Thursday, February 13, 2014

Setting Standards

Came across an interesting discussion in the book, How the Beatles Destroyed Rock 'N' Roll by Elijah Wald. It is a history of popular music in the 20th Century and it's many different sides and impact. In this particular section he is talking about how differing opinions can happen. (Okay, that's oversimplified, but I want to talk about the quote.) Many of the complaints of "trained" musicians about the "untrained" musicians coming along into pop music in the 50s was based simply on the fact that these newer musicians were not "classically trained."

Wald starts by saying "different standards will produce widely divergent opinions." It's hard to hear a performer one loves "get slammed for not meeting standards one considers unfair or inappropriate." He goes on:

But to understand any group of artists or any audience, one has to understand its standards- which means accepting that although one's own critical criteria may be more rigorous, more heartfelt, more fair, or more intelligent, they are not the only ones possible.
That is the money quote for me that ties back to the post I had yesterday about civil discourse. In order to have some sense of civil discourse, I believe we have to understand the standards that the other person or the other side is using to judge the situation.

One of the biggest standards disagreements in our society, for example, is individual freedom vs. community needs. Another is an understanding of how economics works (or doesn't work.) The standards of a corporation that needs to make more profit this year to please its shareholders is far different from the standards of the person working their assembly line.

When we believe that OUR standards are "more rigorous, more heartfelt, more fair, or more intelligent" we can forget that the other side believes THEIR standards are "more rigorous, more heartfelt, more fair, or more intelligent." Both can't be true. Neither can be the only right answer when we both feel that ours is absolute.

Hence debate, and discussion, and discourse is needed.

I have never liked opera, in spite of my intense love of all kinds of music. I have never liked hip-hop, either. Therefore, by my standards, neither of those types of music are worth listening to. Don't waste your time. Neither strike ME, but that doesn't make them wrong or inferior.

Anyway, on the overall subject of civil discourse, maybe we need more opportunities to listen to the other sides "standards" and why they make their decisions instead of shouting each other down, making continually snide and nasty remarks, or sticking our fingers in our ears and singing nonsense syllables.

Can we talk instead?

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