We feel a deep pleasure from realizing that we believe something in common with our friends, and different from most people. We feel an even deeper pleasure letting everyone know of this fact. This feeling is EVIL. Learn to see it in yourself, and then learn to be horrified by how thoroughly it can poison your mind. Yes evidence may at times force you to disagree with a majority, and your friends may have correlated exposure to that evidence, but take no pleasure when you and your associates disagree with others; that is the road to rationality ruin.
This is perhaps my favorite quote for discussion I’ve ever posted, not least because this is one of the sins I most overindulge in. It also couldn’t be more timely, if I may dare say so.
One of the strangest things about the world in the few days since Barack Obama was elected is that none of the Obama buttons and t-shirts have disappeared. Indeed, if anything, they have become more omnipresent (at least in Manhattan – I see little, most of the time, of the outside world). Which leads to an interesting question: what is their purpose?
Ordinarily, we see political buttons, shirts, bumper stickers and lawn signs as a form of advertisement. Look at all these people who support Obama! If all these other people like him, then he must be good!
But we all know better, don’t we? We know it isn’t about that. We know that when people wear t-shirts with the Nike swoosh on them, or Tommy Hilfiger or Juicy Courture, it is about something else.
It is commonly considered to be fair for a team to celebrate a victory, and “bad sportsmanship” to gloat. Victory is earned satisfaction; gloating and gratiutious demeaning of the loser is evidence of something ugly. But why?
Hanson amends the post to add that he unintentionally used terms which seem to limit the applicability of this statement to small groups. Indeed, you could (and probably should) substitute “associates” for “friends”. What does this mean?
After Obama’s historic win, many commentors, including Chris Mathews and Chris Wallace, expressed that such a thing could happen “Only in America“. This expression was repeated in numerous editorials and columns such as this and this. This is a perversion. What is taking place is that a rational and deserved pleasure in accomplishing something historic and worthy is grafted into an irrational pleasure in the quality of our nation.
The accomplishment itself is the reward. A formulation that began with “We did something good” becomes twisted into: “We did something good that other people can’t do,” and finally into: “We are better than other people.” The pleasure in doing something good is substituted for the pleasure of being part of a group of people who do better things than other groups.
It seems like a minor example of transference. What difference does it make, after all, if you are getting your pleasure from being part of a group which does the best things, rather than simply from doing the best things? The best things still get done, right?
Probably not. Because you have surrendered your ability to discern what is actually good and what it is that your group does. Your primary drive is no longer to do good and derive pleasure from that; your drive is to ensure that your group remains the “best” – and you are likely to make irrational evaluations of what constitutes “good” in order to ensure that your group status is retained.
Too often, we confuse the pleasure in being right with the pleasure in being right while others are wrong.