Friday, August 8, 2014

Judgment, anger, and me

I am a very judgmental person.  I'd have to be, to maintain an blog about my opinions for so long.

This remains true even as I've become influenced by queer ideas of non-judgmentalism with regard to people's orientation, behavior, and identity.  Now I just have really strong opinions (judgments!) about when judgmentalism is appropriate and when it is not.  When it is not appropriate, I refrain from expressing any judgment, even if I do not refrain from thinking it.

But perhaps there need to be multiple axes of judgmentalism, because there is another sense in which I'm not very judgmental at all.  I have a large quantity of judgments, but they're mostly small judgments.  I don't think you're a terrible person for having done something wrong.  You're just a normal person because in my view, everyone is doing things wrong, and I also have thoughts about what in particular they're doing wrong.

For example, I don't think very highly of the trolls I occasionally get in my comments, but I also think they're probably not so bad elsewhere or offline.  They are terrible at arguing, and often have terrible opinions, but that's pretty much all I know about them.  Perhaps if we interacted in a different context they'd be more sensible and competent, who knows?

This is also applicable to public intellectuals.  For instance, for years now, some people have been pretty upset with Richard Dawkins, going so far as to say they will no longer buy books from him or otherwise consume his work.  Now, I think Dawkins' infamous "Dear Muslima" comment* was really stupid, blindingly stupid.  Even Sam Harris's stupidity is given a run for its money.  On the other hand, do people not remember Dawkins' other stupid comments?  Like how "Neville Chamberlain atheists" is a backhanded comparison of religion to Nazism?  Or how the comparison of religion to child abuse created years of unproductive arguments?  Or the stupid stuff he said about fantasy fiction?  And what about memes?  And brights?  Dawkins has been perpetually been putting his foot in mouth for years.

*Apparently he recently apologized for this.

Maybe "Dear Muslima" was worse than all that, either for being especially stupid, especially harmful, or especially emblematic.  But I just can't maintain my anger about it, never could.  I'm just not emotionally disposed to do that.

But also, I can't be angry at people who went so far as to shun Richard Dawkins.  Seems to me that that's their own prerogative.

I'm not saying that my way is the right way.  On the contrary, I am saying that this is one of my biases.  I don't get very angry at people, regardless of whether I should.  I don't hold grudges against people, regardless of whether I should.  It's common for people to say "criticize the opinion, not the person", and that's what I do, not because it is the right thing to do, but quite simply because it is my emotional default.

This bias has led to real life problems in my leadership experience.  I get along with people who don't get along with each other.  As a result, I've promoted officers who were problematic, and have been poorly prepared for the consequences.  Because I just don't get it.  What is this emotional response that other people are feeling but I'm not?

Since this is a recognized personal bias, I take steps to compensate for it.  I don't try to fake emotions, because my emotional response is real and just as valid as anyone else's.  But I make a point to remember that a person's past actions are predictive of their future actions, and I guard myself against unwarranted optimism.  And I remember that most other people do have a stronger anger response, that not everyone is exactly like me.  Lastly, I realize that calmness is valued in our culture, but I question that value, because calmness does not make me a superior person.