Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Debating With Edwin

Edwin arrived on time on a truly glorious morning. We came home and picked up Sheba and went to Sandwell via Darrell and Elaine’s. D & E gave me some tomato and basil plants. Edwin was really impressed with the beach. He liked everything he saw about life on the island.
After the walk, we took Sheba home and went into the village for lunch and to pick up things for dinner. Then we had a nice time just sitting in the sun and getting caught up during our happy hour. Then we enjoyed a spa.
Edwin loves cooking so he barbequed dinner. I was thrilled he offered to do so. I did nothing except relax. Over dinner we fell into quite a discussion.
Edwin is a PhD in economics who did his thesis on equity distribution; we got into a discussion about inequity. It was one of the most demanding and interesting conversations I’ve had in many years. Edwin is a terribly bright man; he’s also highly invested in his opinions but thoroughly pleasant to debate with. He understands social issues through a lens of economic impact.
He is also as far right and I am left and by the time we were talking, he’d had a lot to drink. Still, I loved it. I was a mad and enthusiastic debater as a youngster and all my life I’ve valued how debating taught me to listen and argue and about the incredible power of questions. My debating skills and his alcoholic handicap kind of evened the field in our talk.
Income distribution is an economic problem; our degree of social commitment to the support of the disadvantaged is a moral issue. Where morality and economics meet is where we were in our conversation and it necessarily branched, at times, into a discussion of capitalism and democratic theory.
At one point in our conversation he said, “Well, if you believe that, there’s no point in our talking.” I countered with a conviction in the opposite sentiment. 
When I was in my very early twenties a woman was admitted to Lions gate Hospital who’s suffered the same consequences as a result of a stroke as had happened to Connie Tyrell (my custodian). The hospital asked my dad to meet with the family of the woman but I would up going instead.
While the husband made lunch, we talked over an open wall between the kitchen and the living room and as we talked I discovered through things left around that I was in the home of a right-wing extremist and a racist. He was also enormously wealthy.
I told several friends about meeting him and virtually all of them thought I should have left and had nothing to do with him. I disagreed. My primary feeling about the man was that he, too, had suffered a devastating loss. His wife was “a vegetable” like Connie and I was committed to helping him through planning for how she would be re-integrated into the home.
When he came into the kitchen to join me with food on a tray, I asked him about the things I’d seen. I don’t remember what I said, of course, but I told him that I felt there was considerable irony in the fact that I was there to help him out of my sense of moral duty to help people disadvantaged by fate. And yet he was invested in social and economic theory that disavowed any responsibility to “those without.”
That afternoon was a lot like last night. I love debating social/economic theory with someone philosophically opposed to me but whom I respect and reallylike. It’s positively thrilling. These people crank my brain like no one else. 
I find I never “go deep” with people with whom I agree or with people who are not “deep” social thinkers — not that I am a deep thinker, but as a gay man with HIV, as someone with a mental health challenge and as a former leader of AIDS Vancouver, I’ve spent a lot of time studying social policy and debating its principles with politicians and bureaucrats. 
With Edwin and Mr. Archer I debate with highly educated theorists and friends. I love every second of that kind of experience because there is absolutely no acrimony.
Today Sue and Fran come for lunch. We definitely won’t be discussing socioeconomic theory.

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