Pick your hills carefully

800px-GeorgePickettearlyphotoOne thing that never ceases to amaze me, and is often magnified by Internet discussions, is the willingness people show for picking the wrong hill to die on.

People say something casually without thinking about all the implications, without considering how this sounds to an outsider, without realizing they used the wrong word or a flawed approached.  But when called on it, instead of saying “Oops, my mistake, I should have expressed myself better / I need to clarify / I didn’t realize that… / I didn’t know about the context,” they  start arguing badly, resorting to a whole arsenal of flawed rhetoric to justify post-hoc what was an ill-thought position in the first place.

This is particularly frequent when issues of privilege and prejudice serve as our own blinders to the consequences of what we say.  “No, what I said wasn’t racist/sexist/ablist/homophobic/transphobic/etc., because I don’t want it to be!”  This is a stupid hill to defend.  I always find it much, much easier to own up to my ignorance or lack of reflection and back away slowly, with my mouth shut, rather than fighting a losing battle that makes me feel stupid.

If you want to die for a hill, make sure that: (A) this really is a hill and not a manure mound, (B) that hill is in fact a valuable position to defend, (C) there isn’t a higher, easily accessed hill nearby, (D) the cause for which you fight is worth going to battle for in the first place, and (E) you’re actually holding the top of that hill, not standing at its base.

gettysburg-cemetery-hill

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2 thoughts on “Pick your hills carefully

  1. Pick your hill carefully (the way I don’t) – like Khe Sanh you may find that it is harder to get back down again than it was to get to the top.

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