The One-Eyed King Meets the Straw Man (And perhaps a Steel Man)

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Minority Report "In the land of the blind, the one eyed man is king"

There is a proverb that goes something like this: “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” (Latin): “In regione caecorum rex est luscus.” This is a Desiderius Erasmus quote in Latin that dates back to 1500, which is based off of a Hebrew excerpt from Genesis in the Old Testament “בשוק סמייא צווחין לעווירא סגי נהור”, which translates: “In the street of the blind, the one-eyed man is called the Guiding Light.” Our Lord Jesus points out how people are imperfect in a perfect way and this proverb embodies that. The English interpretation of the proverb is made competitive by culture, yet it also shows that sometimes, even the best people aren’t perfect. Proverbs and other writings can change over time due to many factors. If we look at the Biblical perspective what we get is we are all human, and we shouldn’t be so hard on each other.

In our now very contentious society more attention is paid to being the winner in an argument. People have seemingly embraced a way of thinking in which they argue incessantly and spontaneously about politics and religion to name a few subjects. But as Christians we should not participate in the ways of the world. If we do we are sinners and we can repent and change our behavior. Go to social media and you can see many claiming Christianity as they scoff and criticize in ways that do not reflect our Lord.

When we read an article or post we can respond on different ways. Here is some grist for the mill. Consider then how you read and respond to others today and everyday.

What is a Straw Man? A Straw man is defined as an intentionally misrepresented proposition that is set up because it is easier to defeat than an opponent's real argument. Although I am inclined to think of the Wizard of Oz this is a different Straw Man. In our world today people just do not take the time to read and consider a position or argument, instead they often jump to an incorrect conclusion and create a false argument based on that conclusion.

Communication between humans is a problem in case you haven’t noticed. And right now, for example one of the worse ways to communicate is through social media. Some of you might disagree and I am not criticizing social media per se. The problem as I see it is that we are just bad communicators and social media allows us to be even worse communicators.

The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz

How many times has someone jumped to a conclusion far different than what you intended on social media?

Ok so for many of us the Pandemic has allowed us to slow down and appreciate life more. Don’t waste what the Lord has gifted us with. Take time to read and contemplatively consider and reply to what people have said, consider you may be wrong and move on.

Here is my point.

If you and I want other people to read our post/ writings charitably and with understanding we likewise should take the time to read others work charitably and represent them accurately in our discussions and replies. No matter what we are reading our first goal is to observe and understand clearly/accurately and represent their views fairly and rightly.

When we react and fly off the handle, we often create a straw man argument or we are so determined to just win an argument whether we are right or not. As Christians we represent our Lord and not human positions or arguments.

Ever heard of a “Steel Man” argument? The steel man argument (or steel manning) is the exact opposite of the straw man argument. The idea is to find the best form of the opponent's argument to test opposing opinions. We have all used straw man and steel man arguments. When we build a straw man, we present a weakened version of our opponent’s position, which makes it easier to knock down. Social media loves this sort of engagement. A steel-man argument by contrast seeks to represent an opponent’s position better than he did. In doing so we could present an additional better argument for his position that he/she did not advance.

The Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz

By being open minded enough to strengthen the views/opinions we eventually reject, we can become aware of limitations/weaknesses in our own arguments and show love to others we disagree with. To be hearers and readers that reflect our Lord we must learn to listen and read with clarity/charity, seeking to understand people from their point of view. We should represent others with faithfulness, care and charity. As speakers and authors, we ought to speak and write with clarity and charity in our writings, always seeking to be wise, courageous, and compassionate in our speech and communications with others.

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