The Dark Energy of Insults

I find it interesting that the tendency to want others to like what we like, to think how we think, and possibly even to do what we do, all too often results in insulting those who like, think, and do different things than we do. It seems rather difficult to acknowledge our differences and admit that other people prefer something else; instead, all too often we attack.

I get that you prefer some things over others, and that you have sound reasons for doing so. I get that you would like for other people to prefer the thing(s) you do. I don’t get that you think it’s a good idea — that it’s to your benefit or anyone else’s — to insult people who prefer things other than those you prefer.

And I especially don’t get that you employ more insults regarding things of great import than you do for trivial things. I don’t encounter many people insulting me because I prefer tea to coffee, for instance; it might be amusing (I do get chided about it from time to time), but people generally don’t think to use insults or coercion in such cases. But the higher the stakes, the more frequent and more scathing the insults; e.g., in the realm of politics and policy decisions. It’s as if being insulted would somehow induce me to change my preferences where other, more reasoned arguments failed to do so.


(Image: “Disagreement Llama,” by Valdrec, on DeviantArt under Creative Commons.)

But that’s not the main purpose of those insults, is it? They’re not meant to convince the other side, but to signal which side we’re on, and to make us feel powerful in our righteous — or self-righteous — indignation. Their dark energy can be addictive, but it’s not all that productive.

Consider: Someone on the conservative side calls a progressive a “libtard.” Someone on the progressive side calls a conservative a Nazi (or a racist, or homophobic, or a misogynist, or whatever). And each one turns away, smug and content — not that they have convinced the other person to reconsider their erroneous views of the world, but that they have put the other person in their place.

This isn’t a new phenomenon, of course. As we find in James 3:10, “Out of the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. Brethren, these things ought not to be this way.”

I wish I had an answer, an alternative, a workaround. But all I can do is work on myself, and try to hold myself to a higher standard.

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