Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Painting and Whitewashing

EDIT for those who don't share my lexicon of idioms: There's a saying that goes, "Too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash." That means the person/group being described cannot do something properly and therefore refuses to do it at all, even if there is another alternative available. A family can't afford to paint their house with white paint, and is too proud to use whitewash instead, even if it would look better than leaving the place to wear down.

I'll admit it; I have a certain amount of respect for someone who, when faced with the prospect of whitewashing, absolutely refuses to do anything but paint, and then proceeds to make that work. I have respect for that level of determination.

-That, by the way, is my line between determination and stubbornness: can you make it work?-

But what really makes me smile, and something that I'd want in an ally as much as a friend, is when someone looks at all the options, notes that it would be most efficient to whitewash, and then proceeds to whitewash without another word. No complaints, no seeing if this will work when painting would be harder or whitewashing better or even, just doing it.

Pride is a deadly little vice. It says, "Look, you could do this...but you could do so much better." Of course, given that this is the verbal embodiment of pride, it's probably doing something like purring or smiling or laughing. Because what good's a voice representing pride if it doesn't have a bit of cockiness behind it?

What got me thinking about this was the following exchange, which I found on the Ain't Too Proud To Beg page on TV Tropes, which is, you guessed it, going to suck your time away into the shiny vortex that is Wiki Walk.
From Farscape
Crichton: Beg.
Scorpius: [instantly] I beg you.
Crichton: That's not good enough. Say please.
Scorpius: Please.
Crichton: Pretty please.
Scorpius: Pretty please.
Crichton: With a cherry on top.
Scorpius: [only one word behind] With a cherry on top.
Crichton: [Beat] Happy Birthday. Now, get out of my sight.
That just makes me smile. And think of an Eleanor Roosevelt quote, "No one can make you feel inferior without your permission." The idea behind making someone beg in that situation is--and forgive me if I miss some of the context, I don't watch the show--either power for the person demanding, or embarrassment for the person begging, which is really just a specific fashion to gain the former.

And then...he decides it's worth it, and proceeds to do it. It doesn't hurt him, because he doesn't let it. Anyone who trots out the sticks and stones line is so naive as to be thoughtless, but the thing about words is that they don't need to hurt any more than hits do. One can dodge, one can block, one can turn the other people's momentum against them and suddenly have the upper hand. It's all in how one decides to deal with it.

Of course, wailing on the other person is a perfectly acceptable method if it works.

What? I said I had a great deal of respect for people who could whitewash, I didn't say anything about preferring it myself. Nor even being able to do it, really... It would be a nice skill. I'm trying.

Incidentally, this has been in my head for a while, and what finally got me to finish was this Harry Potter fanfiction, specifically this chapter (search "I have changed today's lesson plan in the light of recent events", and read to the bottom of the page.)

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