The idea that objective reality will help people come to some kind of agreement is nice—but flawedby Benjamin Markovits / October 8, 2019 / Leave a comment
Sometimes, in family life, it would be useful to have a CCTV camera at home. When you lose your keys, for example. Or to check how long the dog barks when you leave the house. Or for resolving disputes. To discover, conclusively, who left the milk out or the back door open or the oven on. Or measure how long the kids spent watching TV. Or record what was really said in the heat of argument, so that when the argument develops and various parties want to refer to the transcript, there’s a transcript you can refer to.
The faith underlying this is the idea that something objectively happened, and that the acknowledgement of this objective reality will help people come to some kind of agreement. In family life, at least, I’m not sure that’s how it works.
In Breathing Lessons, by Anne Tyler, a woman fights with her husband when she dreams that he stepped on “her needlepoint chair, her chair seat she worked forever on…‘If that ain’t just like you,’ she tell me in the morning, and I say, ‘What did I do? Show me what I did…’ She say, ‘You are just a mowing-down type of man, Daniel Otis, and if I knew I’d have to put up with you so long I’d have made a more thoughtful selection when I married.’”
What actually happened is just the thin surface skin of what’s going on, and the real action lies beneath. Or, as Ronald Reagan once put it: “facts are stupid things.”
This is a column about VAR, the “video assistant referee” that has recently been introduced to top-level football. Most sports are pretty committed to the idea that what actually happens on the surface (the pitch, the hardcourt, the running track) matters. But what’s interesting to me about VAR, and its various applications and incarnations—Hawk-Eye in tennis, DRS in cricket—is the mixed reaction to it. People like some versions and not others. As if some facts are facts, and some facts are just… surfaces.
There’s not much resistance, for example, to goal-line technology. The posts are there, the line is there, and we understand that the rules of the game mean…