I was doing a desktop search this morning and stumbled upon an open letter I wrote to the democratic leaders in June of 2005. That was when the political campaigns were kicking off that finished in last October’s elections.
I thought it was fascinating what I got wrong and what I got right and what I missed all together (the war).
What do you think?
The one area that really worries me is the lack of understanding around human emotions. What if you are wrong when you say “Hope beats fear”? That the foundation of your message and if the foundation is bad…
I beg you to consult with Dr. Paul Ekman, who wrote the book “Emotions Reveled” and is considered the expert on human emotions. http://www.paulekman.com/ has his contact information. I’ve never met him, just have read his book and done further research on this topic for myself.
Scientifically, “Hope beats Fear” is just wrong. The science behind how emotions interact and the brain has come a long way in the last couple of decades and we can scientifically prove that hope doesn’t beat fear, even though it sounds poetic. Hope fights despair and no other emotions.
Fear is fought with a few different things. Action is the biggest gun in the war against fear. Some emotions are paired with philological reactions. Anger, comes with energy and energy can lead to action, which can fight off some fear. But the biggest thing about fear is that people have to be ready to work on it and fighting fear, especially long term fears isn’t easy. Another large gun in this battle is fear: fear fights fear. For example, fear of losing ones job can generally overcome fear of presenting in a meeting.
Another emotion that needs more understanding is disgust. The republicans use disgust to great effect. The gay marriage issue plays on people’s disgust. Disgust comes with a built in physical aversion. Its how there could be happy German villages in smelling distance of concentration camps in WWII. The villagers never checked into what was happening because they knew Jews were there and Jews were disgusting. Disgust is not vanquished by hope. On this deep a level, disgust learned in reaction to something, it takes pretty serious education to get people to retrain their reactions.
Another way the Republicans use Disgust is by framing the basic feeling that people have towards their government. As long as they are disgusted by what’s happening and disgusted by how they are being represented, the built in companion feelings of aversion protects the people creating these feelings from being called on the carpet. It’s why the vast majority of people don’t vote. They are either disgusted with the process or with themselves for not being informed enough about the issues. It’s how they keep the silent majority silent! Fortunately, I don’t believe this disgust feeling is too deep seated and people can intellectually override it when they have to. Otherwise dirty diapers would never get changed!
From my amateur student of human emotional research armchair, I see continued failure from the Democratic Party if they continue to think that all they need to do is give people hope and we will be able to take back the country. This thinking continues to allow the republicans set the tone and the democrats off track and chasing their tails.
IMHO, but I would rather you talk to Dr. Ekman, is that we should use intellect, anger and fear to fight. Every democrat I know is already angry. After the last 8 years, ever citizen should be. The fact that they are not is your fault for trying to give people hope when hope isn’t needed.
I think the message should go something like:
The US is slipping against other industrial countries and anybody who tells you differently isn’t telling you the truth. Compared to our neighbors:
· We are the only one without health coverage
· A person born into poverty has the greatest chance of dieing in poverty
· A person receiving a spinal cord injury should be flown to Israel for treatment.
· 8 years ago, the amount of debt for each person in the US was XXX, Today it is YYYY. Send in your check right now.
· XX percentage of our debt is owned by China.
The US is in the state it is in because ‘We the People’ have allowed corporations and religious fundamentalists to control the debate. The Democratic Party can not stop this, YOU must. YOU must demand the whole truth from your elected officials. YOU must replace the liars and the owned officials. You must take back your country now.
And what will happen if you continue to wallow in complacency, fear and disgust for some of your fellow countryman? Historically when governments become more interested in powerful than the powerless, when people give up freedom for safety, when scientist are branded as heretics and not allowed to speak the truth, when the minority (either religious or secular) are ruthlessly trampled by the majority; the same thing happens time and time again. When these things happen the world tumbles into a dark age, is this the legacy we want from out time?
The Democratic Party can not stop this. You have to.
You have to demand freedom over safety, truth over comfort, scientific reality over religious beliefs. You have to demand the powerful respect the powerless. You must refuse to be distracted; the very fate of our times rests on you.
And if your politicians do not live up to these fundamental pillars to democracy, they need to go, no matter what party they belong to. You have to do this.
I know this message is not as fun to give as “We CAN do better than those republicans”, but it is the truth and it can be scientifically backed up. President Clinton once said that when people are thinking, the democrats win. “Hope fights Fear” isn’t thinking, it isn’t even correct. It’s going to take a swift kick in the pants to get the silent majority thinking and engaged again. You guys need to deliver that kick, because nobody else can.