Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Are You Offended?

Lately we've been inundated with discussions of rude public behavior. You all know the controversies over Rep. Joe Wilson, Kanye West and Town Halls. I don't approve of any of their behavior, but I don't want to see our public discourse become boring and without passion either.

Today I was thinking about what makes speech offensive, and the difference between colorful, passionate speech and rudeness, when I ran across a gem from Jim Schutze, commenting on Unfair Park:

We have been here so many times before. The Dallas Plan. The Expanded Vision Plan. Somebody falls in love with a star planner. The star comes in, goes to parties at the art museum and does a bunch of drawings and walks with a fat fee. And none of it ever turns into reality, because none of it came up out of the democratic community process that is the only system capable of producing solutions every body will live with...You know, if somebody around here really believes in planning all of a sudden, they could begin by lobbying the city council to kick the city manager's ass and make her give the city planning department back its teeth. But you couldn't really have parties at the museum for that, could you? What a city - - worse streets than Mexico but run by debutantes.

The whole discussion is here:
http://blogs.dallasobserver.com/unfairpark/2009/09/on_tuesday_the _dallas_city.pho.

I know some of the people involved in the Dallas Urban Design Studio, which is under discussion here, and they weren't offended, but amused by Jim Schutze (a fact that might offend him). Some of the difference might be the recipient of the speech, but I think most of its is style.

I'm not sure why, but a clever and colorful insult is a lot easier to take then a bare accusation. It's why we all love Mark Twain, and almost everyone likes a conservative humorist like P. J. O'Roarke or a liberal one like Molly Ivins, regardless of their politics. When an insult reaches a certain level of artistry, than you have to agree with Aristophanes:

"To be insulted by you is to be garlanded with lilies."

In short, I don't think the problem is too much confrontation, but too little creativity.

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