Monday, November 5, 2012

Making Shit Up

I wanted to get in a couple of last stabs at the election, today and tomorrow, whether or not anyone thinks this has something to do with D&D or not.  I am of the opinion that, fundamentally, EVERYTHING has something to do with D&D ... and I've been trying to prove that for years now with my technology/civilization posts.  Knowledge is power.  The more you know, generally, the better a DM you can be.  No matter what you happen to study, you will bring that information to the game, and the game will be better.

With that in mind, I'd like to offer this video of Malcolm Gladwell speaking at PopTechn 2004.  I have not embedded it because it is on vimeo, and not youtube.  If you've seen much of Gladwell, these themes will be familiar to you; if you have never seen Gladwell, and you have brain - get ready for a ride.

In it, he describes several situations where first impressions, and the human effort to explain or describe their first impressions, produce stupidity.  Gladwell would never use a word like that; it is my word, because I don't have to hedge or placate my audience.  Gladwell would likely argue that you can't call ordinary human behavior 'stupid' when it is typical of everyone.  I would argue that stupidity is as stupidity does ... Forrest was not wrong in that.

By and large it helps explain why vast numbers of Americans will vote for Romney tomorrow although they will not be able to express a reason why, or even think to do so.  Most democrats I have spoken to in the country past the border say repeatedly, "I don't know how anyone can vote for Romney!"  It is because most people don't really care about either of the stooges running, and have chosen for reasons they cannot explain to vote for the white guy, or the old guy, or the black guy, or the one that seems less threatening, or less inhibited, or less likely to take money from our pockets, or for the most part taller, tougher, nicer or possessed of the largest forehead.  In other words, for no reason whatsoever that they can name.

It's biological.  It helps if you can comprehend that.

For the same reason, most of the dialogue surrounding D&D, or any other question, is equally approached from the same perspective that Malcolm in the video describes - that is, from a sense that said speaker/writer cannot explain why they like this as opposed to that.  Even if they attempt to do so, the fact is they do not possess the vocabulary, reasoning or experience to make up their mind properly ... which does not stop them from making up their mind.  They are adults, they are possessed of a certain number of years which gives them a right to speak what they believe, regardless of their comprehension of the subject, and they have the constitution, their friends and all the gods in heaven to quote if you dare tell them they cannot do so.  Give opinions they will, and said opinions will be mixed with a wide variety of implausible bullshit.  Such is life.  Such is the reason why the election is so very very close, despite the apparent stupidity of one candidate and the apparent dithering of the other.

Such is the reason why OD&D, White Wolf, 4th Edition, Paizo and all the rest jostle and jumble among the tens of thousands of crying and decrying masses ... because the right and wrong decision in the mess has not one thing to do with the actual value of this versus that, and everything to do with arguments made from needing to say something, even if the wrong thing, then shouting louder than the opponent in order to not sound stupid or insincere.

Insincerity, uncertainty and ignorance are greater sin that being wrong.  Let me say that again.  It is better to be WRONG than to sound like I don't believe in something; or to sound like I am not sure about something; or to admit that I don't know something.  Thus, the importance of making shit up.

I have always found this whole human nature to be fascinating.  See, it is biology, but it is biology in the sense that if you KNOW something about the subject at hand, you don't have to make shit up.  And that is the long term success story that is the human race ... the consistent effort to find answers so that shit ceases to be the go-to option.

Of course, not everyone is on board with this concept yet.  Just as not everyone who finished this post bothered to watch the Gladwell video.  Learning is inconvenient, and takes time and patience.

Making shit up takes a couple of seconds.

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