March 15, 2012 § Leave a comment
There are two American colloquialisms that are closely related in metaphor but drastically different in connotation. These are “to skirt an issue” and “to push the limits.” In both instances the image of someone at the periphery of a space is conjured in the mind’s eye. Yet in the former case (to skirt an issue), we picture someone on the outside of that space who is hesitant or incapable of stepping in; whilst in the latter case (to push the limits) we picture someone who is on the inside of the space pushing out.
Both sayings can indicate either a virtue or vice, but in the context of academia and social advocacy, it is better to be categorized in the latter. That is, it is better to stand within a field of expertise1 and push against the limits than to comment on a field superficially2 without ever getting your hands dirtied by facts, nuance and reality.
This proclivity of mine toward pushing the limits from the inside is in large measure why I appreciate the blog Wronging Rights by Amanda, Kate and Chris. Each of the authors is well educated and experienced, yet Amanda, Kate and Chris blog with a biting wit that critiques and educatedly evaluates the topics they address. They “push the limits” of what can be said in a respectful way and they “push the limits” of what we interpret in the popular media and goings-on around us.
For a classic example, read their post from today about George Clooney in Sudan. If you aren’t offended, then you’ll likely enjoy the rest of their blog as well.
1To stand within a field of expertise suggest that one has gained entrance into that field by virtue of their experience, knowledge and/or skill
2The etymology of the word “superficial” comes from “super” meaning “above ,”and “facies” meaning “face or surface”–thus never devolving beneath the surface