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Beware of Contempt (1 Viewer)

Joe Bryant

Guide
Staff member
Hey Guys,

Saw this today and thought it was spot on. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/02/opinion/sunday/political-polarization.html . Thanks to @TobiasFunkefor sharing. 

I don't want to sound too much like the old man, but I think it's pretty clear the tone for how things are discussed has changed over the last few years.

This article hits on what feels to me like the big difference. Contempt. 

It used to be we'd disagree on something and that was that. Disagreement didn't make the other person a "bad person". They just had a different way of looking at something.

Now it seems like we have contempt for the other person if they don't think like we do. Like we think the other person is worthless at best. Or at worst, evil. We seem to have gone from disagreeing with to contempt for the other person. And that's a bad spot to be in. 

The good news is you're in charge of how you feel about people who disagree with you. If you find yourself feeling contempt or hatred for "the other side", check yourself. I believe by and large most people have a pretty good reason for feeling like they do.

I met a woman last year and it was pretty clear she had negative feelings about church. I asked her a bit more why she felt that way. She said, "When I was twelve my parents got divorced and they kicked us out of church. At the time of my life when I needed the most support, I got kicked to the curb.". Now I'm sure there is more to the story. But it doesn't matter because that's how she saw it as a twelve year old. Accept that's the reality of her experience and work from there. You'll get nowhere telling her she's just wrong. It's not wrong to her. 

In the same way, lots of people feel what they feel for legit reasons. Have empathy and try to understand where they're coming from. 

Now it also doesn't mean you have to throw away all your convictions and stand for nothing. This doesn't mean you drop everything and go to a "it's all groovy". It means you can disagree with people and not have contempt for them. Remember, you get to decide how you feel there.

Be the change you want to see. 

 

SaintsInDome2006

Footballguy
It used to be we'd disagree on something and that was that. Disagreement didn't make the other person a "bad person". They just had a different way of looking at something.

Now it seems like we have contempt for the other person if they don't think like we do. Like we think the other person is worthless at best. Or at worst, evil. We seem to have gone from disagreeing with to contempt for the other person. And that's a bad spot to be in. 

The good news is you're in charge of how you feel about people who disagree with you. If you find yourself feeling contempt or hatred for "the other side", check yourself. I believe by and large most people have a pretty good reason for feeling like they do.
Full disclosure- I think Tobias is right about stuff.

Having said that (and hopefully this is fair) he is also a proponent of ‘yeah you are on the hook for your political decisions.’ I have found him persuasive in the past on this point, though I myself don’t promote it. 

But the way I see the larger point is actually on the positive side - empathy. Have empathy for people and their perspectives. Put yourself in their shoes. Just try that.

Joe tbh I think this fits in more with your topics on political ideologies in the PSF. Tbqh I’m not sure the ideologies of nationalism and (real) socialism can breathe in the same space as compassion and empathy. Both do thrive off dogmatism though.

 

belljr

Footballguy
I think this looked at all wrong.

There are people I agree with and disagree with that I am respectful with disagreements or beliefs

There are also people I disagree with AND agree with same issues that I think are complete morons/jerks/dummies.

It's not always the belief sometimes it's the messenger/person.

There are plenty of people that we have the same "beliefs" that I think are dip####s

 

KCitons

Footballguy
Is contempt the same as calling someone a troll? (asking for a friend).

Some here have taken pleasure in the recent hardships befallen areas of this country that voted for Trump. Even though they voted in good faith, their hopes have been dashed by a President that has abandoned them. Much like the woman who felt she was abandoned by the church at her time of need, the rest of the population is abandoning those the are suffering due to their vote 2 years ago.

 

Joe Bryant

Guide
Staff member
Is contempt the same as calling someone a troll? (asking for a friend).

Some here have taken pleasure in the recent hardships befallen areas of this country that voted for Trump. Even though they voted in good faith, their hopes have been dashed by a President that has abandoned them. Much like the woman who felt she was abandoned by the church at her time of need, the rest of the population is abandoning those the are suffering due to their vote 2 years ago.
I'm not sure. We have some people who really are trolling. And some people who want to call everyone who disagrees with them a troll. As if the only way it could be possible for the person to hold such a view is if they're trolling. That's getting into the contempt area for some people. And it's what I think the author is talking about as something to avoid. I agree. 

 
I actually don't agree that contempt or disgust or at least ostracism hasn't changed anyone's mind. To cite a recent example, the advocates for LGBTQ rights have been pretty aggressive for at least the last 20 years.  When I first joined this board 20 years ago, ..., (sorry, I was just reevaluating my life choices), support for gay marriage nationally was below 40%.  Now, it's over 60%.  That's a huge shift.  And, sure part of it is demographics.  And part of it is people seeing gay people getting married and the world still turning on its axis.  But another part of it was a large section of society deciding that homophobia was just flat out unacceptable.  

 
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Statorama

gangster
Now it seems like we have contempt for the other person if they don't think like we do. Like we think the other person is worthless at best. Or at worst, evil. We seem to have gone from disagreeing with to contempt for the other person. And that's a bad spot to be in. 
Wearing a red MAGA hat on a college campus is a worse spot to be in.

I'm old enough to remember actual discussion and debate.  We used to actually communicate.  Now if you express an opinion that diverges from far left wing orthodoxy, you are "literally Hitler".  I've always had a foundation of thinking we all want the same things, we just have different thoughts about how to make those things happen.  Nobody wants the planet to die.  But if you make fun of the Green New Deal, you must be one of those idiot climate change deniers.  Nobody wants to see a gunman walking through a school indiscriminately mowing down school children.  But if you side with the NRA on some issue, you're one of those 'bitter clingers'.  Nobody has a problem with LEGAL immigration.  But if you want to secure our borders you're...well, literally Hitler.

Truth be told, I think there's 80% of us in the middle who think all the political back and forth is kind of stupid.  There's 10% on the far left and 10% on the far right getting all the press, but the 80% of us in the middle just want to live our lives and have some semblance of a peaceful existence.

Also, for the NY Times - the propaganda arm of the DNC and one of the worst offenders of fanning the flames of conflict- to push an article like this is rich at best.

 

DallasDMac

Footballguy
I'm not sure. We have some people who really are trolling. And some people who want to call everyone who disagrees with them a troll. As if the only way it could be possible for the person to hold such a view is if they're trolling. That's getting into the contempt area for some people. And it's what I think the author is talking about as something to avoid. I agree. 
It's funny (nice?) that you actually notice this and even call it out. I find it one of the least-attractive traits of folks that frequent this forum. I feel it keeps most topics from becoming discussions and they end up just devolving in to something unreadable. I think it is probably the main reason we have lost so many good posters. You just can't have a well-thought out discussion here. It just becomes like the monkey cage at the zoo with everyone flinging poo everywhere.

 

-fish-

Footballguy
some views should be stigmatized.    although there are a lot of excuses made about what was appropriate in other generations or certain subcultures, being racist or sexist does make someone pretty much a bad person.   human trafficking makes someone a bad person.  supporting the sex trade makes someone a bad person.   

I don't think there's any problem with having contempt for those views, or for the people that express them.

 

KCitons

Footballguy
I'm not sure. We have some people who really are trolling. And some people who want to call everyone who disagrees with them a troll. As if the only way it could be possible for the person to hold such a view is if they're trolling. That's getting into the contempt area for some people. And it's what I think the author is talking about as something to avoid. I agree. 
The problem with a board, such as this, is that some people assume someone is making a comment just to troll. Even after a lengthy conversation and defense of the position, it's still seen as trolling. It's hard for people to accept differing opinions. More so now than at any time in the last few decades. I agree with @Fish's comments below. Holding a position of support for something like racism or sex trafficking makes a person bad. Holding a position of support for something such as the 2nd Amendment or pro life, is viewed by many as also being a bad person. People have chosen to label others on macro level based on single micro opinion on a specific subject.

From the article

One in six Americans has stopped talking to a family member or close friend because of the 2016 election.
If people can turn their backs on a loved one due to one election, what hope do we have on a message board full of strangers?

 

KCitons

Footballguy
Maybe I'm just naive, but I still have hope. 
This is an interesting (and timely) choice of words. I've been struggling with some things at work and trying to find understanding somewhere. I read this article a few days ago. 

In his book The Awakened Heart (Affiliate link), Dr. Gerald May tells us the difference between expectation and hope.

He defines expectation as a “rigid clinging to unreal belief.” Expectation is demanding exactly what we want to happen regardless of what is actually happening.

Expectation is typically fixed and frozen. It is inflexible and rigid. It is unable to give or to bend or to change.

Sadly, expectations are limited to our previous experiences. We are unable to expect something that we haven’t seen before. We cannot expect something better than what we know.

The worst part of expectations is what happens when we hold onto them. They infect and overwhelm us, like a virus. They consume us like the plague. We are unable to give them up. We are unable to let go.

Expectation influences our behavior and attitudes. It affects how we see the world. And then how we respond to it.

What it Means to Hope

Hope on the other hand is much different. While expectation is the assumption that something is actually going to happen, false or not, hope is the wish for something to happen.

Hope is flexible. It is alive. It responds to all situations instead of battling against the ones that appear to be opposite.

Hope admits reality, always acknowledging what is, but never resigning itself to what is.

Hope allows other to grow. It desires good for another, but gives them room to change over time.

Hope is not limited by previous experience. We can hope for more than what we know. We can hope for something better. Our imaginations and dreams influence our hopes.

Since hope admits uncertainty, it does not die when it goes unmet. A hope deferred does not kill the soul. We may need to adjust our hopes, but we can always keep hoping.

Hope helps us to keep moving forward. Hope fills us with life.

Unmet Expectations

What happens when our expectations go unmet?

Expectation is so rigid, we always respond negatively. We become angry. And then we make an attempt to control. We try to force our expectations. We manipulate. We bribe. We shame.

Expectation does not let us accept what we do not want.

If we hold to a false expectation, a belief that others will do and should be different than they are, it will poison our relationships. It will negatively influence how we see people and how we treat them. We will try to change them.

When someone does not live up to our hopes, we can keep hoping for them because hope is flexible. We may adjust our hopes based on what we learned. We may even let go of our hopes realizing they were too unrealistic.

But we can always have hope for them. As May put it, “There is no such thing as a false hope.”

Love is hope.

Are you filled with hope or expectation?

 

Sand

Footballguy
being racist or sexist
All comes down to definitions, and I'll bet there are other very smart folks on this board who will have different ideas of exactly what these mean.  

 
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Bonzai

Footballguy
Contempt is just a part of it imo.  I think the real thing at play here is righteous indignation -- contempt combined with the feeling that we're justified, or even virtuous, in feeling that way. I think that last bit is important.  It's what makes it so reinforcing.  Everyone wants to be seen as powerful or important or valuable or morally upstanding, and righteous indignation can get them there. An there is no shortage of issues that people can take to the internet to help them feel empowered and connected to others through their outrage.  It's the engine of most political discussion and social media nowadays. I think it has certainly served a purpose in the past -- Rosa Parks is the best example I can think of.  I'm certain it will in the future too.  But social media has amplified it in a way that does much more harm than good at the moment. I'm getting a twinge of it right now writing this post up.  It's so pervasive.  It's tricky to manage.

 
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glvsav37

Footballguy
Dan Carlin is one of my most favorite, level headed person when it comes to the political division and hypocrisy in today's culture. Its a shame he stopped recording his "Common sense" show, but he was just on the "History on Fire" podcast and it is worth a listen. 

 

matuski

Footballguy
and thus, you are deserving of my contempt.  thank you for your example.
Sorry you cant see past the possibility that your absolute statement might be wrong in many cases.

People growing up in a racist/sexist/religious/bigot/homophobic/etc/etc environment are going to have that in them.  That doesn't make them bad people, it means they have room to grow in those areas.  More obstacles to seeing the errors in those ways.

You seem to have the obstacle of being quick to judge.

 

matuski

Footballguy
Bad people are much more likely to use these various forms of hate/fear in malicious ways.

Good people who grew up shielded and hidden from the world will still have fears of the unknown, fear of what they don't understand.

It is lazy to confuse/conflate the two.  @-fish-

 
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-fish-

Footballguy
Bad people are much more likely to use these various forms of hate/fear in malicious ways.

Good people who grew up shielded and hidden from the world will still have fears of the unknown, fear of what they don't understand.

It is lazy to confuse/conflate the two.  @-fish-
defending racism by justifying it as ignorance or habit doesn't make it any better.   you can defend vile characteristics all you'd like.  it doesn't make them less contemptible...or you, by extension.  you're free to defend those acts, and the people that engage in them, all you'd like.   I find both the acts and their defense reprehensible.  as I said, some things should be stigmatized by society.   perhaps then people wouldn't feel emboldened to support them in the guise of defending people that demonstrate these qualities.

 

-fish-

Footballguy
How about criticizing behaviors or arguments and not people?  
behavior and arguments don't exist in the absence of the people that perform the behavior and make the arguments.   how about holding people accountable for their words and deeds?

 

Bonzai

Footballguy
behavior and arguments don't exist in the absence of the people that perform the behavior and make the arguments.   how about holding people accountable for their words and deeds?
By being angry at them on the internet?  How's that working out?

 

Sand

Footballguy
some things should be stigmatized by society.   
:shrug:

So we have a society right now that paints folks who don't agree with reparations as racist, that agree with Martina Navratilova as sexist, that agree with the concept of wholesale killing of babies is wrong is misogynist, etc.

Good people can disagree and not speak with contempt.  I think you're making Joe's point here.

 
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-fish-

Footballguy
:shrug:

So we have a society right now that paints folks who don't agree with reparations as racist, that agree with Martina Navratilova as sexist, that disagree with the concept of wholesale killing of babies is wrong is misogynist, etc.

Good people can disagree and not speak with contempt.  I think you're making Joe's point here.
did someone mention those specific examples before?  I didn't see them.    there are certainly nuances, but there are people that are undoubtedly racist, and acts that are undoubtedly racist.  I have no problem seeing those acts and those that support them in black and white (pun intended).

 

-fish-

Footballguy
is there something in there that said I was emotional about it?   I find defense of racism contemptible.   there's really nothing emotional about it.  it doesn't make me angry, and I stopped being disappointed with humanity a long time ago.  

 

Bonzai

Footballguy
is there something in there that said I was emotional about it?   I find defense of racism contemptible.   there's really nothing emotional about it.  it doesn't make me angry, and I stopped being disappointed with humanity a long time ago.  
Contempt is an emotion.  A powerful one.  On the continuum between anger and disgust.  

eta:  Citing what I said earlier, I think this is may be a good example of how righteous indignation can disguise contempt.  What you seemed to be saying was not "I'm angry/I'm full of contempt!"  but closer to "Look at how virtuous I am!"

 
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-fish-

Footballguy
Anyway, I was really replying to Joe about whether sometimes people or statements are worthy of contempt.   It's not really worth continuing the argument; I just don't agree with a blanket statement that it's something that necessarily must be avoided.  I'll let Joe get back to his thread.   Perhaps some people will agree with me; maybe they won't.   But I will continue to believe that marginalizing the worst of society can be valuable.  It worked with the KKK.

 

-fish-

Footballguy
Contempt is an emotion.  A powerful one.  On the continuum between anger and disgust.  Maybe it's just so part of the fabric of life nowadays it's hard to notice.
I like the definition from the article Joe posted: "the unsullied conviction of the worthlessness of another."  That's an opinion, not an emotion.   I feel no emotion in disregarding a racist as having no useful position in which I would engage.  

 

glvsav37

Footballguy
behavior and arguments don't exist in the absence of the people that perform the behavior and make the arguments.   how about holding people accountable for their words and deeds?




 
What makes you the authority over anyone's actions? That is such an absolute statement.

this is, i think the biggest problem, everyone thinks they are the moral high ground and have the right to defame anyone they feel is not lockstep in line with their beliefs or opinions. People are going out of their way to raise pitchforks and burn down people and situations that in the end, they cant truly help the situation or may not even know the whole story, therefore just contributing to a whipped up frenzy of "issue du jour" 

 

-fish-

Footballguy
What makes you the authority over anyone's actions? That is such an absolute statement.

this is, i think the biggest problem, everyone thinks they are the moral high ground and have the right to defame anyone they feel is not lockstep in line with their beliefs or opinions. People are going out of their way to raise pitchforks and burn down people and situations that in the end, they cant truly help the situation or may not even know the whole story, therefore just contributing to a whipped up frenzy of "issue du jour" 
the question was why can't we just focus on the actions, without criticizing the people that engage in them.  there's no judgment in stating that actions don't exist in the abstract.  there are people behind them.  to criticize an action without acknowledging the role of the actor eliminates accountability.   

 

glvsav37

Footballguy
the question was why can't we just focus on the actions, without criticizing the people that engage in them.  there's no judgment in stating that actions don't exist in the abstract.  there are people behind them.  to criticize an action without acknowledging the role of the actor eliminates accountability.   
again...what gives you the right to "criticize?" That immediately puts the action in a defensive posture and makes the assumption that YOU are the correct opinion.

from the OP:

It used to be we'd disagree on something and that was that. Disagreement didn't make the other person a "bad person". They just had a different way of looking at something.
But you are saying its OK to openly criticize the opinion, not "I dont agree with you, lets discuss it and see if there is a middle ground". And while I'm not saying you specifically, that attitude has caused an insane amount of Us vs Them mentality and if you are not 100% in my corner you are the enemy. Add in our ability to hide behind a keyboard and lob insults or join the herd of protestors in situations that you have no direct control over the outcome. People are just piling on and causing a frenzy for the sake of being 'righteous' Yea, you can make the case that overtly racist or damaging actions should have some form of accountability,  but we can't even have civil discussions about things like immigration, health care or any other politics these days without one side eventually taking up the name calling and 'i know what I want so FU" attitude. 

 

-fish-

Footballguy
again...what gives you the right to "criticize?" That immediately puts the action in a defensive posture and makes the assumption that YOU are the correct opinion.
This was the question:

How about criticizing behaviors or arguments and not people?  
This suggests that criticizing behaviors or arguments is ok, but criticizing the people engaging in the behaviors or making the arguments is not.    This eliminates accountability.   There is no judgment in that statement.  Certainly some people will make unjustified criticisms; one would expect that they would be unable to support their position.   That's how discussion works--not by prohibiting criticism, but instead by requiring fact-based justifications for arguments.

If someone burned a cross on my neighbor's lawn, I would be just as justified in my criticism of the behavior as racist as I would be in my criticism of the person who did it as racist.  You can't just consider words and deeds in their abstract, and trying to do so is actually harmful in that it eliminates personal responsibility.  You could, I suppose, try to argue that the cross-burner isn't necessarily racist and may just not know any better.   In that case, I would recognize that you're bending over backward to defend racism, and you'd likely become the object of my contempt.

 

ChainsawU

Footballguy
In his four decades of research, Professor John Gottman has found contempt to be the #1 predictor of divorce.

3. The Importance of Contempt


Let’s dig a little deeper into the secret of Gottman’s success rate. Gottman has discovered that marriages have distinctive signatures, and we can find that signature by collecting very detailed emotional information from the interaction of a couple. But there’s something else that is very interesting about Gottman’s system, and that is the way in which he manages to simplify the task of prediction. I hadn’t realized how much of an issue this was until I tried thin-slicing couples myself. I got one of Gottman’s tapes, which had on it ten three-minute clips of different couples talking. Half the couples, I was told, split up at some point in the fifteen years after their discussion was filmed. Half were still together. Could I guess which was which? I was pretty confident I could. But I was wrong. I was terrible at it. I answered five correctly, which is to say that I would have done just as well by flipping a coin.

My difficulty arose from the fact that the clips were utterly overwhelming. The husband would say something guarded. The wife would respond quietly. Some fleeting emotion would flash across her face. He would start to say something and then stop. She would scowl. He would laugh. Someone would mutter something. Someone would frown. I would rewind the tape and look at it again, and I would get still more information. I’d see a little trace of a smile, or I’d pick up on a slight change in tone. It was all too much. In my head, I was frantically trying to determine the ratios of positive emotion to negative emotion. But what counted as positive, and what counted as negative? I knew from Susan and Bill that a lot of what looked positive was actually negative. And I also knew that there were no fewer than twenty separate emotional states on the SPAFF chart. Have you ever tried to keep track of twenty different emotions simultaneously? Now, granted, I’m not a marriage counselor. But that same tape has been given to almost two hundred marital therapists, marital researchers, pastoral counselors, and graduate students in clinical psychology, as well as newlyweds, people who were recently divorced, and people who have been happily married for a long time—in other words, almost two hundred people who know a good deal more about marriage than I do—and none of them was any better than I was. The group as a whole guessed right 53.8 percent of the time, which is just above chance. The fact that there was a pattern didn’t much matter. There were so many other things going on so quickly in those three minutes that we couldn’t find the pattern.

Gottman, however, doesn’t have this problem. He’s gotten so good at thin-slicing marriages that he says he can be in a restaurant and eavesdrop on the couple one table over and get a pretty good sense of whether they need to start thinking about hiring lawyers and dividing up custody of the children. How does he do it? He has figured out that he doesn’t need to pay attention to everything that happens. I was overwhelmed by the task of counting negativity, because everywhere I looked, I saw negative emotions. Gottman is far more selective. He has found that he can find out much of what he needs to know just by focusing on what he calls the Four Horsemen: defensiveness, stonewalling, criticism, and contempt. Even within the Four Horsemen, in fact, there is one emotion that he considers the most important of all: contempt. If Gottman observes one or both partners in a marriage showing contempt toward the other, he considers it the single most important sign that the marriage is in trouble.

“You would think that criticism would be the worst,” Gottman says, “because criticism is a global condemnation of a person’s character. Yet contempt is qualitatively different from criticism. With criticism I might say to my wife, ‘You never listen, you are really selfish and insensitive.’ Well, she’s going to respond defensively to that. That’s not very good for our problem solving and interaction. But if I speak from a superior plane, that’s far more damaging, and contempt is any statement made from a higher level. A lot of the time it’s an insult: ‘You are a #####. You’re scum.’ It’s trying to put that person on a lower plane than you. It’s hierarchical.”

Gottman has found, in fact, that the presence of contempt in a marriage can even predict such things as how many colds a husband or a wife gets; in other words, having someone you love express contempt toward you is so stressful that it begins to affect the functioning of your immune system. “Contempt is closely related to disgust, and what disgust and contempt are about is completely rejecting and excluding someone from the community. The big gender difference with negative emotions is that women are more critical, and men are more likely to stonewall. We find that women start talking about a problem, the men get irritated and turn away, and the women get more critical, and it becomes a circle. But there isn’t any gender difference when it comes to contempt. Not at all.” Contempt is special. If you can measure contempt, then all of a sudden you don’t need to know every detail of the couple’s relationship.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking . Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.
 

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