Friday, December 04, 2009

Discuss 16

'No-one wants advice, only corroboration.'

John Steinbeck


  1. Especially true of writers, I think.

  2. Did Steinbeck moonlight as a management consultant?

  3. He would have come to that conclusion having spent 15 minutes with my missus.

  4. Related (J.K. Galbraith): Faced with the choice between changing one’s mind and proving there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy on the proof.

  5. "The Government is attempting to stop the Met Office from carrying out the re-examination, arguing that it would be seized upon by climate change sceptics."

    Written it seems without a hint of irony by Ben Webster in The Times this morning

  6. I haven't read the entire book, The Winter of Our Discontent, but there is discussion a page earlier (p. 92) about putting rules aside, whether the scars of failure would be worse than whatever scars would come from setting aside morals in order to achieve a goal and claim success. After the goal would be achieved, the idea is to then return to the former moral ground, with new scars, but with success. To do so would be to become a success with scars, in place of being a failure with scars.

    But, behind the quote--"No-one wants advice, only corroboration"--is the idea that we all want confirmation. Corroboration is usually applied to a set of ideas or plans, even a theory. Confirmation is firmer, yet still very close to corroboration, but can more easily be applied to the person. Here is a discussion of how psychologists are trained to confirm patients in communication: Confirmation Response Modes.

    We could also apply such communication techniques to healthy discourse on blogs. We actually do psychological damage to people when we purposely give disconfirming responses, which is depersonalizing, even abusive. We can disagree in theory or on principle, but still confirm the person. We don't need to disconfirm in order not to corroborate. The veritable true friend wouldn't if he disagreed.

    I'm thinking of what Anonymous said above, that Steinbeck would have come to his "conclusion having spent 15 minutes with my missus." The missus is not necessarily in need of corroboration for her ideas or plans, but confirmation as a person. And here my point is that it is easy to conflate the two, even as we act as if to get corroboration while really needing confirmation. And Steinbeck's narrator does just that.

    What happens when we throw our morals out the window for the sake of goals? Who's there to confirm us? We are risking ourselves as people, depersonalizing ourselves purposely--just asking for disconfirmation from others, and ourselves each step of the way, and thus making scars that will be deep and lasting.

    When we go off our moral ground, in order to gain success versus suffering the scars of failure that come with being moral, we still as people need confirmation. This can happen when we find others who have gone equally outside their moral grounds for the sake of their own personal success story, or whatever the agenda is.

    Another quote from the same chapter in the Steinbeck book is the question:

    Have any of the great fortunes we admire been put together without ruthlessness?