I have no idea how these people can stand to go on talking. This is wrong! They say, and they gather a big flock of people to bleat “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” together. And this is supposed to be a conversation.
No matter how wrong it is, and how many people agree with you, it's not a conversation. A conversation happens when you try to talk with one of the wrong people, or at least to imagine their point of view. A conversation happens when you figure out a time that you did the same kind of thing for the same kind of reason. A conversation happens, basically, when people discover that they're mistaken about something. Otherwise, it's just a bunch of primates getting together to fuss and make a lot of noise, like crows gathering for the night.
I find it increasingly difficult to talk to most people. Their moral vocabulary is so limited, and they have such black-and-white views. For them there are only two moral categories: right and wrong. It's a stretch for them even to get so far as to distinguish between “wrong” and “should be illegal.” When you get to something like “wrong but not as bad as the alternatives” they get panicky, and long before you get to “wrong but only because it injures your own heart” you've lost them completely. They want to be back in the comfort of the flock, bleating “Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!” together again.
The depth of ignorance displayed is staggering. A person asks, as if it was the most reasonable, answerable question in the world, “don't you think the Koran's effect on the world has been mostly negative?” The ignorance that makes it possible to ask such a question shocks me. We're talking about the foundational document of thousands of critically important institutions and scores of states, a document without which whole literatures and arts would not exist. In each and every case, you would have to investigate to find out -- what would probably have replaced it? Zoroastrianism? Byzantine Christianity? Some other cult? Would it have been better or worse, and in which ways? Where would world culture have gone under these other systems? Where would we be if, just for instance, arabic civilization had not preserved so much of Classical mathematics and natural philosophy? Would medicine as we know it even exist, without Galen and Avicenna? The questions are endless: I could fill pages with them. And each one would be rife with imponderables. Someone-- and this is a college professor we're talking about -- calmly undertaking to evaluate such a thing as a yes or no question in a Facebook comment thread makes me unhappy and nervous. Maybe civilization has ended, after all, but we've been too polite to mention it.
When I write something like this post, I'm usually a little physically under the weather: in fact the very earliest symptom of a viral infection that I get -- before I'm aware of any physical symptoms -- is a tendency to carp and blame and find fault, in my writing. I am, at any rate, short of sleep. I've spent this afternoon dozing at whiles in bed, listening to the rain tapping, reading the last chapters of a biography of Wodehouse. (Almost always a melancholy thing, reading the last chapters of the biography of someone modern. You already know it's not going to end well, and there's generally twenty or thirty pages of depressing medical history to wade through.) Crows complaining outside, justifiably, of the interminable rain. Perhaps I'll doze again.