Saturday, February 2, 2013
I've been trying to decide if people are meaner and more ruthless because I'm older, because of differences from what I've observed in Southern California versus Utah, or if people really are meaner now compared to when I was a kid. I'm sure there's something to the first two possibilities, but because of political, economic, and social factors I'm going to venture to say that people are meaner today. But because that's a useless supposition on its own, I wanted to indulge in its reasoning. Lindsay and I had a great conversation at lunch, and based upon the things we discussed I wanted to try to expand the idea past the immediate explanations.
So what are the immediate ideas, I would say a few of them are reactions to those around, financial stress, and media influences. There's no discrediting the effects of each one, but they don't completely satisfy me. Why do some people remain kind despite financial strains? or why do others almost always respond well or not at all to rudeness towards them? Why do TV shows and movies have no effect upon some? Happy, a show on Netflix said that genetics make up 50% of an individuals ability to stay happy, but there's still much more then.
I believe it goes back to the substance of my post, "Elements of Happiness". There are two categories of motivation, extrinsic motives (fame, fortune, and power) and intrinsic motives (interaction with family/friends, personal development, and service). Happy, stated that religion is not necessarily a factor. I would agree with that based on my personal observations. This is something that has also been reinforced by Dr. Paul Kerry, who roughly explained that the Mormon vote was split during the 2012 elections, but also the Catholic too. He explained that Mormons or Catholic who are active, believing members were much more likely to vote for Mitt Romney than Barack Obama. That goes across the religious board, secular individuals were much more attracted to Obama's social policies while non-discriminating religions were willing to invest in the long term, less intrusive policies of Romney.
Utah has had the highest rate of bankruptcy of the states, and thankfully that rate fell throughout 2012, placing Utah at the fourth spot. The explanation for why it was so high that I've heard, that I have no reason to doubt yet, as bizarre as it sounds, is that Mormons expect to display their obedience and worthiness by material prosperity, which is scripturally promised, though perhaps not in the fashion they would like. Their sights are set on extrinsic motives, and not necessarily the intrinsic elements of the religion.
Mormonism is a particularly interesting religion because its core doctrines involve the three elements of happiness: family/friends, personal development, and service. In a special meeting each month in which members from the congregation speak in an open-mic fashion, many express their beliefs and make promises to the audience that living the religion will make them happy. According to the documentary Happy, it's true. The Church emphasizes these elements weekly if not biweekly. Individuals without religious affiliation may find ways to fulfill these elements, but they are essentially left to their own devices and depend upon themselves and their community to consistently reinforce it.
Because of that I believe that it is much easier for the non-religious and lesser converted religious individuals to rely upon extrinsic motivators. Self-help books are ever popular, attempting to develop individuals, but many times they offer poor counsel for developing happiness. Being helpful in the community has got to be even more difficult. I suggest that as the world becomes more secular, and individuals rely more upon extrinsic motivations, that it will also be a lot meaner too. Matthew recorded that, "because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold (Matt 24:12. KJV)." My reader will take offense by the implication of non-believers as wicked, but in this instance it refers to individuals that do not subscribe to the teachings of Jesus Christ as disciples, aligning with the motives of the book. The foretelling of the phenomena of meanness in these days should nevertheless not be missed in this citation.
I suppose philosophers have tried to span the religious and secular gap, but philosophy doesn't satisfy society. It's tedious a lot of the time, and does not replace ideology. Ideologies are made out to appear complicated and varied, but I believe that an individual's ideology falls to the easiest, most accessible thing that provides security, which frequently appears in their life. Like I stated above, the Mormon Church emphasizes fundamental ideas frequently, heightening the individual's likelihood to maintain the ideology and participate in the three elements that reinforce one's ability to be happy. This practice reinstates the members ideology in theology correct terms.
But there's much more. I'd say that nearly every individual in the United States lives in a warzone. I don't know if it's reinforced by media outlets, whether it's habit, or a result of the meanness I've described above, but the addictive behavior of winning conversations, arguments, or really any interaction provides daily attacks that probably rarely yield developed results. That means winning for the sake of winning, not for the purpose of producing a better idea or outcome. Ideas are twisted into forms ignorant of massive amounts of information, but emphatic on domination of the other individual. Maybe it's an intelligence check, personal validation, response to threat, fear, or blowing off steam, either way, it's mean.
Personal validation is an interesting subject though. It's a human necessity, but constantly threatened. Because it's constantly threatened, I believe that individuals become subject to extrinsic motivators as indicators of community and personal validation. Maybe they discover a niche, and their sole validation is that niche. That individual becomes obsessed with the niche, neglecting other necessary areas of development, and rides narcissism at the expense of ignorance. I believe ignorance is always involved with narcissism, as the opposite, self-deprecation shows, in which the individual looks at some realities and ignorantly bases their self-image off of those instead. I suppose insecurities can hatch narcissistic thoughts too. The individual, self-deprecatingly acknowledges personal lacks, but finds one particularly competitive attribute. Their existence is that one attribute then to the dismissal of all others.
Megalomania is different, I believe. It's common factor is extrinsic motivation, but I believe it's root is control. Once again, it has got to be backed up by a delusional self-image, but it's more dangerous than narcissism because the individual has the ability to assert his or herself over others. The saying is paraphrased, once you think you know it all, you know nothing. It's essentially a stoppage to personal development, and a lack of compassion towards others. I can't image that family and friend interactions are too satisfying either. That mean individual has got to be an unhappy individual.
The list continues with projections on others, feelings of victimization, and not taking responsibility for oneself. The first time I experienced an individual project their sentiments upon me was as a missionary in Sao Paulo, Brazil. My companion would become upset with me for being "nervous" or "anxious" when in reality I was totally pacified until his attack on me. I felt victimized years after, which influenced some of my mean moments. It wasn't until I took responsibility for my feelings that I overcame the feelings of victimization. Victimization disallows personal responsibility, and allows others to control an individual's sentiments, I know from experience. Minorities tend to feel victimized in the United States, but their sentiments of victimization are creating an unhappy life for them regardless of what they're actual victims of.
Richard Dawkins's work intrigues me in this context. He has written much attempting to statistically prove that believers are intellectually inferior to non-believers. I suppose he sees us as imbeciles, like his research was designed to indicate, and would be frightened by his misleading finds. Nonetheless, Dawkins approaches his work from a stance seemingly victimized by not only Christianity, but religion. I sat down and thought about this one for a few moments, trying to figure out why he's so adamant to inferiorize believers. I thought at first it might be for pragmatic reasons. He seems to desire harm to Christianity, and could take the stance of it's past destructive tendencies to society. But Christianity has been deflating for centuries, and surely doesn't need his help. He could then be trying to accelerate secularism. But why? It has got to be for emotional or personal reasons then. Feelings of victimization, or inferiority despite great intellect, perhaps? It could also be for extrinsic purposes too, for power. Since he's prescribing to basically unimportant science, he could desire to boost his image and reputation among others who will highly esteem his work. Does he see himself as a liberator? The extrinsic motivations of power and fame would surely explain his mean tendencies. Or maybe he's simply not happy, and is trying to explain why by justifying his extrinsic motivations. Who knows?
I'm not arguing for or against altruism. I think an individual can grudgingly serve others without the expectation of receiving anything as a result and get nothing out of it. Maybe that is the reason for the grudging approach. I've met some very mean Mormon individuals while receiving services from them. But I've also glimpsed individuals who do things in secret, and always have big smiles across their faces. How does that work? I'm beginning to abuse the words intrinsic and extrinsic, but maybe it is the intrinsic motive, and not the extrinsic motive that maintains a happy heart and a kind approach.