October 27, 2010

Anger & Hatred in Politics: A Trend Reflecting Individual Fear

I have never quite seen the likes of the mudslinging and finger pointing that has become the tornado of American politics. I can hardly keep up with the opinions of various factions: who has disappointed who and why, or who will simply not do what needs to be done in the way it should be done.

There is ongoing political conversation over whose beliefs and ideas are archaic, while on the other hand whose are too progressive. We hear accusations about who is corrupt, dishonest, philandering, pandering, inexperienced, overly entrenched, too conservative, or too liberal. Who supports corporate domination, who’s a hypocrite. It’s gone far beyond respectful, responsible analysis that’s helpful to the public, revealing instead conflicts and fears within each individual.

Each criticism we speak exposes something about ourselves. For example, do you have anyone in your life who seems to bring out the worst in you? Or at least brings out a side of yourself you aren’t comfortable with? Your answer is yes, unless you’ve been living as a hermit. We all have people in our lives who trigger so-called negative parts of us we’d rather not acknowledge.

Typically, however, we don’t recognize this discomfort as something that comes from within ourselves. Rather, we point the finger and spend our time figuring out what they are doing wrong, even better if we can get them to see the error of their ways. The bigger we make our case to prove ourselves right seems to correlate to the size of the can of worms we won’t admit is ours. 

In keeping with the political theme, remember when Bill Clinton was in deep with his lady troubles? Of course… but think back to whether you harshly criticized him or whether you thought, “What’s all the hoopla about?” I noted at the time that some of those who screamed loudest about how awful he was were the very ones who had done or could have done a dirty deed themselves, but had not come to terms with it. Others who were at peace with their own integrity around cheating were more likely to let Bill off the hook, even those who opposed him politically. The chastising occurs inside first, and this made the whole finger pointing circus fascinating to watch, to see who was saying what.

If passionate condescension emerges from an individual or group, it stems from fear. This is what makes our system appear unstable and chaotic at the moment. Lots of fears, masked as anger, coming to the surface to interject themselves into what could otherwise be a reasonable, effective process. Now we’ve got the most incredible nastiness flying around in our political atmosphere, which is divisive, serving to further break down cooperation that might actually serve people.

I like to have a sense of balance, so if someone is critiquing the left, I’ll often try to see the point of view of the right, and vice versa. If someone is bashing a woman candidate, even if I disagree with her position, I’ll tend to look deeper into the reason the woman is being so severely disparaged. The way I see it, women in politics get bashed more readily than the old guard. And there’s my next example. I am sensitive to the injustices women face and I want them to succeed, not be publicly insulted. Therefore, I don’t want to see women of either party vilified. I defend them all, to an extent. My opinions and passions stem from inside myself first, perhaps from fears that women have been relatively powerless.

So if you want to do an interesting experiment in psychology, either on yourself or in your observations and relationships with others, notice what you and others say about people. It isn’t necessarily the truth being spoken, rather verification of the pains and fears within the person speaking.

Within one’s own self is the answer. If you take a moment to consider our current political climate, who or what comes to mind? Do you come up with a criticism immediately about a situation, a person, or group? If so, ask yourself, “What about me is reflected back to me in what I’m saying? What within me fears this?” If you are honest with yourself, invariably you’ll find that what you dislike or find abhorrent in another has its root within you.

Awareness of what you say is a step toward greater effectiveness. Maybe look at the mud in your own hand before you sling it, asking first if there is something about you that could be looked at from a fresh angle. I think taking responsibility for our own individual fuss and muss is the best way to contribute to a cooperative world.

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