Wednesday, November 26, 2014

In defense of the excluded sentence

Dr. Medina, you reproach me for leaving out a line in the paragraph I cited. Fair enough. I left it out. But not because, as you suggest, it exonerates you from my criticism.

The phrase in its original context:

[1] Quisiera compartir una última observación: los manifestantes pacíficos y razonados hemos ganado una posición moral en la calle y las mentes ciudadanas. [2]Esta altura moral y política es lo que ciertamente produce un momento de afortunada inestabilidad, en medio del luto y la tragedia que vive este país hace décadas. [3] Nuestra reputación colectiva como movimiento social depende de actuar en términos de nuestros derechos constitucionales, y de utilizar los medios con honestidad y dignidad. [4] Como pueden ver en las imágenes que circulan el día de hoy toda impaciencia o aventurerismo tiene como consecuencia poner en peligro a nuestros camaradas y compañeros de lucha. [5] Toda "acción directa", simulada por los agentes o realizada por activistas desorientados, es una traición al movimiento social. [6] El asunto no es moral o ideológico: esa traición se verifica en los hechos.

The phrase as it appears in your letter to me:

Llegó el día 20 y en los hechos (que no en las ideas o afectos) los que desobedecieron las decisiones colectivas de evitar la violencia, contribuyeron a la represión y la difamación del movimiento. Como su acción fue torpe, y se vio acompañada de un montaje del gobierno, la táctica ha fallado, pero ha dejado a varios compañeros en una situación jurídica muy riesgosa. Si esa indisciplina y falta de juicio provino de personas que se sienten guadalupanos, piensan que son marcianos, o se llaman a sí mismos, anarquistas, carece para mi de importancia alguna. Por eso escribí: “El asunto no es moral o ideológico: esa traición se verifica en los hechos.” Por eso también hablé de “activistas políticamente desorientados” y no les atribuí membrete alguno. A lo mejor debí haber dicho: “los compañeros poco respetuosos de las decisiones democráticas del  movimiento y que no se interesan en la seguridad personal y jurídica de los manifestantes”.

I disagree that I did you a disservice in excluding this phrase from my original analysis of your paragraph. Why? Because its confusing and borders on the absurd; and, frankly, my essay was never about you; and furthermore, I have very little interest in pointing out the strangeness of some of your writing and argumentation. But since you reproach me for it, let me take a moment and explicate how very weird this whole paragraph is.

In the first five sentences of this paragraph you create a moral hierarchy, that you have not rejected nor argued against. I don't want to have to repeat myself, too much, but here it goes again. In sentence 1 some people (manifestantes pacíficos y razonados) gain a moral victory. In sentence 2 this victory is then cast as a moral height or elevation. In sentence 3 you speak of the values – honesty, dignity, constitutional rights, reputation – that are important to this moral movement. In sentence 4 you blame impatience and adventurism for the damages to your comrades in your (still moral) movement, suggesting that these characteristics are not welcome (a value judgment). Then in sentence 5 you single out a tactic, carried out by disoriented activists, that is treasonous (another value judgment) to your (still moral) movement. Then out of nowhere in sentence 6 you say that “el asunto” isn't moral or ideological; you say the facts verify the treason.

Given that the options to understand this strangeness are themselves strange, and none of them have any bearing on my argument, I opted to move on with my essay (which, I'll remind you, isn't about you). But since you reproach me for doing your writing an injustice with my interpretive liberties, let's take a look at how one might understand this last sentence.

One possibility in understanding this last sentence is that you wish to contradict everything you just said and repudiate your argument centered on morals. In that case, “el asunto,” would refer to the whole argument. But that option would be a bit irrational. Why then waste our time with the first five sentences? It could be, if this weren't the last paragraph, that there would be a logic in setting up a rhetorical edifice you then intended to tear down in the last sentence of the paragraph and explore it in a subsequent paragraph. That would've been very interesting. But that's not the case. Why would I include the unintelligible last sentence of a paragraph except to say, it's weird.

Another option is that you are disorientated and didn't mean to write that last sentence quite the way you wrote it. This would be a reasonable interpretation as the sentence could be understood as a contradiction of whole paragraph. But since I still have no access to or interest in your intentions, why would I include the sentence in my analysis?

Yet another option, the best option in my opinion, is that “el asunto” refers to the treason. In this case the last sentence would then simply mean that the judgment resulting in “the treason” isn't based on an ideological or moral judgment but on something that is proven in the facts (one assumes “the facts” refers to the material damage caused by State actors on innocent people). This questionable proposition that a moral value such as treason could be proven by some unspecified facts would end the paragraph by situating its morality as if it were nothing but real facts. This would have no bearing on my original argument. If anything it would make my critique of your work more forceful as you would be suggesting that your moral movement is indisputable, real, materially verified in injured bodies.

None of the reasonable possible significations of this ambiguous and strange last sentence exonerates you, Dr. Medina, from my original critique. That you have claimed that it does by placing it in a new context is even more strange. And maybe I'm stupid, but I don't understand what are you are arguing in the second paragraph I quoted above. It's filled with un-discussed or unsubstantiated value judgments about people you disagree with. Then you use that to talk about why you said something the way you did in the original text. If you care to re-write something more direct and argumentative, I will gladly spend the time to critique it. Otherwise, let's move on before we bore our 3 or 4 readers to death.

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