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A Lesson in Socratic Dialogue from The Tutor

An exemplary example of excellent minds employing The Socratic Method via blogging. Blogging doesn't get any better than this.

A Challenge to The Tutor

Tutor, of all the circular firing squad tactics that the left falls into, the way you sometimes heap contempt upon fledgling attempts to change things from the bottom up strikes me as among the most annoying. There is certainly a place for excellence and heirarchy, but mostly that operates at the local level. The challenge that the left faces is that what we are having to embrace a more scalable approach than has ever been accomplished. The reason heirarchy and socially constructed versions of excellence work so well for the right is that they don't give a damn about excluding losers who are of no use to them (or even more, manipulating losers who are useful). If you are talking about a single organization, I'm all for hierarchy and excellence, but we are dealing with the realities of a winner-take-all market whenever we approach a global or even national scale. There are a lot of first rate intellectuals from second rate universities who aren't in that conversation, but they can participate in conversations in blogosphere. Who cares about whether those conversations are noticed by very many people? They matter to those who are having them, especially if, like you and I both, they live in a Red State and might not be having that kind of conversation otherwise. And the thing is that that is precisely what is most revolutionary about blogs. If the sea change that that is were more visible, it wouldn't be nearly as robust. I have always assumed that the main reason people link to each other was because they expected that the favor would be returned. That can get a little out of hand, but it is amazing some of the bloggers I have been able to find precisely because of the utterly nonhierarchical, six-degrees-seperation nature of this environment.

The Tutor Responds

Thanks, John, I more agree than not. All versions of excellence are socially constructed, but so are all versions of mediocrity and mass culture. Both good and bad taste are socially constructed. Both indignation and complacency. Both effrontery and modesty. What isn't socially constructed? Even genes. I do agree about lateral connections, inclusiveness, and not being overly judgemental. I agree that the great pulsating blogsphere has helped many of us, certainly it has helped me, find an audience, make new friends, and hook up for good causes. I also think we need civilized ways to introduce criticism not of right by left or left by right, but of ourselves and our friends. To assume that the masses, or our peers, are capable only of stupidity and so feed it to them is patronizing. That tone that rankles you so, is a goad. A teacher's tool. When the blood rushes to your brain it irrigates it and stimulates fresh thought. Note that this elitist discourse comes from a broken man, a self-educated prostitute, a bondage dom to the rich, who lives in a dumpster. That persona is not coincidental, nor adventitious. How does one make a plea for excellence except from behind a madman's mask, while disguising it as pornography, the most accessible of genres? The successful could care less about excellence, they want profit. They read bromides and best sellers. The left wants body warmth, mutual love, and little ineffective identity cliques. The views presented here are consistant, at least as paradox, but poorly represented in public discourse. Cruel, moralistic, difficult and egalitarian. Neither the right's tough Daddy nor the left's weepy Nanny. Not your politically correct discourse and not your right wing hooha. It really is patterned on an old synthesis, that of the Augustans, both elitist (classicist, in praise of excellence) and the harbinger of the American Revolution. How much do you want me to back off - in your case? How much? Zero, I imagine. We should drive each other to our respective limits, or else sit like cows chewing our cud. Those are my half-finished views. Mr. Minim would be more mild. I appreciate your taking the time to comment and I hope you will set me straight. Excellence is a sharp tool and cuts both ways. I have probably injured myself in this post, and will soon feel faint from loss of blood. Thanks.

[These are comments from within this source post.]