“Getting” it

You must have come across someone expounding (or, more probably, pontificating) about something or other, when, with an appropriately exasperated flourish, they invoke the magic phrase, “[someone] just doesn’t get it“.

Harmless enough, right? Not really. What this windbag is saying really amounts to two different things: 1) He disagrees with someone’s opinion, approach or solution; and (most importantly) 2)”They”┬ádon’t get it (but he does). The only foundation for the implication of superior understanding is the assertion itself. The weight of argument is subsumed in the inference that there’s a fraternal club with the ‘inside’ view of things.

Ask yourself this: What is “it”? Superior access to information? More highly developed reasoning skills? Better perspective? Well, it could be all (or none) of the above. Chances are, our oracle doesn’t explain.

It’s well known that affecting an aura of superiority, coupled with an implied contempt for articulating the obvious will take you a long way down the road to being accepted as a serious thinker – with the added benefit of not having to get your hands dirty with actual articulation and argument.

I have to say I relish the opportunity to grill supercilious toffs like this at every opportunity. The key is to start innocuously with the request for a clarification or a factual tidbit of some kind. Next, you might want to obliquely inquire what experience or background the speaker has on the subject. Seldom are you more than 3 or 4 questions along than Mr. Gets It is abandoning the good ship Know It All in favor of less stressful environs. If not, well then let’s say the issue might well be joined.

I like a good argument. I don’t always win, by any measure, but I take some pride in not letting posturing substitute for polemic in putting forward a position. When some guy is busy assigning points to himself in advance, chances are it’s not going to be much of a fight.

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