Articulation as Skill, Articulation as Privilege

Context statement: Not all of the specific claims here are true. I want, rather, to highlight different strains of thought.


I like being around articulate people. Articulation is a skill one acquires, like so many other social skills, by actually flexing those muscles and seeing what works. So that articulate people have spent more time talking to people and understanding what they need to say to get through. Not only that, the fact that they talk more means that they have a better system of checks and balances for their thought; they’re more likely to have been pulled out of a rut of thought by someone else noticing that what they said doesn’t quite make sense.

Because of all this, a conversation with articulate people is more likely to be an interesting and provocative learning experience, even taking into account the fact that they’re also better at bulllshitting people.

Note, of course, that I’m not talking about charisma but about articulation; charisma is likely to have a subtracting effect.


And yet, and yet.


Articulation is a skill that needs to be developed. That development has to start somewhere. Forays into new things are hard, and often a certain sort of reaction to such an assay can be extremely detrimental.

And, of course, certain sorts of people are rather more likely to get such a reaction — the less charismatic rather than the charismatic, the abnormal over the normal (normality being measured on pretty much any axis), etc. We may call the property that causes this difference ‘privilege.’

Of course, even going beyond the first foray approximation mentioned above, these differences in reaction will persist, and venturing out into talking will always be a more comfortable risk for the privileged types, and therefore the set of articulate people will have a disproportionately high number of privileged types.

So, going solely by present skill to pick one’s social group causes the group to manifest a suboptimal status quo (assuming, of course, that the more articulate people the merrier). And, quite possibly there’s a positive feedback effect of some sort in which being screened off from from articulate people makes articulation harder to develop for the others beyond a certain level.

What can you do? The skills are useful.

Well, what you can do is have a suboptimal group and pay more attention to non-articulate people, so that you’re at least locally evening the playing field by a small amount. The only way things will get better is if everyone does it. And, if everyone does it for long enough, the inherent suboptimality of skill-based discrimination should disappear.


And then, the non-discriminatory habit you developed earlier becomes a horrible habit of giving a leg up to boring people.

And, after all, people are fucks; habits become fixed without accompanying conditionals. And habits of thought, especially, are horrible things that, on fixing, disappear from view and become part of one’s sense of defaults.

All of which means, you can’t expect the habit of giving a leg up to go away when it’s no longer needed. So, we need to vocally push back towards skill-based discrimination once we’re at this point; just as vocally as we earlier pushed away from it.


I suspect that a lot of your political beliefs can probably be deduced by where in this essay you most thought, “aha! He gets it.” and where in this essay you thought I was an idiot.