I’m blessed to have the most argumentative friends on earth. Mind you, I said argumentative not stubborn. There’s a huge difference. Those who are argumentative love to argue, but aren’t afraid to say they’re wrong. Argument is healthy because we learn in the process, and it’s human nature to be inquisitive within reason and learn from our quest of proving the other person completely wrong.
After seeing the movie Immortals (which I highly recommend), I sit with my roommates and presume to straighten out our understandings of Greek mythology. Those of us who have studied, read, or been forced to read Greek mythology know that it’s more complicated than Disney’s Hercules (actually Heracles) leads us to believe. But the fun part is that we’ve battling any and all things from pronunciation to who did Zeus violate to create more deities, demi-gods, and other entities…and it’s not a stubborn argument. We conceded our points quite often. It’s actually still going, and it’s animated us to stay awake at least until 2 a.m. now. But it’s not just all about Athena and Theseus either.
The greatest thing about being a part of an ensemble that has no leader but is run through consensus is that we have trial and error, voting, and…of course…being argumentative within reason. So many positives have come out of our think tanks which could be viewed from an outside perspective as sometimes group discussion, sometimes group stubbornness. It’s so important when it comes to being in groups that it takes time out to be argumentative. Some of the best ideas and best consensus actions have come from being argumentative. And that means also knowing when to back down and realize that in this kind of Socratic debate, it is possible to be out-reasoned. I can’t count how many times a certain friend of mine has proven his vocal intuition is significantly stronger than mine, and it’s turned from being a Socratic debate to a deference on my part. And that’s great.
That does not mean that being argumentative or living for the debate means that you should back down from personal beliefs. I was challenged by one of my non-physical friends (a term I use for those friends I’ve met through the networking chain) about my belief on race vs. culture. While I agreed that race could be used as a negative definer and stereotype of a group of people, I struggled to see how one could live “outside” of the current racial structures of the United States. Especially when government documentation requires you to choose what is your race or mark “other” if it’s complicated. I responded by saying that I was proud to be black because I am not the stereotype at all. I am a musical theatre loving, tennis playing, novel writing, piano playing, “only ghetto when I have to be” black person. Culture is what matters most, and if one identifies with the culture, one feels at home and comfortable. That’s my personal belief. He felt that culture and race were not anything, and that he views people without race. Now, some of us may view that as a utopian view of the world, seeing as that would imply that race does not matter (which is a good point, and I think that is great). My personal view is that race isn’t a sole definer, but it can be something used for pride, as well as culture. I am proud to be a black Belizean-American, who plays tennis and plays piano and likes reading and all of the other activities that I truly enjoy. It is part of the whole picture. That view that I’ve now maintained would probably have never surfaced without that argument taking place.
My favorite activity, however, is watching two friends really debate and argue on such a high intellectual level, challenging societal norms. Two of my friends seem to always get to this level of arguing and it is, in my opinion, the most beautiful argument. They completely turn all of us who witness or participate from being comfortable with everything to challenging our every day actions and interactions within 30 minutes. That is an amazing accomplishment, and it’s something that I’ve benefited from and the world could benefit from. Because without looking at ourselves and growing from what we’ve learned, argument or not, the human experience is lost.
You may not agree with that; let’s have an argument and see what more we can learn.