Episode 40: If By Whiskey

If I mention

to some people that I’m a skeptic and critical thinker they take it as a challenge.  They’ll want to throw some odd bit of logic out to see how I handle it or challenge me to prove them wrong on something based on belief instead of logic.  Depending on the person and their demeanor I might want to talk.  Angry or mean people, they get less time.  Another set of people like to learn, though.  They may ask me what I think of some issue, what I did to learn, what are some difficulties I’ve encountered, etc.  I like these better and conversations are often very rewarding, especially when I get the chance to guide instead of teach.  I certainly don’t know it all and good questions, even challenging ones, are a great way to learn.  I might even have to say “I just don’t know”.

One of these conversations came up over a few drinks as we were talking about current affairs and where we stood.  We had some different views, but we were able to discuss them and see each other’s viewpoints.  It’s a big world, we won’t all agree on everything.  The faces at the table turned to me, raising their glasses and said “Alright there Steve, Mr. Critical Thinker, what is your stand on government?  Is it a good or a bad thing?”.  I took a sip of my drink, aged rum on the rocks, thought for a minute and gave my answer.

My friends, when you called me to see if I was free for drinks and appetizers, I did not know our evening would turn to such contentious subjects.  Especially before the wings, pot stickers and loaded nachos arrived.  But you know me as a skeptic and critical thinker and I will not shirk my responsibility to discuss such subjects, just please get me some barbequed wings too, I don’t like the really hot ones.  I will tell you exactly what my stand on this issue is.

When we speak of government, if we mean the overly bureaucratic body that makes accomplishing even simple tasks a frustrating and time consuming task, which not only allows corruption to exist but indeed rewards and protects it’s vile members from repercussions; if you consider government as that institution which allows the powerful to stay in power while gleefully watching the lower classes struggle for scraps, quite literally using the middle class as indentured labor while doling out meager rewards; if this is the government that you speak of, then I am most strongly against it.

But if, when you say government, you mean the institution created by the people of the people and for the people; the perfect embodiment of democracy that gives the whole populace a strong and powerful voice to shape their very lives; the wonderful institution that created a military of such courage and skill to protect its citizens from any threat; if you mean that shining symbol of freedom which guarantees it’s people rights and protections; the creators of the post office which have successfully delivered mail and connected us all for so many years; those that oversee the criminal justice system that gives anyone convicted of a crime the right to a fair trial; which builds roads, bridges and tunnels so we can travel the land; that keeps water and electricity flowing to all of our homes; that ensures everyone has access to healthcare; well then I am certainly all for it.

Now you know.  This is where I stand.  My position will not change.

Could you pass me the nachos please?

My friends

couldn’t decide if they should stop me from drinking any more, or make sure I have a lot more.  After finishing a mouthful of delicious nachos, I thought I should explain.  This is a logical fallacy known as “If-By-Whiskey”, which they agreed was a great name and a good choice for the next round.  This fallacy relies on the questioner’s opinions and strong, emotive language which I hoped they picked up on.  They also noticed that I cunningly supported both sides, another clever trick of this fallacy.  Also there is equivocation at work here, as I changed how I defined government.  At this point, everyone could suddenly recall a political speech where they heard this exact same kind of speech.  As luck would have it, improvised speeches concerned with beef vs pork nachos, and spicy vs mild wings were delivered to the table.

This was a great fallacy to look up.  It comes from a speech given by Noah S. “Soggy” Sweat Jr in 1952.  He was a Mississippi lawmaker who was asked if whiskey should finally be legalized.  His speech is something else, I can tell you that.  I will include the speech, as you just have to read it.

My friends, I had not intended to discuss this controversial subject at this particular time. However, I want you to know that I do not shun controversy. On the contrary, I will take a stand on any issue at any time, regardless of how fraught with controversy it might be. You have asked me how I feel about whiskey. All right, this is how I feel about whiskey:

If when you say whiskey you mean the devil's brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster, that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean the evil drink that topples the Christian man and woman from the pinnacle of righteous, gracious living into the bottomless pit of degradation, and despair, and shame and helplessness, and hopelessness, then certainly I am against it.

But, if when you say whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and laughter on their lips, and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer; if you mean the stimulating drink that puts the spring in the old gentleman's step on a frosty, crispy morning; if you mean the drink which enables a man to magnify his joy, and his happiness, and to forget, if only for a little while, life's great tragedies, and heartaches, and sorrows; if you mean that drink, the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars, which are used to provide tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitiful aged and infirm; to build highways and hospitals and schools, then certainly I am for it.

This is my stand. I will not retreat from it. I will not compromise.

I was eventually

pressed for my view on government.  I told them I am for the good things we can do with government and against the bad things that happen.  Government is just us (the whole by the people part) and we make mistakes, work in our own self-interest, etc.  We must keep the injustices accounted for while continuing to improve and protect our democracy.  It isn’t a wind up and let go item, we must continually work at it.