Emotion Vs. Reason

I’ve noticed something while taking part in the larger blogosphere, something in the comments I read on blogs written by Arizona Republic columnists EJ Montini and Laurie Roberts: you can tell the difference between those speaking from emotion and those who are simply being logical.  There is a huge difference, and oftentimes Americans have no idea what that difference is.  That is very, very sad.

The war is unpopular.  Why?  People are dying, it’s costing money, and if that’s the case, why should we be there?  The death penalty is being attacked.  Why?  Because a lot of people think it’s wrong to take another human life, no matter how worthless that life is; they see it as murder.  The families of criminals, no matter how heinous the crime may have been, are forever defending their loved one and refusing to accept the cruelty of the crime–they beg judges every day to give their loved one a second chance because they don’t want to lose that person.  More recently, after the VA Tech shootings, people have been tooting the horn for gun control…some have gone so far as to demand banning any and all civilian ownership of firearms.  Why?  “Why do you need a gun?” they ask.  “That’s what the police are for!”

More and more, I see Americans using their emotions to make decisions rather than attempting to be logical.  And I see the root of that being a drop in the quality of education mingled with the acceptance that if it’s what you feel, and it comes from inside of you, then it must be right.  That is more dangerous than anybody realizes.

In looking back on some of the things in my past, I can point out a number of things I did out of emotion rather than reason that cost me dearly.  I told stories as a kid to make myself something else because I didn’t think I was cool enough (which was compounded by the fact that I was always the target of bullies and the butt of jokes).  As a result, when I hit adulthood and had to find my way in life, it took me a while to figure out exactly who I was.  A couple of years ago, I did and said things that doomed a good, close relationship to a slow and painful death because I was thinking with my emotions rather than my head, and my emotions (at the time, anyway) wanted something that wasn’t possible, yet my emotions wanted to believe it was possible. 

I’ve learned from each and every experience, but by comparison, those experiences are very small and far easier for me as an individual to recover from.  When the collective consciousness of a society leans toward emotional responses, the results can be far more drastic and cost much more than a few friendships; they can cost thousands of lives.  Our emotions can be both a blessing and a curse, as Chris pointed out in her blog; they can protect us, but they can also hurt us.  On a larger scale, they can either improve life in society, or, if improperly used, they can destroy an entire culture.

The fear of losing a loved one to the war (or, for some, the pain of realizing that fear come to life) has led many to oppose it, regardless of the facts presented.  Saddam not only had, but used, weapons of mass destruction; our troops found several Russian MIGs buried in the Iraqi sand to hide them from satellite imaging units.  Saddam’s torture chambers have been photographed and described many times over.  But nobody cares about our successes anymore, even though they are great and many. 

In every trial and sentencing I observe, I watch the families of those found guilty stand before judges and plead with said magistrates for a light sentence so their loved one can have a second chance.  While the familial instinct is normally to defend your own flesh and blood, is it really the right thing to do?  When someone has refused to change their behavior until they’ve ruined the lives of innocent strangers, did they really care about their own family in the first place?  And if they didn’t, why should you defend them?

Emotions are the most powerful force in the universe.  They can uplift and at the same time destroy a person, a family, or an entire society.  In our case, we must begin to ask ourselves before we pass judgment on a thing: “is this just my emotional response?”  If so, maybe you need another point of view.

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One thought on “Emotion Vs. Reason

  1. We’ve successfully wrapped ourselves in bubble wrap now, and have completely lost the understanding that we learn from that which is hard, not that which is easy.

    We aren’t willing to fight, because someone we know might die. But we bury our heads in the sand about what will happen if we don’t fight. And I’m not just talking about Iraq, either. I’m talking about all the Duty to Retreat laws that make a criminal out of someone who stands up to protect themselves.

    And heaven forbid there be consequences. We, as a society, have decided that “mercy” trumps consequences. But we don’t realize that “mercy” might make the problem worse.

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