Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Anger, Credibility and Cultural Immunity

There are any number of people who think that I need academic credentials or superior personal qualities in order to be credible. In fact I need neither. Nietzsche and Ayn Rand had neither, and both have produced greater work than have most academics or saints.

In science, arguing to the source is considered a logical fallacy. You address the argument that is made, not the person who made it. Yet many others look only at the source; and the results are mostly self-defeating.

Just to show how badly this kind of thinking can go astray, once a Christian lady asked me, “Whom would you rather believe: sinful scientists or the word of God?” My response to that is that I do not care how sinful you think scientists to be. Sinful or not, they created knowledge that I can myself verify, and which knowledge is the reason that you live till age 80 instead of age 30 and are living in a beautiful house rather than a hut.

Indeed a case can be made that, in many situations, there will be negative correlation between the quality of the person's work and his personal credentials. The people who will make the most original contributions will be ones who think differently from those around them. And these will always be seen by many as lunatics or worse.

Manifestations of truly original ideas are always at the start rebellious, often angry, sometimes even hateful. As the ideas mature they become calmer and more reasonable. If you want to screen out anything that is angry or rebellious, you will screen out all original ideas, and you will sabotage your country. Similarly if you use the source argument, you will screen out your most original contributors, and the effect will be the same. In both cases the behavior is completely self-defeating.

This leads me to a different but related subject. There are many people who would feed on anything emotional, anger or otherwise, and use any emotional reaction that they get to portray the person in a negative light. The people who see emotions as a lower function, or anger as some kind of personal failure, will engage in predatory behavior. They will do things that are designed to bring out an emotional or an angry response. Then they will attack you for having such a reaction.

I once had a girlfriend who made a friend. This man had a very low view of emotions. He would say things that would rile her up, and if she had an emotional reaction he would use it to claim that she was hysterical or irrational. I told her what he was doing and advised her to replace the emotional reactions with rational ones. She did that, and the results were effective.

When I was writing on Google Groups, any number of people would say things that would anger me. If I got angry, they then went on to say that I was neanderthal, negative, whatever. I learned to respond not with anger but with reason. They can find all sorts of ways to use anger against you; but it is much harder to do the same thing with reason. What they were doing was engaging in predatory behavior. They would provoke someone's anger, and when that was done they would use that to claim that he was bad.

In such cases, the solution is to call the people who do this on their hypocrisy. If you have no use for feelings, you should not be around people who have feelings. And if you are against anger, you will not be saying things to provoke anger in others.

How does the first relate to the second? Because, once again, in case of new ideas many of them start out angry. They react against one or another wrong in surrounding conditions, then they go to a different place. If you screen out anger, you will screen out your most original contributions. And this will not work in your best interests.

Now anger, in itself, may not be a good thing; but there are times that it will be appropriate. Denying this is not enlightenment, it is foolishness. It is correct to be angry at things that are wrong. Transformative process is never nice. Yet it is very much necessary.

If you are looking at the personal credibility of the source, you will deny your most original contributions. Same will be the case if you screen out for anger or rebellion. This kind of “cultural immunity” immunizes the culture against its best contributions; and for the culture to actually blossom it has to go. Original thinkers will encounter all sorts of negative reactions, and many of them will for that reason be seen as lacking in personal credibility. As for anger or rebellion, it will also accompany most original contributions, which likewise means that screening against it is wrong.


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