February 02, 2012

No Anger Here

I'm happy to point out where I think things/people/organisations have gone wrong - sometimes hideously wrong, to the point of causing an entire subset of people to suffer for it - my strong sense of atheism and egalitarianism makes this a daily occurrence. But what I don't do is get angry about it.

It sometimes feels like a strange state to be in, as the arguments from both sides of the kinds of discussions I'm interested in tend to be pretty gosh darn angry. The Unilad fiasco, which I watched from the sidelines (partly because I didn't have the energy to pitch in and partly because the whole thing was so blindingly obvious, I didn't have anything interesting to add) was a particularly angry affair. Feminists (and, to be fair, most decent human beings) were boiling at the contempt shown for women by the lad-culture website, while the lads were pissed at the feminists butting into their rape-joke party. This is a pretty obvious example of such a conflict, but you'll see similar things throughout politics, religious debate, science vs the sciencephobic, etc; people will get pretty angry about the consequences and attitudes of the other side.

Now, I'm not going to say anger is unjustified. A lot of these debates can centre around issues that can have devastating effects on real people; we're talking potentially life-ruining events in a lot of cases (depending on the topic). To feel angry about the parents being misled about vaccines, for example, is completely unsurprising and justified.

However, I don't really get angry. And I'm quite glad for that. There are two reasons I don't get angry: the first is that it's not really a natural reaction for me. I don't get visceral rises of emotion, in any direction, really. I accept facts and evidence and process them quite slowly, chewing over them for a while. This makes me terrible at verbal debates, because every time I'm presented with new facts I like to think about them for a little while before coming to conclusions. This brings me to my second reason for not getting angry: anger clouds your judgement. When you're emotionally charged, your entire being centres around your current position of thought and closes down all other avenues. It's very, very hard for someone to change your mind when you're angry and being charged by that ferocity makes you very defensive. I think the important thing to always bear in mind is that you may not be completely right. You may not be completely wrong, but it's very likely that a reasonable position lies somewhere between where you are and where your opponent sits.

Being angry isn't helpful in the context of rational debate. It's a hindrance to an open mind. Getting to a rational position can be a slow and considered process and that requires being cool and patient. This goes for personal arguments too. If you're in a face-to-face disagreement with someone and it ends up being nothing but a heated argument that goes nowhere, it's best to step back from it. I know the frustration of that verbal sparring and the whole things ends up about winning the battle and not about finding a truth - and the truth is the basis for the argument in the first place. When two people disagree it's because they see something differently so, while you're trying to convince them of your perspective, remember they are trying to convince you of theirs and so, together, you are trying to understand some objective truth to the matter at hand. Arguments should be about reaching an understanding, not winning a battle.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please try not to be a complete loser when commenting.