Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Post No. 131b: Re-Posting Of Post No. 92: Dobermans. Surrounded by Dobermans


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

We have a colleague, a nice guy, who loves Doberman Pinschers. He loves them so much he’s raising 29 of them at his place.

When we visit him, the dogs do what Dobermans always do.

They bark. They snarl. They attack.

They do so not because they know who or what we are. They’re just in attack mode; in that mode by virtue of the way our colleague raises them.

(About dogs: You can’t make a Doberman behave like a Cocker Spaniel anymore than you can stop a Labrador from curling up on your lap and slobbering all over your sofa. Dogs are simply what they are. So be careful when you fall in love with a puppy, okay?)

Our colleague’s Dobermans got us thinking.

All of us have stress in our lives, and we all react to it differently.

Even though we, individually and collectively, are facing what any reasonable person would call dire circumstances, it seems to us that more and more people these days are firmly set in a default mode on the “attack” side of the register, and as a result, civilized discourse may well have become as extinct as the poor dodo bird.

With fear, well-founded fear at that, running rampant through the land, our recent attention has been directed to a radio commentator whose new book, “The Audacity of Failure,” is expected out soon.

However, for several years now, we’ve been subjected to a constant stream of “something,” which does not have the most pleasant aroma.

How odd, we’ve thought, that so many would resort to the slinging of this “hash.”

Don’t they realize that failure - on the part of any of our institutions at this stage in the game – would amount to a Pyrrhic victory? That incessant ideological chatter will take us nowhere?

Are the slingers, on both sides of the debate, so completely devoid of Common Sense that they fail to recognize that their slinging might negatively impact the personal empires which they’ve built?

Derail their ability to collect dollars from their advertisers, not to mention dampen their listeners’ interest in spending money for the things their advertisers hope to sell?

Try a little enlightened self-interest on for size, we say. Your own. Your country’s.

Our country’s.

Last week, we ran across an article entitled, “Running Scared? Fear Isn’t Good For The Economy Or Your Health.” We could only say, “No hash, Sherlock.”

Feeling a little exhausted, we sent an email to a friend: “… people claim that politics has always been nasty. However, there is something different going on now. Nasty has gotten real nasty, and personal. All the attacks, the name-calling, the questioning of people’s intelligence, the constant dissection of every word and move, with all of it designed to make people look bad. Is getting one’s way that important? It’s as if much of society has had this pent up anger and frustration, which they previously chose not to express, and that the political campaigns gave them license to say what they really felt. What thinking person would want to enter public service?”

We’ve obviously chosen our friends wisely, because she responded with a new insight.

“Anger and negativity have become synonymous today,” our friend wrote, “when in truth they’re two different emotions.”

“Negativity in the national discourse,” she noted, “has become purely intellectual.”

“None of us are born [negative],” she said. “In fact, I dare you to stop by any grade school playground and find one child who would qualify as negative by nature.”

Fear. We’ve all felt it on occasion, and we’re feeling it again.

Earlier today we sat in front of the computer, fearful, unsure, stomach churning. Probably like a lot of people.

The thing about people, it dawned on us, is that all of us, some to a greater degree than others, were born with the genetic coding necessary to think through the obstacles we encounter.

Paraphrasing our friend’s comment about the lack of negativity of children, it also struck us that, unlike our colleague’s Dobermans, none of us are genetically coded to bark, snarl and attack only.

Common Sense says we must be guided, in Lincoln’s words, “by the better angels of our nature.”

There has to be something bigger than this ideological dispute.

Do we still have those angels?


© 2009, the Institute for Applied Common Sense

7 comments:

  1. Actually, I disagree with a large part of your premise. Little children will instinctively hit, kick, bite, scratch and otherwise attempt to maim their playmates over the slightest infringement of their immediate desires, until the point where punishment has knocked some "common sense" into them. Some are more aggressive than others, of course, but aggression is inherent. We now know that our closest ancestor--the chimpanzee--is a murderer. Chimps will go out in gangs for no other purpose than to find chimps from another group near the perimeter of their territory and kill them, apparently just for sport.
    This country has been engaged in one war or another throughout my entire life, beginning with Korea. And not one of those wars was either necessary, or a true war of self-defense.
    It's not that we'd be kinder if we behaved more naturally, but exactly the opposite. We are hard-wired to love only those in our immediate "clan." Contemporary life, however, leaves us more and more isolated. Our need to earn a living tends to separate us from our geographical and familial origins, so that most of us live constantly in the midst of "the Others." Given that fact, it is amazing that we manage to get along as well as we do.
    All of this is not to say that we should not be striving in the direction of loving our neighbor, and even our enemy. But it is to say that this is not something that comes "naturally." If it were, Jesus would have had no message and Everyman would be a saint, and saints as undectable by their distinct characteristics as is water to a fish.

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  2. Though I might have worded it less cynically (I hope), I find myself basically agreeing with rodak. We are born selfish and utterly willing to be violent. We are cajoled, bullied, coerced, and bribed into socialized behavior. And it takes time.

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  3. Actually Rodak, we agree with virtually everything you have stated, but do not find it "inconsistent" with the central premise of our piece. We'll explain further later in more detail. For the time being, we think that Douglas has "peeped" our response with reference to his description of humans being "cajoled, bullied, coerced, and bribed into socialized behavior."

    We think that there is something more involved, from an organizational and structural/systemic perspective, but that he has pretty described it succinctly.

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  4. Great post. The public discourse has become something base and unhealthy. And it seems to be all about 'winning' at all cost, regardless of the damage to the collective good. Cheer! Steve

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  5. Thanks much Steve for checking in again. The "collective good" is a notion about which few apparently think, when they are simultaneously thinking about WIIFM or "what's in it for me."

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  6. Rodak: It was our original desire and intent to comprehensively and accurately respond to your comment above, and discuss how our two views were actually consistent, and not inconsistent. However, an appropriate response would take more than the 750 words we allot to our articles these days.

    The gist of our intended response might best be illustrated by a hypothetical:

    Imagine that you have 15 well-fed people in Room Nos. 1 and 2.

    Further imagine that in Room No. 1, you have the people seated separately, and that you bring in a specified quantity of food and provide each one 1/15th of that food.

    However, in Room No. 2, you bring in the same quantity of food, but place it in one heap in the center of the room on a table.

    In Room Nos. 3 and 4, you have 15 starving, mal-nourished people.

    In Room No. 3, you once again have the people seated separately, and that you bring in a specified quantity of food and provide each one 1/15th of that food.

    As for Room No. 4, you bring in the same quantity of food, but place it in one heap in the center of the room on a table.

    Now assume that the people are left to eat the food.

    You can well imagine the results.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Rodak: It was our original desire and intent to comprehensively and accurately respond to your comment above, and discuss how our two views were actually consistent, and not inconsistent. However, an appropriate response would take more than the 750 words we allot to our articles these days.

    The gist of our intended response might best be illustrated by a hypothetical:

    Imagine that you have 15 well-fed people in Room Nos. 1 and 2.

    Further imagine that in Room No. 1, you have the people seated separately, and that you bring in a specified quantity of food and provide each one 1/15th of that food.

    However, in Room No. 2, you bring in the same quantity of food, but place it in one heap in the center of the room on a table.

    In Room Nos. 3 and 4, you have 15 starving, mal-nourished people.

    In Room No. 3, you once again have the people seated separately, and that you bring in a specified quantity of food and provide each one 1/15th of that food.

    As for Room No. 4, you bring in the same quantity of food, but place it in one heap in the center of the room on a table.

    Now assume that the people are left to eat the food.

    You can well imagine the results.

    ReplyDelete

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