Sunday, May 26, 2013

A Clarification or an Apology?

A clarification or an apology? Think of it as one of those choose-your-own-adventure stories…

Regarding the criticism directed towards me for my last blog (in which I defend the business strategy of Abercrombie & Fitch) it has become clear to me that, generally speaking, people place more value in emotions than in analyzing issues with intelligence. This is not to say people who place more value in their emotions are unintelligent, simply that their lives are less governed by reason. In saying so, I suppose it seems obvious that I place less value in reacting emotionally to life’s various situations, preferring to analyze situations before reacting or making decisions. Naturally, it is not always practical to act in this manner, but I generally do so with situations that allow it. As such, I tend to accuse others of being oversensitive, whereas I have been accused of being unsympathetic or lacking empathy towards others. Having taken some time to reflect upon this disconnect, as it were, I found myself asking this question: Is it better to approach life emotionally or with reason (more precisely, with more emotion than reason or with more reason than emotion)? 

On the surface, it may seem that taking the latter approach to life robs a person of the many immediate pleasures any given moment may offer. To a certain extent I agree as there are certainly situations in which it is enjoyable to stop thinking and enjoy the moment. I suspect this is why people place such a high value on emotions. I’ve certainly been told that emotions are what make us human, but hearing this much makes me wonder if the advocates of emotions think we became intelligent (notice I didn’t say reasonable) by accident or as some kind of afterthought. As humans, we are both emotional AND intelligent; the question is whether one of these aspects of our existence should be held in higher regard than the other. 

In thinking about this – since I invest more time reasoning than living emotionally – I’ve come to a conclusion that surprised me. That conclusion came about by reflecting on the state of the world; at any given time in history, even now, the general state of the world has been one of misery, certain perspectives be damned. (Perhaps that is why optimistic people are in such short supply.) So, I thought, what has caused the world to be so miserable? At first I thought that it was because people tend to react to the world without thinking. All of humanity’s worst qualities such as anger, arrogance, bigotry, dominance, entitlement, tribalism – people assume these traits too often before giving the slightest thought as to why they act in the manner they do. Though we do cooperate when it benefits us (when we reason), think of how often we act benevolent with each other when we stand nothing to gain. I’m not saying people never act kind without expecting some kind of reciprocity, it just happens less than when cooperating is more than a zero-sum game. I do not believe people are basically good; given the chance to take advantage of another, more people give into the temptation than not, as several notable experiments have borne out. [e.g. the Stanford prison experiment, the Milgram experiment, etc.]

Next, I began to think about all the good human intelligence has wrought please insert sarcasm here. The advancement of atomic energy came at the behest to weaponize the technology, cars which get us to the restaurant faster so that we can eat a steaks (both contribute to our poisonous atmosphere), genetically modified plants that cannot reproduce on purpose; it would be easy to get carried away here. But when we think of the most recent tech “advancement,” Google Glass, I discovered the common denominator between emotions and intelligence that puts the human race at a disadvantage: People tend to apply emotion and intelligence before applying REASON to life’s myriad of situations. It’s not hard to think of what the unintended consequences of Google Glass might be, but did its inventors stop to think it might do more harm than good? No, I’m sure they automatically assumed the benefits of Google Glass outweigh its possible downside. (That is to say, it’s all about the money.) 

While I said earlier that human beings are both emotional and intelligent – weakly implying that both are important aspects of our existence – I think either on its own without any application of reason has been a bust for humanity. I think it is okay to be emotional…but not without also being reasonable. It is also okay to be intelligent, but not without being reasonable. And so I have discovered that reason trumps both emotion and intelligence. This, I believe, is where much of my dissatisfaction with my opponents in the Mike Jeffries debate came from, my belief that they were being unreasonable which they often took as an attack on intelligence. To be fair, I didn’t make this clear though I’m not sure saying, “I’m not attacking your intelligence, it’s that you’re not being reasonable,” would have helped. Or perhaps it would have if we as a species took the attitude that we need to stop, collaborate, and listen to each other. We need to stop perceiving that disagreements are attacks. We need to think about things before assuming all those ugly human traits I alluded to earlier, myself included.

I suppose it’s up to the individual to be more emotional than reasonable or more reasonable than emotional, but I certainly believe that abandoning reasoning altogether is one of the worst things a person can do not only for themselves, but for the world. I will not apologize for taking umbrage in instances where reason is abandoned when it is needed most. Not now, not ever.

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