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Love of Scandal

November 24, 2007

Have you ever wondered why people strangely seem to love to hear about corruption, scandals, and other immorality – especially when it involves successful politicans or businessmen?

A strange occurence happens every day in public places all around the world, that I never understood until here recently.  The news will be playing on a TV mounted to the ceiling, and a top-story will come on, which involves a corporate executive caught stealing money (ex: Enron), or a politician taking illegal campaign funds, or something of this sort.  After the story ends, those watching’s head will return back to their table with their friends and they will make some comment such as, “What is the world coming to?”, then the person saying the statement (and oftentimes the friend(s)/person(s) being talked to) will SMILE as they shake their heads in disgust.

What are they smiling about?  Something awful happened in their world, and they seem both happy, and sad about it at the same time.  It’s some weird mixture of joy and disappointment, but really, it also seemed like neither.  It was strange to me, and made no sense.

Greg and I would talk about such news stories (not frequently, but every now and then), and there were no smiles.  When we talked about it, the looks on our faces were more like that of finding an animal run over in the middle of the road, or hearing about a set of unfortunate events happening to a friend or family member.  Our faces seemed to always be serious, and concerned, addressing the issue, and thinking about what might be done – and if nothing could be done, we just mentally wrote it off as, “There’s nothing we can do, at least at this time.”

I decided to watch a little more closely, and found that not all such stories reported by the news, even if they’re very awful, seemed to generate such smiles.  If a plague is breaking out, there’s no smiling.  If someone was raped and killed while on a cruise trip, there’s no smiling.  If sharks kill some surfers while swimming in the beach, there’s no smiling.

So under what circumstances will we find this weird smiling behavior, and when will it not be present?

If you’ll tolerate a small digression somewhat off topic, the first thought that came to my mind was, “People have an evil nature, and people naturally love what’s evil.”  Then I remembered my parents telling me that when I was young.  People were not Christians, so they loved evil, and hated good, and that’s why people overall like to hear about bad news, and do not get excited about good news.

I then stood back and thought, “Hmmm.  This isn’t ‘wrong’ per se, but is lacking in detail, and doesn’t help much.  Also, why is this here?  I don’t think like this anymore?  Or do I?  This is some old ‘bad basis’ thinking in my mind.”  This is a perfect example of what I mean when I talk about Freud, saying that our childhood experiences heavily influence our adult life.  We form a lot of views toward how we think things are when we’re younger, and oftentimes they lay deeply hidden in our minds, generating all kinds of emotion, even anxiety, and people who don’t understand how their mind works, can be filled with all kinds of emotions they don’t understand.

It’s amazing.  I don’t really believe that people “naturally” love what’s “evil”.  I haven’t thought that way in a LONG time.  When that thought came up I thought, “Man, that’s quite contradictory to all other beliefs I hold.”  What’s amazing about it?  That you can have a whole set of contradicting beliefs exist in your mind, and not even know it!  I probably have all sorts of “bad programming” left over from my youth which I still have to work to get out.

Just the other night Greg and I went out to eat at Denny’s and were talking about all of this.  Greg told me about when he got his car, the thought occured to him that he wanted to get custom license plates.  Immediately a thought presented itself to him, “No, you can’t do that, custom license plates are expensive.”  Then he thought for a moment, “Wait a minute.  Why do I think custom license plates are expensive?  Is this really true, or is this something left over from my childhood?”  It turns out his mother had told him this when he was very young, and he had believed that is how it worked ever since.  He had never taken the time to reprogram how he thought of custom license plates, so he still “believed” they were expensive.  (Note:  See how difficult it is to say what a person “believes”?  When you understand how the mind works, you find out it’s more difficult than simply “believing” or “not believing” something to be true.  Belief seems mainly to be simply memory: what you think about in given circumstances, and what actions you’ve programmed yourself to take in those cirumstances (disregarding the instinctual, but if you think danger, instinct will kick in accordingly))

Just the other night Greg asked me how a person is supposed to know how to call up all their different beliefs, and re-analyze them all, wanting to reprogram your mind to think more accurately, and get rid of old childhood views that don’t make sense anymore.  Our discussion went on for some time, talking about psychoanalysis, but we’ll have to leave that discussion alone for now.

Anyways, back to our former discussion.  Whether they’re smiling due to their “evil nature” or not, doesn’t help us in the least.  We’re going to need to get more indepth as to the psychological influences determining this behavior.  What are these influences?

After thinking about it for a little while it dawned on me – this is ethical repression!  Deep down, the smiling person wants to say, “Yeaahhhhhh, we got him!”, but that would be gloating over someone’s misfortune, which is hatred, and that would be a bad thing.  So the end result is a filtered, “Yeahhh, we got him!”, overlaid with the mask of, “Oh, this is terrible!  How could this have happened? Isn’t this awful?”  So what we’re seeing is a dynamic between both emotions, fighting each other.  The rejoicing isn’t completely filtered out (repressed) however, and some of it makes it through in the smile, but the rest of their actions (the shaking of the head, the words they say, etc), are fueled by their ethics.

The neat thing to witness here in this dynamic is that the person is probably smiling unconsciously.  They don’t even know they’re smiling.  Also, if you’re the person they’re talking to, and you smile too, they won’t notice that you’re smiling either.  Both the impression of you smiling, and them noticing that they’re smiling, both are filtered out before that thought even makes it to consciousness.

Why is it filtered?  Ethical repression.  I suppose in a crude sense you could say that deep down these people really hate the businessmen and politicians, but they also know to hate is “wrong”, so they try to hold this hatred back.  That’s roughly correct, but could be easily misinterpreted.

I gave those examples earlier of how you can have contradictory beliefs held in your mind, that you don’t even really “believe” anymore, but they still are having influences on your mind and behavior.  (Ex: Greg’s belief that custom license plates are expensive).

There’s no way to say how this dynamic formed in each individual without psychoanalyzing each one of them, as each person has their own unique set of experiences which contributed to the development of this complex.  However, I can give a general guess as to how it likely happened, and why it’s so ubiquitous.

Greg and I often talk about how life slams people in the face after college ends.  If people do not go to college (Greg and I never went to college), they experience this impact earlier than people who go to college.  With others it’s when you get out of college and are trying to get a job.  Or you may start feeling this same impact of life’s hardships prior to college (if you have a rough family).  Either way it happens, at some point the sheltered protection of the parents is lifted, and you have to take the full brunt impact of life’s cruelties.

Now the young teenager, or the young man or woman in their early twenties feels this impact all of the sudden, and has typically not been prepared for it.  They start finding out they made all kinds of bad decisions, especially with their finances, and all of the sudden fear starts to set in.  This fear creates a lot of anxiety, and they’re not sure what to do.  The person then becomes angry.  Why is life so cruel, and why is this all happening?

Then the thought enters their mind, “I’m a good person.  I shouldn’t be experiencing this!  I didn’t do anything to anyone!  Why is this world so cold and heartless?!”  Next comes the rationalizing.  It’s not their fault this happened, it’s “the system”, “the government”, “the politicians”, “the businessmen”, and greed and corruption which causes this.  They’re unfortunately stuck in the middle of a clash of powerful political and economic titans, and they’re only a pawn being thrown around for the enjoyment of the powerful and wealthy.

But then they start to think about it seriously.  Is it really these guys’ fault?  They see normal everyday people doing bad stuff too.  Then they meet business people, who are good people, and they see all the good contributions large company’s do for society.  Then the belief sets in that it’s probably a wide variety of factors, extremely complex, and it’s probably too difficult to find out.  Or is it?  They can’t really decide, as they simply do not know.

I have good evidence to believe that people hold this view, and that this dynamic exists in many people, as I’ve talked to countless people and I hear them acknowledge this viewpoint.  When people initially get to know me, I tell them I’m a philosopher, and am primarily concerned with fixing the world’s problems, and why people suffer.  I oftentimes get this as a response – “Good luck!”, and they give me a look that shows they don’t believe I’ll be even remotely successful.  In other words, they’ve given up on these issues, and feel pursuing the answers only bring about more pain, yet at the same time, they all want to know why this world is the way it is.

This mental struggle inside of them never come to a close, and is probably why we’re seeing this strange rejoicing, yet not not rejoicing, behavior.  If the person is completely outspoken, and seems to rejoice at the fall of these business people, he or she likely feels quite convinced that the businessmen and the politicians are the reason this suffering exists.  Others are more reserved, and because they are less sure this is the case, their rejoicing is much more subtle, such as a small smile.  They still entertain the idea, but overall, they feel it’s highly unlikely.

Greg and I do not hold the widespread belief that it’s the politicians and businessmen’s fault (especially not businessmen).  We wouldn’t say either side is completely responsible, as it’s a combination of factors, and both the powerful and the normal people are responsible.  Ignorance of these real factors are what causes our troubles.  That’s why we don’t smile, it’s simply something to frown on.

(This is a side note, but is definitely worth mentioning.  There’s another strange occurence that Greg and I ponder on, and it is this:  You can say to people, ‘Yes, the politicians are awful people aren’t they!  They screw us over, and steal our money!  They’re corrupt and evil!’  They will agree with you.  Then if you criticize the president, or other political senators and congressmen, they get angry, and find you being negative, and argumentative.  They seem to ‘like’ most politicians, and even will back most of them up in arguments, but overall, they also believe that politicians are evil people, not to be trusted.  As contradictory as this may be, it is certainly how most people believe.)

I should state that there’s other explanations of this behavior as well.  Take my family for instance.  My entire family is deeply religious Christians, who are very very devout.  They all hold the TBN’ish view that the “End Times” are approaching.   They begin to quote 2 Timothy, Chapter 3:

“1But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with them.

6They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these men oppose the truth—men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.”

So you see, as they see the world get worse and worse (or at least reported as such in the news), they are filled with joy, as this means the Lord will come back any day now.  Also, they hold beliefs that when these rough times start people will repent, and get back in church.  They’ll learn to turn back to God’s ways, and they’re strangely happy to see people suffer.  (There’s a love-hate dynamic in regard to people sinning)

Scriptures like these in the Bible, always give the minister an excuse to say, “I told you so”, anytime bad times happen.  “Sin” becomes the reason these evils came upon the world, and the real reasons as to why the economy collapsed, prices are inflated, and people are losing jobs are ignored, and replaced with a much easier, “It’s because we’re all full of sin.”  (Also, God is the reason for blessings, so he also gets the credit during good times, yet as we all know, God is often forgotten by the less devout during good times).

I concur that “sin” caused the economy to collapse, if by “sin” we mean people doing “bad” things.  But this also doesn’t help us any, as it’s terribly vague.  We’d need to get into all kinds of economic discussions as to lending, saving, and credit – charts, graphs, etc.  It typically has little to do with us not loving one another.  If you filled a society with people who are all stupid, yet all had good intentions, and they used money in their society, you’d still have economic booms and collapses, and people fighting over money.  (See my journal entry: Is Love The Answer – Part II)

I think it’d be best to conclude this entry by talking briefly about mental peace.  I’d like to start by saying that the people talked about above (the ones who smile at the misfortune of others, and those who rejoice at the sin of others) both lack mental peace.  The closer you get to mental peace is when all the thoughts in your head agree with one another, and you don’t have any of these unconscious forces driving you to irrational behavior, or creating anxiety within you.  Your mind is a unity, in complete agreement.  Ideally there’d be no reason to repress anything, as you’ve come to find ways of accepting every aspect of this reality, and are in love and at peace with the way things are.

I recently read this, in studying more about Buddhism:

“If ye realize the Emptiness of All Things, Compassion will arise within your hearts;
If ye lose all differentiation between yourselves and others, fit to serve others ye will be;
And when in serving others ye shall win success, then shall ye meet with me;
And finding me, ye shall attain to Buddhahood.”
– The Hymn of the Yogic Precepts of Milarepa

This has become my life creed, as I haven’t found anything more that all serious philosophical and psychological inquiry leads to.

This entire entry has been about the second point:  “If you lose all differentiation between yourselves and others, fit to serve others you will be.”

I’ve noticed within myself, the more I study the more I find less and less distinctions between myself and others.  We all have the same passions, the same drives, the same desires.  We all try different ways to achieve happiness, and some people end up unhappy, and others happy, and every gradation inbetween, but I know with the study of psychoanalysis, I’ve came to view free will a lot differently.  I’ve come to both respect and disdain freedom.

I used to think the insane murderer was insanely evil, until I studied Freud’s books, and I found he’s not much different than me, and with proper treatment, he can be cured and become a normal person again.  I learned about the dark forces within our minds that can heavily influence our decisions, and how even the insane man is just me in different circumstances, and making a few different decisions which lead him down a horrible road.

The best way I can think to explain my view toward others is this:  Say you have a best friend, who has been dating a girl for several years.  He comes home quite angry, and you’re not sure what’s going on.  He screams at you a few times (which isn’t how he normally treats you), and you inquire as to what’s going on.  You come to figure out his girlfriend left him for someone else.

Now most of us, after learning his girlfriend left him, will excuse his irritability and sadness, especially right after the event happened.  We say to ourselves, “Man, if my girlfriend or wife left me, I’d be really down and angry too.”  In the same way, the more I learn psychoanalysis, the more every situation becomes this way.  Every person I see depressed, every person I see angry, every person I see disheartened, I come to learn the reasons, and I see that if those circumstances would have happened to me, and I would have made the same bad decisions they had (and I oftentimes find that they had good reasons to make the decisions they did at the time), I would be in the same situation they are.

I come to see them as myself, and no difference between us, outside of varying life circumstances.  I’ve also learned, the more I know about why people do the things they do, the more I can help people.  Just as the Buddhist master said, “If ye lose all differentiation between yourselves and others, fit to serve others ye will be”

I used to be a person who’d tell people, “Suck it up you pansy!  Man you’re emotionally weak”, but as I’ve come to learn, there’s no difference between him and me.  When you truly believe there’s no difference between the two of you, or anybody for that matter, then you will not judge.

Also after reading Sartre’s Being and Nothingess I found that fulfillment comes through giving yourself to others.  Helping others achieve, and all working together as one.  Some people say Sartre’s existential philosophy is too individualized, but I think it’s not too hard to extend it to its social implications.

Is it only by chance that near every person who has succeeded in great things ends up becoming a life coach or a business counselor, even though they themselves have no need to do this?  Where does this urge to “give back” come from?  They may call it “giving back” but what really happened is that they find more fulfillment in giving to others and helping others than they do pursuing life in a solo pursuit.  The thought of training a protege, and seeing the one you’ve helped succeed, just like you did, and you show him all the pitfalls to avoid is an experience that can’t be compared.  The businessman dreams of working with his proteges and forming a network of successful businesses, all modeled off the success principles and excellence he’s used in his own companies.

This is what is being said in the 3rd clause:  “And when in serving others ye shall win success, then shall ye meet with me;
And finding me, ye shall attain to Buddhahood.”  When you’re a true life master, you find success not in just personal succeeding, but in helping others succeed as well.  When there’s no distinction between the two of you, you try to move humanity as a whole to success, not just your particular group of friends.  You’re all one, all a team, and all in it together.

I’m still trying to figure out the first clause:  “If ye realize the Emptiness of All Things, Compassion will arise within your hearts”, but I feel with my last journal entry: “In Search of Security”, I’m getting closer to the answer to that as well.

The full embodiment of mental peace seems to be found in that short three clauses of the Buddhist master.  They each break down into a huge discussion, and as for the first one, I still don’t understand it, but, I do feel progress, and that’s what matters.

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