Reserving Our Scorn for the Deserving


I know that I am one of the chief purveyors of snarkiness as a means of combating the less-than-professional element in our midst.  I guess that just because I have a personal vision of what I'd like to see the fire service evolve into, there are those out there who also have a vision of well-lit POVs and thumping bass stereo in their engines as what is considered to be worthy of discussion.  However, just as many other red-blooded males of the species, I'm okay with crushing my enemies, seeing them driven before me, and hearing the lamentations of their women.  To each his own, I suppose.

So the dilemma, I guess, is which battles need to be fought and to what degree.  This then relates to what level of sarcasm should be employed when you are trying to point out that someone is discussing what we consider to be bizarre or to the extreme and we are trying to point out that yes, they are an idiot.  As I have found out over the years(and especially recently), the degree of snarkiness should probably be limited when dealing with the less fortunate, the disadvantaged, and the criminally insane.

As to why we blog or write, there are different reasons, of course.  I am not interested in blogging for the interest of stirring up hate and discontent, except as it goes to encourage spirited but civil debate over subjects that require deeper thought.  So for me, my reason for writing and expecting feedback is to ask questions to challenge the minds of others, in an effort to learn more and to grow. 

Some people blog and posts to hear themselves speak.  Just as when we must tolerate the gas from a nearby infant, what comes out of the mouths of some of these people may stink, but just as we wouldn't flame a child for passing an offensive cloud in our direction, we must consider the source of some of these scratchings ("writings" would be pretty charitable for some) and be relatively tolerant. 

Likewise, no amount of clever rhetoric is going to get you back the thousands you'll have to spend defending a frivolous lawsuit.  What it really all comes down to is that we must decide for ourselves what is harmless and what is dangerous, and go after the dangerous and ill-advised.  All other discussion is probably wasted because with some of these individuals, no amount of logic will sway them from their misdirected viewpoint.

I guess my measurement on deciding which individuals should be dealt with would be that there are those whose views are derived either because of laziness (and reluctance to change because it would require them to do something other than to take up space), those who are as a result of ego or greed guarding their domain (and reluctant to change because it would cost them their position in our "society"), those who are defrauding others (for whatever reason, again as a result of ego or greed, aware that change would cause people to analyze their claims), and the malicious.

Believe it or not, I don't find too many people in our business that fit into the category of deserving of a flame attack.  In most of the cases I have found where I am dealing with someone who gets my temper to flare up, after a few moments of deep breathing I have found that they fit into the category of the misinformed.  The question then is, are they receptive to education, or is it me who needs to be educated?  After all, maybe I'm the one who was misinformed or misunderstood the issue.  The key, I have found, is that both parties need to be open to civil discourse and willing to appreciate the viewpoint of their counterpart.  It is in this area where I find many of us, including myself, to need improvement.

By checking our emotions at the door and getting to the point of the discussion, figuring out the difference between factual information and rhetoric, we achieve enlightenment.  Let me paraphrase something from the Tao Te Ching; the useful part of a jar isn't the jar, it is the empty space within the jar.  Unless we are willing and able to understand someone else's position on a subject, no matter how right or wrong, we will not be able to teach someone the truth, or appreciate the truth ourselves.  In understanding how someone comes to a conclusion, we can then effectively show the way, if that is what is necessary, or we can be shown the way.

I may have lost some of you with that, but it is in this that you can probably see the point better.  When was the last time you were completely convinced that something was the truth, only to find out after time that you were wrong?  So in that interim, did you find yourself defending that "truth" to the point of being uncivil to another?  How did you feel then about what you said or did that may have been to defend your position, only to find out now that you were wrong?  Did you regret your actions?

There is an eastern tradition that the victorious should be be magnanimous in victory and as much as possible, allow the defeated to save face.  In doing so, you secure allies and you earn respect.  If you trot around like T.O. after a touchdown after winning your point, be reassured that if you are ever wrong, it will be rubbed in your face (like I wish someone would do to T.O.).  When you are convincing someone of your point, you'll find it to be a good move to win them over rather than to point out their folly and subsequently, you'll find that you gain trust and respect as well.

It may feel good to be snarky and rub someone's face in their ignorance (I enjoy it), but after a while, you'll find it to be a hollow victory.   I'm sure we can all agree we should never attack the unarmed, and in a battle of wits, that is the root cause of much of the problem. So instead of being smug about our victory, maybe we should celebrate together that we have another convert to our cause.  That seems to be a more appropriate celebration anyway.


  • FireCritic says:

    All the while reading this I was hoping for some examples of bloggers or otherwise internet writers you might have been referring to. I guess I will have to let my mind wander, but then again your point wasn’t who you would like to manage a battle (discussion)with but how you would handle it.

    Great points. I have been there…on both sides and I don’t mind admitting it.

  • truck6alpha says:

    Yeah, that’s kinda where I was going. If I name names, I’m inviting them back to the party, and if you see that “criminally insane” part, you know what I mean.

  • The medium of the web invites spirited discourse more than any other. A geographically larger audience, anonymity, and a far less likelihood of getting in trouble or a broken nose are a few factors that encourage this.

    Of course, there is no free lunch. The ability to vilify someone, even under false pretenses, cyber-warfare, spamming and other methods can be used to harass someone into submission. These methods are often used when someone knows they cannot prevail when presenting their position.

    Depending on the nature of the conflict, especially in a public forum, sometime it’s just better to withhold comment and let them shoot themselves in the foot. It bleeds just as much, hurts just as much and you don’t get the blame.

    Of course, watching the battle from the sidelines can be entertaining.

  • Tom B. says:

    An anonymous reader recently called me out for “beating up on” the treating paramedic in a recent case study.

    My knee-jerk reaction was to defend my sarcastic comments by saying that I wasn’t here to protect the egos of paramedics.

    After giving it some thought, I decided to edit my post, because I realized I did come across like a bit of a smart ass.

    In the last analysis it’s my intent to educate, not humiliate.

  • “In the last analysis it’s my intent to educate, not humiliate.”

    Hear, hear, Tom. And you do that exceptionally well.

  • Tom B. says:

    Thanks, Pete!

    Is anyone else having problems accessing Firehouse Zen’s comments from their mobile device?

  • truck6alpha says:

    I’ve been having problems with e-mail period so I think it may be some internet problem. I was wondering where all of my updates have been and this morning they unloaded, 58 on one e-mail account and 63 on another. Plus the post I was adding yesterday was acting a little squirrely when I tried to change some typos.

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