Tuesday, April 21, 2009
© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense
Some weeks ago, we expressed concern about the “tone” of discourse in our forum. It never reached the level of name calling, but it came darn close.
Acrimony and invective rose to a level where many complained that they were not interested in the accompanying message, no matter how well articulated or founded.
As put by one of our visitors, “Why would anyone, at least without a lot of cash, be interested in dealing with angry people?”
(We do not consider all of those using personal attacks as angry people, but we appreciate the point.)
It was our goal to create a forum for civil discourse, and the exchange of ideas, whereby we all could learn.
Although we had the ability to screen comments, we chose not to do so.
We wanted to encourage expression and attract all points of view.
One of the things we learned is that most people maintain their ideological positions throughout, despite being presented with thought-provoking arguments from many angles from many others.
Rarely did we note someone acknowledging the merit of a position which they had not previously considered.
As the Optimizer often says, theories and positions are good for something, but not nearly as much as their proponents argue.
In an effort to get beyond what the Laughingman termed “justified” criticism by those on the left, middle, and right, that our topics reflected our bias, several weeks ago, we sought topics from you.
One of you, whose analysis, wit, appreciation of history, and tone of presentation we respect, suggested that he had a theory: There is an “upside to anger.”
He was concerned about the mischaracterization of “righteous anger” as “hatred” or “rage.”
He also felt he had “a right and obligation to speak out.”
Having long considered anger to be a wasted emotion, considering the source of the topic, we asked, “What does anger gain one,” as opposed to, “But what does anger gain one?”
For weeks we observed everything about us to locate an “upside to anger.”
We looked at sports, child rearing, scientific research, and food preparation.
We considered angry teachers, ministers, government officials, and medical professionals.
While still pondering the question, we viewed a symposium on the economy on C-Span. We were struck by several things.
There were roughly 10-13 economists, journalists, former banking officials, and other business professionals.
Notable was the absence of politicians, government officials, comedians, and talk show hosts.
What immediately struck us was the civil tone of the discussion.
It was difficult to figure out who was liberal, conservative, Democrat, or Republican.
The participants were respectful of each other’s views.
They approached the subject analytically, with little emotion, and placed our current economic woes in historical context.
There was quite a bit of discussion about whether we, as a society, had learned anything about the functioning of our economy and the societal repercussions, following repeated recessions, price and wage controls, the savings and loan debacle, the bursting of the technology bubble, Enron, and the demise of the major investment banking firms.
It seemed like a Common Sense and responsible way to approach the problem to us.
We noted the contrast between this thoughtful, non-combative event, and the anger vented on our blog, in Congress, and on the talk shows.
We asked, “In which context are we more likely to generate some fresh ideas to deal with this very complex and serious situation, and gain a more comprehensive understanding of the underlying causes?”
After giving some, if not due, consideration to the topic, and despite the respect that we have for our reader, we couldn’t find an “upside to anger.”
We view anger as a primal, instinctive, and perhaps more immediate reaction to an event or set of events. Responsible people, after acknowledging the event, set about dealing with it, and in our view, anger makes that more difficult.
Our friend may be correct that we’ve seen a mischaracterization of “righteous anger” as “hatred” or “rage” on occasion. However, we just don’t see its utility after one feels it.
Few are going to listen to your point of view while you’re “screaming” at them literally or figuratively.
Suggesting, even obliquely, that those who disagree with you are morons is probably not the way to go.
As much as it may serve some personal function, we just don’t see how anger advances any long-term, positive, societal interests.
Let’s keep that in mind going forward.
All of us.
Opportunity to Serve as "Guest Author"
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