The Passions and the Prefrontal Cortex in Politics

A Fistfight in the Ukrainian Parliament

                Antagonism in politics is an issue that has plagued the discipline since it first arose. Throughout history, to what degree we should empathize with our opponents has been controversial. Furthermore, to what degree emotion should be balanced with science is also. These are very related issues since without the balance of science, the human passions will lash out without much guidance or direction and will be less effective and be more rancorous toward their opposition. This is all made worse the less organization there is in a movement because there is no deliberation or the cooling effect of collective mediation. As I have spent my life in left-wing politics, I have seen this time and time again and a lack of organization dulls the movement in other ways, too. Specifically, making it boring. Movements across the political spectrum have these issues but I am going to focus on the #metoo movement as an example since it has more clear examples of these issues.

                Of all movements that have garnered cheer and criticism, the #metoo movement is among the more notable. It was especially criticized for over-punishing seemingly minor incidents. There are many issues to explore in the #metoo movement but the singular factor of the quantitative severity of punishment is mostly beside the point. The #metoo movement’s biggest problem was less that it over-punished and more that it had no organization. It was a movement waged mostly by publicly shaming people on Twitter and while it did accomplish some of the admirable goals it set out to, it could have both been more humane and more efficient had there been chapters based in cities and coordinated actions and activism. The problems of over-punishment could mostly have been avoided if, instead of using online vigilantes Jon Ronson-style, there had been local committees to investigate allegations and to deliberate on how to move forward.

                While victims’ voices should be heard, victims should not usually be the final arbiters of a judgment. Obviously, someone hurt by a crime would be more likely to begrudge and be more vengeful toward the criminal. The benefits to local organization are both that it provides a relatively impartial court to gage the situation and be able to think of more creative means of settling issues around misconduct and forwarding the causes of feminism. Simple punitive measures are usually the want of the victim of a crime, however, psychologically those are ever more obsolete. Online vigilantes are not comprised, usually, of people with the backgrounds in sociology and psychology sufficient to craft policies and reforms that would resolve the issues scientifically.

                Yet, not only did the lack of organization or chapters cause the movement to be less scientific and human in their proposals. It also limited the effectiveness. Organization is needed to coordinate, fundraise, plan, and strategize any movement with any hope of significant success, the success that particular movement did manage were on the backs of organized racial justice and democratic socialism movements that spread and forwarded the #metoo cause. A little parliamentary procedure goes a long way to debates and thereafter gathering the best ideas from a collective group of minds and a much more refined idea of what to do having spent many days and many people producing, rejecting, modifying, and accepting thoughts sprung up on the issue. The movement was depressingly uncreative in everything it did. Aside from the lack of creativity leading to a lack of empathy for their opponents, it also made the movement much more monotone and monotonous than it could have been.

                The vibe derived from the movement was that of antagonism and victimhood, both of which are healthy to degrees but should only be consumed in very moderate quantities. Worse, there was not much in the way of comedy, drama, playfulness, or gushiness that would have made it a lot more fun. There was not a section of the #metoo movement that was set aside for non-antagonistic action. It was unceasing war. I had similar issues with the Malcolm X fanboys in Black Lives Matter. They wanted to spend the entire movement being antagonistic and none being positive and fun.  Existence in a state of perpetual warfare is toxic to the mind and poisonous to the soul and it weakens the very love on which all movements should be based. It was tragic that movements and parts of movements that could have been spent on science and the arts were instead spent on the less sophisticated and more bland rituals of political rancor.

                For movements to all be more humane, effective, fun, and more interesting they should step back from their first passions, organize, and plan. The ultimate goal of a movement is not to defeat one’s opponents. That is a proximate goal and may be needed to achieve the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal of any movement is to achieve its ideological and material aims socially and politically. That requires much more deep and creative thinking than shallow emotions and vigilantes can allow for. It requires exiting the paradigm of attack one’s opponents and living in the paradigm of science and art. A much more beautiful paradigm to live in. I hope that all of the movements uprising now engage in creative science and art. I pray for comedy and music. Hopefully, there will be much more love at the end of it for those things.

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