Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Dark Conversations

Twice during the last week I found myself involved in conversations that ”went dark.” To me, a dark conversation has three characteristics.

First, the subject matter is some specific evil in society. Like sexually transmitted diseases, dishonest politicians, bias in the news media, random gun violence, war, poverty, high taxes, bad schools, welfare abuse, etc. The possibilities are infinite.

Second, the focus is on judging the people involved - their irresponsibility, stupidity, inconsideration, selfishness, incompetence, hypocrisy, ignorance, bad behavior or just plain evilness. This sometimes takes the form of anecdotal one-upmanship. Like, “You think that’s bad. Just the other day I was in a grocery store line and you’ll never guess what this lady was buying with her food stamps!”

Finally, the conversation has a turning point. Either it degenerates into extended whining about more and more injustice in the world, with lots of shaking of heads and “Tsk, Tsk’s.” Or, it turns toward talk of one or more of the pat solutions - all of which are political. That is to say, government must do something - change a law, create a new one, or enforce an old one. In other words, "There oughta be a law!"

At this point, the conversation runs the risk of going even darker, as disagreement arises regarding the proper legalistic solution. Or, if all parties are in political agreement, it can darken into now judging the political opposition - those who are too stupid or evil to see the solution as clearly as we do.

Eventually, someone puts the conversation out of its misery by changing the subject. (“So how ‘bout them Brewers?”) Often, that person is me. I like a good, dark conversation as much as the next guy. But there comes a point...

I’ve been trying to figure out ways to end these conversations without involving a sports team. Like I could say “There but for the grace of God go I. I could see myself buying Twinkies with food stamps.” That might stop the conversation. Or at least refocus it.

Or, I could say, “You know what Ghandi said -‘Be the change you want to see in the world’." That might redirect the conversation.

On the other hand, I could just end up sounding trite and sanctimonious.

Better stick with the Brewers. At least until they start to lose. If that happens, don’t know what I’ll do.


Anonymous said...

"Dark" conversations are usually followed with "blame", the usual beginning of "Change". Let it (the 'dark" conversation) have it's day in the sun, already.

T. Hahm said...

The problem for me is that the people we blame are normally not in the room. So it just turns into a kind of self-righteous gossip session. Not exactly a day in the sun.

But I get your point.

These things need the sunlight. And I need a better way to let it in rather than changing the subject.

Anonymous said...

OK, try the Serenity Prayer..........."God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference."