“One of his maxims was that if we cannot persuade our friends by reasons we must be content ‘and not bring a mercenary army to our aid.’” Oraul speaking of The Fox in C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces
I won’t get into the context within the story Till We Have Faces out of which this quote came. But suffice it to say, it made me think of this one huge peeve of mine. A tactic which I dislike the most from speakers and writers when they are trying to convince a large group of people is the employment of emotion for emotion’s sake. It’s essentially a tool to win an argument that they can’t win intellectually – therefore it’s intellectually dishonest – akin to lying.
Now, I have to admit, I probably come down more on the side of the intellect than emotion simply as a general rule. In my limited understanding of Freud’s Id, Ego and Superego theory, I would probably be described as having my Ego come down on the side of my Superego more often than not … but it could never be said that I’ve no place for impetuous emotion. Far from it in fact. I’m probably a bigger softy – prone to empathize to the point of silliness – than most people you’ve met. But the fact remains that I think the intellect, along with its requisite reason and logic, is a much more valuable tool in most circumstances than the passions of a moment in time. That’s particularly true in the case of general rules for society.
That’s why I wanted to bring this point up and hammer it home: when attempting to convince another of the merits of your case, bringing emotion into the argument is akin to trying to paint a room with a mackerel – the paint may still cover the wall, but it will have been applied unevenly, inefficiently and it’ll stink for days afterward (it will be even worse if the fish is still alive while you’re attempting it).
Now note that I am NOT saying that there is no place for emotion (enjoy that double-negative). There is plenty of reason to be emotional in our personal lives and interactions – primarily because God’s commands of love and empathy are so emotional on a personal level. But I AM saying that when we communicate with each other about wholesale changes to established actions/thinking we must be focused on CLARITY and clarity is not at all a product of emotion, it is a by-product of consideration at a cognitive level.
One thing that illustrates this point completely is that you’ll see that the tried and tested ways of doing things (and I’m talking in a societal context here) are very, very, very rarely replaced by a carefully crafted, thoroughly thought-out alternative. There are two reasons for this: 1) Most of the time the best ways to do things are either due to a foundation on pure, moral law (those things which are unequivocally seen in nature as ‘right’ and ‘wrong’); or 2) They are a learned behavior from the trillions of daily interactions between individual people who are all looking out for themselves (not in a disgusting selfish sense, but in a self-preservational way) and their loved ones. Instead, great shifts in a civilization’s philosophy happen due to an emotionally ejective response to the ‘way things are.’
For examples in history, think of how Rome began to crumble internally through a re-focus by the citizens from a pride in being Roman to a desire for more wealth, power and leisure well before the intellectually, economically and organizationally inferior barbarian hordes descended on the Empire. Also, think of how democratic Athens spent centuries in warfare and intrigue, vacillating fickly between allies and wearing itself out so as to usher in its own capitulation to rural, backward, bumpkin-like Macedon. Finally, if you’re so inclined, think of the multiple times that the Hebrew people forgot the commands of God and found themselves subjugated by another nation. In each of these examples, wholesale emotional maximization came before the philosophy and national personality that had made the country/people great to begin with – and in each case the philosophy and national personality that had made the polity great was built on a firm foundation of logic and intellect.
Which brings me to America now and why the quote above was so poignant to me: we are living in an incredibly great nation – the greatest to ever grace this earth in fact – but we are forfeiting all that has been established by the intellectually honest work of past American generations for the purpose of emotional frivolities which bring momentary dalliances with fleeting, surface-oriented fulfillment. We have rejected the tried and true methods of life-improvement for the ready-made, plastic platitudes that fit in rhyme on a bumper sticker … and we are paying the price as the full, healthy body that used to be America has been hollowed out by cancerous sanctimony and infectious momentary emotional fulfillment.
It can be argued that we have whittled away what makes us great by employing ‘Mercenary Armies’ of emotion to conquer the bastions of well-founded and preserved reason laid down by the blood, sweat and tears of our fore-fathers. We’ve invited inferior, foreign ideas to fight in the place of our fathers’ tested logic and become weakened, frail and sclerotic as our ability to reason has been lazily abdicated to lesser ‘truths.’
As I close this out then, let me leave you with a few of the most damaging ‘Mercenary Armies’ emotionally undermining our country today. I’m sure at some point we will talk about each one of these in turn on this blog.
– “A woman ought to be able to choose to have an abortion or not, because it’s her body.”
– “It’s not fair that some people who love each other are able to get married and others aren’t.”
– “Why does he need to have that gun to protect himself? All he should have to do is call the police!”
– “Well, if businesses are making so much in profits, they should have to pay a higher wage to their employees.”
– “People who have more money should pay a larger percentage of their money in taxes.”
– “Free healthcare is a right!”
– “I feel that mother earth is feeling sick because we have spewed so many toxins into the environment. That’s why we ought to decrease people’s standards of living.”
– “I feel that because we were so bad to African-Americans/Latinos/Asians/Native Americans/Women/Gays/etc. they should be given things that they haven’t earned.”
– “The Palestinian people are oppressed!”
– “Why should there be any borders? We’re all just people.”
– “Since I’m an atheist, I shouldn’t have to see anything – like that cross/ten commandments/star of David/John 3:16 sign – that makes me think of religion. Wait … how could you even think of publishing that Danish cartoon?!”