This was from the lecture “The Mismeasure of Man” by Ralph Horwitz at Stanford. It’s a nice way to distinguish between a few different ideas about our relationship to reality.
1) “I call them how they are.” This umpire believes that he has direct access to reality. In his mind, he just watches what happens and makes the call appropriately.
2) “I call them the way I see them.” This umpire acknowledges the limitation of his senses. He knows he may make a call that doesn’t reflect reality accurately because of his lack of direct access to reality.
3) “They ain’t nothing til I call them.” This umpire thinks he defines reality. Horwitz paints this one as the most arrogant, and he probably is. Whether or not this umpire thinks he has direct access to reality, he knows that he is the person who can say what we call a particular human/bat/ball interaction.
It shows a certain amount of self-awareness to be able to say what the third umpire said, which I admire. It is a kind of awareness that is necessary (though not nearly sufficient) for those of us with the inappropriate power to define the situations of others to give up that power. That is, no matter whether our power comes from race, gender, money, or whatever, we can’t give it up until we understand that we have it.
A note on gender in this post: Horwitz used the title of his lecture as a way to get in an apology about how much more research is done on men than women. He also used male pronouns for his umpires. Thinking that there are probably umpires of all genders, I tried to use “they” instead of “he,” “she,” or variations on “he/she.” It felt like bad writing so I went back to “he.” No offense meant, and if you want to take a crack at it, send me what you come up with.
[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, August 6, 2011.]