Objectivity is a skill that is lacking in out western culture, on both sides of the ocean, in UK and America. We are not truly taught and trained in objective thought, as a skill in its own right until, and unless, we go into university and beyond.
Objectivity is the ability to examine a topic without emotional interference, and with as little bias as possible. It’s more common to hear it described as ‘free’ from bias – but in my opinion there is not a single thought on the earth not influenced by some form of personal bias, not matter how small or unexpected.
It’s important to the topic of conflict avoidance culture because, as I’ve talked about before, it’s hard to take anybody seriously if their arguments all begin and end with, ‘because I like don’t it’. It would be like taking Fox or the Daily Mail seriously as a credible news source.
I mentioned that it’s only really made a big deal of in higher education, but that’s not to say that we aren’t encouraged to be objective before that stage: I think we are. I don’t, however, remember the idea receiving any real focus, or proper mention at any point before I went to university, and I don’t think I know anybody else who does either. Before getting a degree, objectivity doesn’t feature at the forefront. If I had my way, I’d have it taught in secondary school. I also wonder if leaving it to this late stage to emphasise it’s role, is unintentional. I have the idea that it’s actually fairly deliberate.
If you teach people to think objectively from an early stage, they get a lot better at picking things apart and finding problems. More to the point, they can get better at articulating why they find problems, and can propose answers to those problems. You get coherent response and retaliation to exploitative or damaging proposals and ideas as a result. And as a result those ideas carry more weight. Some of us do this fairly naturally, or figure it out long before university level. In fact, I’m fairly sure everyone does to one degree or another. That said: Nothing beats training.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the culture we live in is saturated with an almost religious idealism of emotion. The ‘heart’, for lack of a better image, is set on a gilded throne on a giant marble pedestal and a chorus of people sing songs to it day and night. The idea seems to be summed up nicely by that insipid tumblrite phrase, ‘all the feels’. That’s because there’s a lot of industry invested in emotional manipulation. The reinforcement of a co-dependent, extrovert-centric, social-media soaked society demands, like a bad caricature of a psychiatrist, ‘how do you feel?’
There’s an over-emphasis of relationships, a floodtide of useless self-help books, and over-prescriptions of any mental disorder you possibly image, so that some prick in a boardroom can look at a chart and decide that more people need to feel one way or another in order to drag more money from their wallets and buy new Zoloft and Prozac and Wellbutrin. This where the size-zero debate comes from, the sudden focus on body hair, pubic hair, and stretch marks. This is why people jump desperately from one diet to another, or subject themselves to periods of outright starvation, in a futile attempt at an easy-weight loss solution (Pro tip: do some exercise.)
There’s political investment in the culture of emotion. Let’s be honest: they aren’t the most intelligent things. Fairly hard, in fact, given that they’re pretty much a series of chemical discharges in response to stimuli, patterns and behaviours. That’s why, increasingly, political elections aren’t about the politics. It’s ends up being Big Brother in a more open stage. Bring out the wife and the kids, bring out the orphans, bring our your homosexuals, transsexuals and whatever other group of the moment, to parade before people. Fuck the policies and the job. Feel good, feel affectionate, feel attracted, to this guy behind the microphone and in front of your flag.
I don’t suggest we live in some robotic emotionless society either. Emotions have a use. Mismanaging emotions causes all kinds of hilariously dramatic, and mostly unforeseen, side effects. That’s why we have shrinks. But there’s got to be a balance, and there’s got to be some investigation of your own responses to what’s put in front of you. If you don’t know why you feel a certain way about something, you should take it apart and find out.
This is dragging on a bit, so I’ll leave it here for now and come back to it all next week. It looks like this is a topic that’s gong to be around for a while, but I’ve started and I may as well finish.
I’ll see you all in the New Year.