This post is a bit of a companion piece to my post from last week, where I talked about my belief that our public discourse could do with a big injection of generosity of spirit. What, you didn’t read it? Well you better go and read it right now – it’s really amazingly perceptive and deep (or so I’ve managed to convince myself).
I have a theory about why it seems to be so difficult for so many people to behave in this way. I reckon one of the main reasons our discussion has sunk to its current level is because we’re all too busy being outraged.
I see it all the time. It’s all over the tabloid press – in fact it seems to me that the main purpose of the tabloid press is to constantly stir up as much outrage as they can amongst their readership. It’s a staple on television, particularly for certain types of current affairs shows and talk shows, and as far as I can tell the driving force behind talkback radio as well (although I do have to post a disclaimer as I make a point of not listening to talkback radio – it’s too disturbing). And I haven’t even started talking about the sort of stuff you see on the internet.
It’s almost like a bit of a game. First thing you do is pick side. The side might be defined by what it believes or stands for, although more often than not as far as I can tell, it’s more about being against something. And then you wait, for your opponents to say something, or do something. Doesn’t matter what it is. As long as it comes from the other side, that’s the trigger.
Once the opportunity has presented itself, it’s time to be outraged. Really outraged. Get up on your high horse. Make as much noise as you can, to try and drown the other side out. Remember that too outraged is never enough. You gotta push it as far as you can.
This is great, because it now acts as a trigger for the other side. It becomes their turn to ramp up the outrage, in response to your outrage, so they can try and drown you out. Rational discussion is just not an option. Why should it be, when it’s so much easier (and way more fun) to be outraged.
It’s like a kind of outrage cycle. Each side is trying to out-outrage the other. The end result is that nothing much gets solved or sorted, and things just get more messed up (which of course is a perfect opportunity for even more outrage).
I wish I had an answer for this. I wish I knew how to solve it. I don’t imagine that my little attempt to talk reasonably about it will make much difference in our over-outraged world.
Maybe I’ll incorporate the idea into one of my stories. I Can’t think of a better way to deal with it than that.
Posted by Jonathan Gould and tagged as