The Anatomy of Reasonable Aggression

 

I am observing with greater and greater frequency the confusion of objectivity for perspective. With even more frequency, I observe the interpretation of reason itself, as aggression.

Dale Carnegie in his 1937 book, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ outlines the ‘mistake’ of trying to prove a point at expense to social ‘harmony.’

 

He illustrates how (even in 1937) it is rarely advantageous for an individual to pursue a point for the sake of truth or objectivity, within a group especially, but even while in the company of a single individual. He explains that, though truth might be important, people basically work on the basis of a single fundamental principle: self-aggrandizement.

 

In the end, he goes on, people hate being wrong, always want to be right, and that these two, in the face of their own egos, are the fundamental most basic operatives in people’s social behavior. The trick in spotting it, is knowing that it can be manifested in many forms.

 

My point later in this blog (which consists of an eight-part analysis) quite contrary to the way things are at present, will be to illustrate how it doesn’t have to be this way, that people do not have to operate in this manner so long as they are self-aware. It will also show how this phenomena is a major manifestation of intellectual disintegration in society, and how it can be changed so that people live and communicate objectively rather than subjectively–meaning by means of reason rather than some substitute, i.e. emotion, intuition, authority, etc.

 

My general point, as stated, of course will be to show how reason is equated in itself, more and more to be an act of aggression, how objectivity is marginalized to mere ‘perspective’ and how both relate to the above.

 

My father explained to me early on in life how to ask questions rather than making statements in any verbal discussion with other people. He told me ‘people rarely want to hear about you, but will always want to hear about themselves.’ (paraphrasing both Carnegie and my Dad)

 

But, both Carnegie and my Dad, are right.

 

People do not typically want to hear about you, and they scarcely ever care about the truth. Carnegie goes on to say how ineffective it is to keep up an argument with the goal of winning over the other person, that it will only work in any case, to isolate the person who pursues it, and embarrass the one in reaction to it.

 

He identifies how the responder will escape in one of two ways, with what I have conceptualized to be called: ‘flight-ego,’ and ‘fight-ego.’

 

‘Flight-ego’ is a way of deflecting or turning a statement around so that you are the one who ends up on top (ego) but in a way that evades the fundamentals of the other person’s stance (flight). 

 

The opposite, but counterpart concept, what I call, ‘fight-ego’ is in the case, where the meaning of the statement is not evaded, but the responder reacts in a way that assumes ownership (ego) of the initial statement (fight) so that it doesn’t have to be evaded.

 

The two typical reactions to ‘flight and fight ego,’ take place with either scoffing at your statement in disagreement, or turning it around in some way through ‘flight or fight ego’ as a response to itself. I notice how particularly independent a person’s agreement or disagreement tends to be from objectivity, and how dependent it is on how agreeing or disagreeing will make them look.

 

I notice this takes place quite subtly and often gracefully. 

 

(In the exceptional case of intellectual circles where disagreement is the norm, I don’t observe that the overall pattern changes very much, but in some ways gets subtler and even insidious.)

 

For example, someone is arguing for the advantages of the electric car at the table (politics is generally a social no-no to Carnegie anyway). Another person in the group disagrees in saying:

 

‘What do you mean, the electric car has never even come out on the market?’

 

(Though many different responses are possible to any statement, I would say that responses to reason based statements, that is, declarations of objective truth, usually fall along the lines of the following:)

 

In general, the initiator has the option of two responses:

 

One, he can flat out state how ‘the electric car actually, and in fact DID come out with GM’s 1996 California model,’…

 

…or he can merely back down and say or (better) ask, 

 

‘Is that so?’

 

In this case, usually posing a question will allow the other person an opportunity to laud themselves with their superior knowledge, and hence, is the better option, especially in the face of an audience.

 

Notice how, then, the second person also has the option of two more responses, one for each of the two responses the initiator has produced.

 

 

If the initiator chooses the latter option, the respondent will surely take an opportunity with some or other knowledge (or garbage), to make himself look good by graciously offering the initiator the opportunity to (gracefully) admit fault.

 

But if the initiator chooses to correct him, however with: ‘No actually that’s not true, the E-V1 was brought out by GM in California in 1996 and many of those cars were actually even on the road’…

 

…the aforementioned reaction will then ensue:

 

He will either flat out disagree which is usually an end to the conversation depending on the natural inclination of the respondent, or he will admit the initiator is right in a way that if he can, turns the statement around, which I notice is more often than not the case. I notice also, how this tends to take place in the form of revising their initial statement to make it look as if they agreed all along in some way or another.

 

Again, in the latter response, the dual component of ‘fight-ego’ can be observed: both ego and dealing with the statement are assimilated by reinventing history, in this case, the history of the argument, again as if it were the case all along.

 

In general, people will do what they can to make themselves look as if they were always the one’s right, or that, when wrong, one, do it to show they are so gracious and strong in admitting fault, and two, making fault look like the glaring exception: 

 

‘Oh I must of read some other article on the electric car, you can’t always rely on the editors,’ or even more outlandish a remark will fly below the radar with something like: ‘oh I must have missed that documentary,’…

 

…implying of course, that this is one out of many documentaries they watch, not to mention the implied ‘fact’ that they slipped in a self-complement: showing that they are intellectual enough to be avid watchers of informative documentaries. All these are examples of ‘fight-ego.’

 

I observe how little often this has to look even sometimes remotely plausible, as I have heard many an outlandish come-back in the face of admitting fault, though in very few reactions do I actually see the audience and its participants, point out how the other person is wrong which is quite awkward and embarrassing in most circles.

 

To be continued in part 2…

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