As someone of limited intellect and fragile ego, I’ve developed ten key methods to escape debates well above my station.
Sometimes at the watering hole, the intellectual competition gets very fierce and very silly. My head is full of half-memories of passionate points badly made, over pints. I’m not sure what gets me riled up. Is it alcohol? The presence of women? The presence of other men in the presence of women? Either way, I get weirdly affected by casually competitive debate. Until someone usually has to tell me it isn’t a competition.
In a bar, my self-esteem has two settings: I’m right, and why can’t anyone understand that I’m right? I have to be the guy with the right answer. If I am not the guy with the answer, who am I? As my rightness becomes more important than the points themselves, the same little patterns, tricks and habits to sound smart pop up over and over:
I’m too educated to understand your question. I’m sorry, do you mean the thing as it’s meant in common parlance, or do you mean the ancient roman school of the thing? Cause those are two different things. Cause I studied the thing for years (my partner studied the thing for years) so even though I remember fairly little, I’ve got the thing badge and you don’t.
Let me rephrase that for you. Oh shoot, you said something really smart I wish I had said. But maybe if I rephrase it, it becomes mine…I’m pretty sure I can come up with a snappier formulation. No, wait, don’t finish your point, we’re now trying, as a group, under my leadership, to find a way to make your point snappy enough to fit on a t-shirt, baseball cap or Tinder profile.
I would like to officially update everyone on how little I care about celebrities. Lull in the conversation? Do not fear. Just talk about how little you care about Kim Kardashian’s new thing. Over and over. Until everyone is forced to hand over their full attention to that thing I care so little about. Cause it’s not a smart thing. I only care about smart things.
Repeat a cool new word over and over again until everyone has heard it. The first time I heard the expression “signalling”, I repeated it all day in every combination possible, for weeks. “Virtue signalling”, “originality signalling”, “vocabulary signalling”… over and over, “signalling” that I had learned a new word. By the way, I learned that there’s a German word for that: Witzbeharrsamkeit. It means unashamedly repeating a bon mot until everyone present has heard it. You can guess what I did the day I learned that word.
Play the devil’s advocate. Damn, that’s a great point. No one could disagree with that point, unless… do I dare? Yes, I dare. Because now I have a divine mission to bring balance to this conversation. And the universe in general. I’m like an ancient trickster or an anarchist buddha or that ghost that appeared just to help you on your way. I stay outside the group, outside the collective, hovering above, waiting for an imbalance to correct. Being contrarian is my cosmic burden. You’re welcome, world.
If I talk breathlessly and uninterrupted long enough, they’ll finally realise I’m right about everything. I’m so right about this thing, but the short speaking time allocated in polite conversational ping-pong just isn’t enough. I have all the pieces and they all fit together perfectly and I want to show you. This happens most egregiously whenever I believe the listener’s silence validates my every point: every time I go to a country where they don’t speak English or meet a girl who is mute/ letting me provide enough rope to hang myself with.
Make the point 8 different ways until everyone acknowledges my devastating insight. What I said was brilliant, but it looks like their minds remain unblown. Their faces display no indication of fundamental paradigm-shifting. I better repeat the point in words that will resonate with them. Or in every formulation, I can find until, well… one of them is bound to stick with them. It seems like they are trying to move the conversation past this thing for the fifth time, but my commitment is unwavering… Or unyielding… I am the anchor…
Cram all the knowledge I have been waiting to show off into one speech. Whenever I learn a new and interesting fact, within 30 seconds I begin to daydream about teaching it to an awestruck audience. The audience, in between gasping, will reply in the exact prompts needed for me to deliver my next soundbite, at no point exposing a gap in my knowledge. It’s kind of like those conversations you learn in your 1st foreign language class: someone you meet on the train asks you the exact perfect questions required to showcase your entire newly acquired 15-word Spanish vocabulary. Sorry for the screed, usted was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Facting Frenzy. When someone professes total pristine ignorance of a subject and the rest of the group goes on a communal smartypants arms race. We can cram all the facts and sound bites together in no particular order. There’s no logic and no accountability, and it can quickly descend into…
Dérive Surréaliste. This is a facting frenzy where half-truths, urban legends and plain fabrications build upon each other to create a fantasy alternate reality that makes no sense but is so fresh and bewildering that no one wants to stop. We all get to be right. Everyone gets to feel smart and no one is accountable. I think I’m currently speaking to you from it.