Discussion 5: Balancing Emotion and Reason

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Discussion 5: Balancing Emotion and Reason

The questions we asked in Business-as-Usual Part 5 were the following:

  1. What is the “proper balance” between non-rational and rational drivers of decisions? .
  2. How do we attain that balance within our own decision-making processes?
  3. How do we attain that balance at the group or even national level?

Those questions, and indeed, that video, were made before the presidential election in the United States.  Since that time, much more attention has been focused on several related questions, such as:

  1. Why do some people make decisions that are counter to their own interests?
  2. How can we help people sort out true facts from "fake facts" and propaganda?
  3. How do we persuade people in what is being called the "post-fact" era that facts really do matter?  Or don't they?

Feel free to weigh in on any of these questions, though if possible, indicate which one you are answering.  (We are keeping them all together, however, because there is considerable overlap in content.)


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The post-fact era started

The post-fact era started decades ago when it became permissible to flat out lie and be sarcastic.  Anyone who wasn't willing to tolerate liars or sarcasm was treated as if they were pushing their values onto those who wanted to treat everything like it was a matter of opinion.  A lot of people think this is something that started with Trump, but the reality is it didn't.  He just took advantage of a culture that already believed in this.  There are plenty of articles out there which emphasize how Trump navigated the culture of postmodernism that prove this point.

Over time, this attitude problem blended into conformist judgment where people were expected to go along with ways of life which were already proven to work.  That is if you weren't satisfied with how people currently lived, then you were told it didn't matter.  The facts were that a certain way of life worked, so you had to go along with the facts.  You weren't allowed to think about how to live another way.  Instead, you were mandated to go along with the random impulses that society had when experimenting through trial and error and simply going along with what luckily functioned. Initially, this involved anti-intellectual conservatism, but over time, it came to grasp relativist liberalism as well.  At first, it was a matter of people going along with folk community common sense in how business plans were executed, how household culture was followed, and how clubs were organized.  Over time, it became a matter of how schools, social welfare, and health care were run as well to counterbalance this conservative conformity.  

It's not clear that balance can be struck because we live in a time of stubbornness.  We live in a time where everyone wants their emotions to be correct.  Thinking is treated as either a sign of weakness or as a sign of manipulation.  That is emotionally judgmental people see thinking as something that's done when people anticipate their emotions are incompatible, or as something that's done when people want more than what their current emotions support.  

To be clear, I really don't want to believe in this, but everyday, people seem to be getting worse and worse.  Their obsessions with drama where problems fester over time just to ruin people's lives are leading to outright calamities because people revel in mocking others to prop up their own social status.  Those who are ruined are expected to support the ruiners for the sake of doing what's practical.  There is no willingness to punish and discipline ruiners according to a universal standard of duress, intimidation, harassment, and provocation because people claim that standard itself is pushing an opinion onto others despite how in reality, it isn't.  Recognizing unreliable figurative language that people don't consent to be described by is not a matter of opinion.

Instead, people prefer to exploit plausible deniability, abuse of process, and malicious prosecution while exploiting how every fact that happens (or at least every relevant fact) isn't recorded.  Instead, they want to frame reality as appearing to be something that it's not by presenting facts that suggest what they want to be true while using Occam's Razor to fill in the gaps.

My best advice is that to fix this, emotionally judgmental people have to be compelled to coexist among each other so they realize their way of judging society is wrong.  They must be compelled to recognize how everyone's emotions aren't the same, so tying your sense of taste to your conscience is asking for a chaotic outcome that doesn't prosper in the end.  Hotheads must be balanced with fellow hotheads.  Softees must be balanced with fellow softees.  People who want to treat others like statistics for the sake of doing what's convenient must be compelled to live a life where they are forced to be the one who falls through the cracks as an exception to the rule.

It's only when these people learn through personal experience how their paradigms are problematic that things will finally change.  They must be compelled to look at themselves in the mirror.  That way, they realize what it's like when they judge themselves as ugly.


Hmm, Mike, I think I've found someone who is more cynical than I am!  Yes, post-modernism questions the validity of facts, but up until fairly recently, it seems to me, science was respected and scientific findings were believed by most citizens.  Indeed, many people are still pushing "STEM" education, even as large portions of the public reject the results of that education.  The depth of distrust in science seems to me to be fairly new.  It didn't start with Trump certainly, but I don't see it going back to the 50s and 60s when we had the "Sputnik era" and were pushing science very hard.  

Concerning your last suggestion, I think what you are advocating, essentially, is what conflict theorists refer to as the "intergroup contact hypothesis" which advocates bringing disparate groups together so that they can better understand each other and learn to respect each other when such respect was previously absent.  This hypothesis, first proposed in 1954 by Allport says, however, that four conditions are necessary to make this work.  These are 1) equal status of the participants, 2) intergroup cooperation, 3) common goals, and 4) support by social and institutional authorities.  In our highly-escalated red/blue conflict we maybe have 1 at times, and possibly 3, but I don't see 2 or 4.  However, bringing people together would at least expose them to different "facts" and worldviews.  Right now the left gets all its facts from NPR and the New York Times; the Right from Fox News and Breitbart.  The result is that people are living in different universes.  Helping these images converge would in itself be a step forward--if it is possible.