories about rotten things their bosses did do work quite long and hard and thus many not have time to read very many books. Well, I am retired now, but still have quite a few rotten boss stories myself. I think these are also safer to tell after one has retired.
• United States
22 Oct 07
Hello Drannhh, What a delightfully respectable discussion! I was taught to keep politics & religion away from the dinner table as well. However, I always reasoned that the intention was to help prevent others from choking on either their food, or their words. Personally, I figure participants have a choice -- to engage or not. Who knows, Uncle Henry may need the excitement to keep his ol' ticker pumping. Of course, if Uncle Henry were present, I would only engage in provocative discussions if Uncle Henry was either the initiator, or an active participant. Oh, and of course, I still honor the 'dinner' restriction. Choking on one's food, or words should be avoided at all costs, at the time honored dinner table. As for MyLot, I never type and eat at the same time. I perceive MyLot as the discussion accompanying the after dinner apperitif. If a topic is of interest to me, or if I feel that I have something to contribute, then I'll make the choice to engage. Of course, I always envision the imaginary overhead sign "Enter at your own Risk". And, I make a point to present myself respectfully, with limited emotional response. Contention is dependent on emotional outbursts. For me, the best discussions are usually intellectually based, whether the topic is a newly hybridized Tea Rose, or Politics.
• United States
23 Oct 07
Chuckling, I am thinking that a real "Enter at your own Risk" sign might be appropriately placed somewhere at the entrance to the internet itself. Yes, there was a time long ago, and I do mean before television, when people retired after dinner to a place called a parlor, if they had one (or just gathered together around the kitchen table if they didn't), and there engaged in what was known as parlor talk.
• United States
28 Sep 07
It is someone who brings up a controversial idea just to try to get other people to join in. An example would be if a body tells his high school friends, "Let's go steal a car!" but then the others go do it and he stays behind and laughs while they get arrested. Here on myLot someone started a discussion meant to encourage other people here to criticize the U.S. My friend showed me the discussion, where she strongly supported our country and tried to educate the detractor or provocateur, whichever he might actually be. I did not wish to involve myself in such a discussion, but that does not mean my silence meant consent. I wanted to stick up for her, but I did not want to get involved in a political discussion either. So I didn't say anything at first.
30 Dec 07
sometimes it can be fun to be a 'provocateur'. people need to be more mellow and not get so hot under the collar because they do not agree with some ones opinion. i really do not care if someone contradicts me. i will agree and leave the discussion. life is too short to get wound up by the written word. but it is fun to rile the gullible up if they want to take the bait!
• United States
30 Dec 07
I think, though, that in the strict sense of the word, by provocateur we mean someone who riles the gullible up not just to enjoy a laugh, but to do real harm to somebody else. But as far as the sticks and stones will break my bones philosophy goes, I agree. It is sometimes fun to see if people will take the bait and run with it. And you are pretty good at that!