Believe it or not a great many people dislike you. Who don’t even know you. Nor you they. The same is true with me. It’s especially true with public figures and candidates. Endless polls about their ability, their credibility, their likability.
In just this presidential campaign, billions have been spent [wasted?] on getting strangers to dislike particular officials and candidates. A remarkably insane example is the 58000 ads in Ohio alone last month. Adlai Stevenson who ran and lost presidential races in 1952 and 1958 once remarked: “You can tell the size of a man by the size of the things that make him mad.” And mad these races are!
But how is such insanity possible? Especially when it comes to you and me who are not public figures or candidates? Well my fellow paranoids, the answer is blowin’ in the winds. Simply track your own surge of feelings, positive and negative, whenever you first see someone in a reality show, a movie, at that last party, in the checkout line, down Michigan Avenue, or being security-checked at O’Hare.
Oh, so that’s what you mean…? Those funny little feelings that seep out of nowhere and bring a smile or a sneer to my lips…? Yeah, that’s what I mean. It’s what behavioral psychologists mean when they report on the various adrenalin, serotonin, and pulse rate changes they study in their subjects. It’s a response mechanism that traces back to our primitive forebearers whose every instinct was alert whenever confronting a stranger. Fight or flight…? approve or disapprove…? invite to your campfire or attack his?
Over the centuries this mechanism has grown more complex as we operate in a more complex world where impressions now come at us at incredible rates and shapes too furiously fast to be reasoned through. So we do the next worst thing. The mechanism shifts from reason to impulse. Once these physiological and psychological impulses climb into the saddle of your brain, chances are you’ll be just like the rest of us….
….hotly heading off cliffs of calm without remembering how to climb back.
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