Kristian Glass - Do I Smell Burning?

Mostly technical things

If by Whiskey

From a speech by Noah S. Sweat Jr. on the subject of whether Mississippi should continue to prohibit or legalise alcoholic beverages:

My friends,

I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, here is how I feel about whiskey.

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But;

If when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman’s step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life’s great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

You can view this as a form of equivocation, of doublespeak, of not committing to any one side of an issue.

To me it’s a reminder of the importance of shared context, of understanding the nuance of someone’s position, and of the danger of soundbites.

For example, how do I feel about consensus in decision making? If by consensus you mean the paralysis and inaction of trying to get unanimous agreement, when so often it’s trivial for people to object, and there will always be differences of opinion, then certainly I’m against consensus. But if by consensus you mean seeking the wisdom and approval of others, so even if perhaps they would decide differently, they agree that they can support, or at least not object to, your decision? Then certainly I am for it!

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