Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Imaginary Assailants

I imagine that everybody reading does, at some point, conduct bile-filled arguments with imaginary opponents that leave them drained and angry and needing to calm down with a nice bowl of green vegetables. Of course they do. That's only human nature. I myself was subject to such an experience only the other day. It occurred when I chanced upon a snippet of conversation on a phone-in chat show. It went like this:

Phone-in Lady: Well, everyone knows that Islam is dangerous.
Host: Wouldn't you also say that sweeping generalisations are dangerous?

And that was it. That was all I heard. But it was enough. More than enough. Within a second I had placed myself in the position of the Phone-In Lady. No doubt the original Phone-In Lady had some specious retort that would do nothing to further her cause. I was there to save the day. Now (in my angry head) the debate went thus:

Moronic Host: Wouldn't you also say that sweeping generalisations are dangerous?
Phone-in Lady [Me]: In what sense is that a generalisation? If anything, I'm being specific. I'm not saying that all Muslims are dangerous. I'm saying that Islam is a dangerous doctrine. In a similar way that not all paedophiles are dangerous, but paedophilia is something that should be generally condemned.

And, you might think, that would be that. I had trounced the feeble-minded host, and could now relax in a small but well-appointed bubble of contentment. But no! My foe was suprisingly resilient. This was his retort:

Totally Imaginary Host: So you're saying that Islam is the same thing as paedophilia?

I know! You can imagine my incandescence. It was at this point that I grabbed my imaginary axe and went on a killing spree through the corridors of my subconscious, jamming my blade into the skulls of all who lived therein. Although the host of this chat-show did indeed get horribly (and justifiably) murdered, the rampage also, regrettably, involved the slaying of several imaginary childhood friends. Such is life.

I probably sound a bit mental now. Let me bring things back to reality. You see, although Totally Imaginary Host didn't actually say those things, there are people out there, actually out in the real world, living and breathing and occasionally grunting sounds to express whatever passes for their stunted emotions, who WOULD say things like that. I've heard them, so I should know. People who literally cannot understand the form of an argument. Here's another example, this time taken, more or less, from real life:

Me: In a sense, democracy is everybody saying 'I know best.'
Opponent: Are you saying that everybody should be selfish? Because I'm not.

That is, almost verbatim, a conversation that happened at work yesterday. Now say what you like about my initial gambit - in retrospect it does sound a bit wanky. And if the retort had been, 'That sounds a bit wanky,' then I would have bowed my head in shame and felt thoroughly humbled. But no. That isn't what happened. Look what DID happen. My opponent in this debate obviously heard some words that he recognised: I. KNOW. BEST. And, no doubt with an internal spasm of glee, reeled off a sentence that contained a word that condensed those three words into a single one. How succinct! How apropos! How utterly irrelevant!

I could go on and on about this, but I won't because I have to go and make some dinner. However, there's every chance that another imaginary assailant will launch himself into the arena of my consciousness any time soon. I may well be back.


  1. Do you ever come up against an imaginary opponent who makes a really good point you're forced to concede to?

  2. Brilliant. I laughed so much as you went into your imaginary killing spree. Are all imaginary people assailants? Are there not enough real assailants?