New Rule #1
Monday, 10 August 2020
There is an idea that floats around that is a bit weird. It’s the concept that everybody’s opinion is valid. We have to respect everybody’s opinion because…reasons. Unfortunately this just isn’t the case. Saying we have to respect someone’s opinion is kind of like stating we can say whatever we want and if you argue against it you’re being disrespectful. That may be true but it’s a terrible argument.
It’s up there with people who say, “That’s offensive” and use it as the entire basis of their argument. Sadly, ‘that’s offensive’ isn’t an argument, it’s an opinion. It doesn’t really mean anything (despite what the Karen’s think).
We aren’t entitled to have everybody respect our opinion. If someone’s argument revolves around that central principle then it’s likely because they either a) don’t understand the topic well enough to form a cohesive argument but feel that people should listen to them anyway, or b) are well aware that their position is untenable or wrong, but refuse to accept the evidence or c) are resolutely holding to a belief because they have faith in it.
These are all terrible reasons to maintain a certain position, especially when someone provides evidence that contradicts the argument being made.
This is where our New Rule #1 comes in.
You are no longer allowed to go on the internet and post ‘That’s not aikido’, or similar, unless you also state why.
This happens all the time and it’s a ridiculous thing to do. Someone will post a video on the internet of their aikido practice and inevitably, somebody else will say, ‘That’s not aikido’. And that is all they will say. There will be no information as to why they think that. You’re supposed to take their word for it as gospel, you know, respect their opinion.
Here’s the catch. The statement, ‘That’s not aikido,’ is no more valid than any other statement unless it is qualified with a reason. Now, if a person is comfortable stating what is not aikido, they should also be quite comfortable stating why it is not aikido. In order to decide it isn’t they must have a determined argument on why it isn’t. Put that down there too. Discourse on the subject of aikido would be so much better if we actually explained our position properly. Who knows, we might even start to reach agreement on the definition of aikido.
The problem is with the idea that you have to respect everyones opinion. You really don’t, you only have to respect an opinion if it is accompanied by a valid argument, but not necessarily a sound one. Valid and Sound have specific definitions here that are worth explaining, simply because the vast majority of people are unaware of them. Briefly:
Valid - The premises on which the argument is made, logically justify the conclusion.
Sound - An argument that is Valid, but also begins with premises that are actually true.
It should be obvious there that these are different things. An argument can be valid but also false.
If someone says, “That’s not aikido,” they haven’t given an argument, they’ve told you an opinion. If they were to say, “That’s not aikido because nage punched uke in the face, and aikido has no strikes,” then you have a valid argument that you can discuss. It’s not necessarily sound though and I would argue it isn’t; because aikido is littered with atemi.
You can discuss the soundness of a valid argument but without validity you’re debating an opinion, and that’s often a fruitless endeavour. It can be interesting to find out what someones opinion on a topic is, but that’s all you’ll get.
There is a caveat to this that should be borne in mind. Someone’s inability to state their opinion as a valid argument does not always mean that they don’t have one. Some people are just not able to articulate themselves clearly. This doesn’t make them wrong, just harder to understand. If that is the case you should make every effort to understand what they are trying to say. This involves doing something that is very hard, especially on the internet. You have to have patience and listen to what they are actually saying. Kind of a horrifying prospect I know but trust me, discussions of aikido will be all the better for it.
This isn’t limited to the phrase, ‘That’s not aikido’ by the way. This is a general problem with aikido discussions. Opinions are stated as facts. Another great example is the standard set of responses when a person asks, “Can I learn aikido from the internet/DVDs/books?” Some people provide links to materials, but most people laugh and say,”You can’t learn aikido from internet/DVDs/books!”
What they have done is just state an opinion. Where it gets interesting is that when asked for an explanation there is none available. Nobody has ever provided a sound and valid argument as to why you cannot learn in this manner.
One final thing, you don’t need to wait for January 1st to make a resolution. Decide now, that you will not state something about aikido unless you’re also going to say why you think that. Engage in conversation, find out why someone disagrees with you. Learn, discuss, grow.