It’s Not Just About The Sandwich Story

I can seize upon the flawed analogy to mock the entire argument, but what is that getting me, really? What does it do for my learning, for my influence and impact, for my growth as a person and as a leader, to stand in a dismissive posture over another’s earnest argument?

Being right is less important than being constructive.

The story about the fancy sandwich shop does not carry the weight that David Brooks wants it to, a fact the internet seized upon with vigor. I’m no Brooks booster; I read his column only haphazardly. But I read this one, and, even with the flimsy illustration, I took its central claim to heart: that “cultural signifiers” combine with structural advantages to privilege the educated, upper-middle-class in America. “How am I contributing to this problem?” I asked myself.

I asked a closed group of trusted friends in a private message thread, too, and I was spared their derision, even though some of them may have thought the question misguided. I doubt the same civil reception would have been granted by a broader, more public, social network. Which is why I share almost nothing to Facebook anymore. I have learned my lesson.

I fear we are creating an environment where the cost of being wrong is so high that fewer and fewer people even risk it. Instead, masses of people keep their opinions to themselves, certain of enlightened condemnation should their articulation falter in even one aspect.

David Brooks doesn’t need the help, sure. But it’s not just about the columnist. It’s also about readers with whom constructive, solution-oriented conversation might be had, if not for a snark-fueled social media pile on over a single illustration.

Be constructive. If you’re right, we’ll know it.


3 thoughts on “It’s Not Just About The Sandwich Story

  1. I liked this post a lot. I went back and read the Brooks post. I think you are right about living in a culture that is quick to be critical. I think you are right to point to social media and the immediacy of information as an issue. I also think that the popularity of a pop symbolic interactionism is a problem in our communication. Everything is a symbol of something greater in a lot of people’s mind. Sometimes we read to much into something that did not really mean much.

    I have also given some thought to the illustration. I think he should have been a little more general in the illustration. But coming from a working class background that might almost be middle class now, I can relate to being freaked out by the fancy sandwich shop. Although, I would have been saying, “I am not going to pay $15 for a sammich!” I think most of the critical voices also come from upper middle class backgrounds. Although, I think the bigger problem with the illustration is how he places himself and his friend in the dialogue, making himself the hero for recognizing her issue.

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