We have been re-educated now, for decades, with the notion that our feelings are important. It’s how we feel about a subject that matters. The psycho-analytic crowd loves this, and has grown rich from it. Oh gee, Molly, how did that make you feel?
It isn’t hard to reverse engineer how this vision of ourselves has warped into reality television, road rage, school shootings, and an overall collapse of patience and civility. When you are repeatedly told that you are, in fact, the center of the universe, all projections of your personal feelings are valid. Thusly, if you cut me off in the parking lot, and my feelings are hurt, I am justified in flattening your tires or running you down with a shopping cart. You made me feel bad.
I’m not breaking new ground here, but I would like to announce, and for all time, that how a cocky and rude 12 year old feels about anything in particular doesn’t interest me that much. Also, I don’t care about how Madonna felt when she fell off the stage in Paris. Not one bit. One of the last holdouts in the Malheur Refuge told Oregon Public Broadcasting this morning that it doesn’t “feel fair” that some of them are still subject to arrest. Pshaw.
The Donald Trump candidacy is perhaps, and I’m on a limb here (albeit a thick one), the ultimate expression of our cultural insistence on obliging mere feelings. He has tapped into the social media “Like & Send” mentality with pinpoint precision. There are millions of little dopamine responses every time he announces he will build a wall, or Make America Great Again. But nobody knows what he actually thinks, which would be impossible, given that he doesn’t tell us–ever. He’s extremely adept at saying absolutely nothing. And the enormous response from the sign-waving, weeping, feeling-addicted masses is evidence of our collective beaching in the emotive shallows.
But go ahead and vote for him, if you feel like it.
The annual Black Friday riots are a logical apex of our indulgence in feelings, since it is quite apparent that reason is not a part of the now ritualized fistfights for Bermuda Barbies or 40″ flat screens.
Feelings don’t fix a flat tire. They don’t even fix bad relationships, or make good one’s better. They can be a genesis for those things; however, simply feeling I need to feed the horses or shovel some manure has never, not even once, got it done.
The commentary sections on most news pieces or editorials almost instantly devolve into schoolyard tribalism, so much so that often, after scrolling through the emotional tanglefoot, one finds that the merits of the article itself aren’t even part of the discussion. Internet commandos are never lost for feelings, one way or the other.
Can we agree that perhaps it’s what we think that is actually important? That perhaps we should start insisting that folks–especially those we might be considering for office– take the time to reason arguments through–to actually think, to meditate on cause and effect, to anticipate a counter-argument, to build a case, to substantiate, to research and cite sources, to attempt to persuade with articulated reasoning? Is that too much? Is it too late?
One thing we simply don’t see much of anymore are bookshelves, that is, with actual books on them. Maybe that’s a place to start. And don’t lambaste me with evidence drawn from your circle of friends. The results from a larger sampling are in, and the evidence is clear: most people just don’t read. Big Screen TV’s? Check. Gigantic iPhone? Check. An Escalade in the driveway? Check. Faulkner, Flaubert, or McCarthy? Not on your life.