• Posted: Jan 25, 2017 22:14:20
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The US has a new President. Obama has left the building. Now sitting in his old office is a man few, if any, understand. But, think back to images of the 2nd or 3rd debate, with Trump snorting like a raging bull behind a comparatively calm Hillary. Just what was all that snorting about? Emotion, that’s what. And, for some strange reason, Trump’s raw unedited emotion came across as more compelling to some voters than Hillary’s more cool under fire, more cerebral approach to questions and issues.
We have entered an unsettling era where emotion and feelings have become the measure of truth, where it doesn’t matter what the facts are, only the feelings matter. The calculus seems to be that if a fact prompts uncomfortable feelings, it isn’t a true fact. True facts become whatever supports good feelings. If you don’t find that unsettling, then you haven’t been paying attention for the last 2500 years, at least not since Plato.
For the last 25 years, there has been a discussion going on about “emotional intelligence”. The premise has been that since emotions are a definite part of human psychology, we should try to figure a scheme that includes both rational evidence-based thought and emotions. In other words, facts are fine. Rational thought is fine. And progress comes from thoughtful use of facts. But, if progress doesn’t result in emotions we are comfortable with, then maybe an alternative solution should be sought.
Trump and his worshipers seem to have taken a few steps out of that scheme. Skip the facts. Skip thought. And, who is to say what so called “progress” is? Let’s just go directly for feelings. One woman in that camp told me, “Oh, I used to think, but I don’t bother anymore.” (And no, that is not a fake quote. Her name is Elizabeth and she lives in NW Indiana.)
The premise behind the Trump brand of emotional intelligence seems to be that emotions are a direct connection to God. And, whatever God says has to be correct, has to be true, has to be wisdom. The problem with that premise is emotions evolved because at some point in the history of humans, emotions prompted behaviors that resulted in our survival. But if those external conditions no longer exist, those same emotions could just as easily cue behaviors that lead us into extinction. Fortunately for humans, though, the facility for rational thought, a.k.a. intellect, has also been acquired through our evolutionary history. And, it has been intellect that has allowed us to master facts and envision ways to work with those facts, ensuring both our survival and progress through ages and ages of ever-changing conditions. Leave intellect behind and we might as well be back with the Neanderthals, without hope of progress and bound for extinction. In fact, if you believe God gave us emotions to help guide us, why wouldn’t you believe he also gave us intellect to help in our choices? And, if you believe in the Devil too, you might also consider that it could be he who tempts us to abandon intellect in favor of ill-considered raw blind emotion.
How do you feel about that, Mr. Trump? Not in the least concerned, I’d guess. But I’m concerned, very concerned. How does one cultivate intellect in the mind of one who closes his mind to it, who instead trusts only emotion? It’s a vexing and scary problem, especially since there seem to be so many folks across our nation these days who have cast aside their innate intellect for the adrenalin rush of raw emotion. A new and different kind of addiction is plaguing us, a public health problem, for sure, fueled by insatiable thirst for titillating, provocative, sensational media and entertainments, and not counterbalanced by face-to-face, civil, intellect engaging interaction with our fellow citizens regarding issues at hand.
Take a look at the above images. If they bore you because they don’t reach out and grab you by the genitals or throat, it may well be you’ve crossed over into the Trump camp. And, that worries me. It should worry all of us.
Wednesday, January 6th, 2016