Shut Up and Have a Conversation

In Dante’s Divine Comedy, he tours Hell and Purgatory before meeting up with his late, beloved Beatrice — who promptly reads him the riot act about his various departures from virtue. Ashamed, Dante hangs his head, only to discover that this too is ground for complaint, as Beatrice essentially tells him to “Look at me when I’m scolding you!”

I find myself thinking of this scene every time I hear folks calling for a “national conversation” on some topic or another, from race to gun rights. Typically, those calling for the conversation are actually wanting to inform the audience of its assorted failures and shortcomings. Just as when a partner says “We need to talk,” s/he means “I’m going to dump/rag on you”, “conversation” becomes a euphemism for a one-sided airing of grievances. And in these instances, the person calling for the dialogue actually plans to be Beatrice to your Dante. (To be fair, Beatrice is angelically righteous — the modern speakers merely see themselves that way, which leads to a feedback cycle of moral preening.)

But what if you don’t follow the script? James Lileks examines the question and the birth of an internet meme. Check it out.


About profmondo

Dad, husband, mostly free individual, medievalist, writer, and drummer. "Gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche."
This entry was posted in Culture, Medievalia, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

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