The 4 stages of emotional politics: open- hopeful- angry- clear

preacher interviews kid in church

(Mature audiences only) The 4 stages of emotional politics: open- hopeful- angry- clear

The social self.

The social self. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A young child begins wide open. Newborns have no complex beliefs constructed out of words. They have no denial or resistance against any particular perspective or set of words or ideas or perceptions. They are just networks of the capacity for sensitivity.

As time goes on, however, the challenges and shock of a human life can lead to fearful paranoia. The child identifies a certain persona as “how it works to be” as well as a contrary set of qualities and behaviors (“how it does not work to be”). These pairs can be labeled in ways like this: “how I am and how I am not” or “how people should be and how people should not be.”

Whenever someone sincerely identifies “how people should be,” they are including themselves as a member of that linguistic category of “people,” right? So, they are identifying the self-image that they have learned is adaptive. That is the character that they have learned to present or claim.

The explanatory profiles of social identity an...

The explanatory profiles of social identity and self-categorization theories. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The opposing “shadow” which they learn to repress or deny is “how I am not,” which is generally equivalent to “how people should not be.” So, everyone, universally, presents themselves in accord with some model of “how people should be” and represses or denies some contrasting model of “how people should not be.”

Dat Politics en clase

Dat Politics en clase (Photo credit: pedrobea)

As a child ages, there are increasingly precise variations, such as “how a boy should be” and “how we are supposed to behave at church in particular” and “how people should definitely not be when they are in a library” and “how Christian Americans are” and “the right way to mow the lawn” and “the proper way to perform your duties,” perhaps as a soldier or gang member or sheriff or bounty hunter, etc…. All of these facets of identity (whether the qualities are identified as presentable or rejected) are automatic. Social conditioning establishes what qualities will be presented as presentable or adaptive or good and what qualities will be repressed or rejected or denied as bad or evil or dangerous (or at least best kept private).

Obviously, there are different models of what is most effective or favorable (“right”). Over time, a child growing up may learns that certain behaviors that were acceptable as a very small child, such as public nudity, may “suddenly” be discouraged or punished. We get more sensitive to the various norms and rules of our culture and subculture.

Summary of the main concepts discussed in Henr...

Summary of the main concepts discussed in Henri Tajfel’s theory of social identity (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Children also learn first to be the compliant, obedient subjects of social indoctrination, then to be the valiant defenders and proponents of that indoctrination. A truly “faithful” or “righteous” crusader must promote what is good to others, as well as warn, punish, or kill “deviants, dissidents, perverts, and infidels.”

alex jones shouting at the new world order

So, how is all of this related to politics? We will explore that in more depth soon, but first note that all political platforms share the linguistic foundation of “how things (life) should be” and in particular “how we should be.”

“How we should be” is just a cultural construction. Different cultures construct “how we should be” distinctly. Again, over time, a particular cultural group may change it’s orientation in regard to some subject.

“As bureaucrats, we just enforce the law. We do not write it. If the law changes, then our policies and practices change as dictated by the dictators of the law.”

If there is a political revolution, many civil bureaucrats might have very little change in their activity, such as city bus drivers. Other civil bureaucrats may be removed from their jobs or executed for their alleged loyalty to the old regime (the communists or the nazis or whatever). They are reward or punished for their adherence to various policies and systems of regulation of behavior (governing). This may be generally most true of government employees, less true for people involved with mainstream private businesses (government-approved or “legimate”/legitimized/licensed/protected operations), and least true of “outlaws.”

"Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen."

“Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.”

Early weapons models, such as the "Fat Ma...

Early weapons models, such as the “Fat Man” bomb, were extremely large and difficult to use. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, the idea that outlaws do not face strict social consequences for the exact methods used in conducting piracy and so on is ridiculous. Pirate cultural groups may have very well-established norms with specific rewards and punishments. Those norms just may differ considerably from other cultures, such as failure to follow orders to execute (kill) a designated target may be grounds (perhaps only for identified members of the pirate group) for immediate execution, while in a huge bureaucratic military such as the Holy Roman Empire‘s Inquisition, failure to obey a command to bomb civilians, assassinate a political target or to poison drinking water may simply result in a court martial proceeding, followed by life imprisonment in a mental facility with involuntary exposure to various pharmaceutical medications, electroshock treatments, and frequent dipping of various body parts in to boiling water to “correct” the “uncommunist mental disorder” of the perpetrator or witch or thought criminal or “anti-catholic protestant.” So, there will be inevitable differences between the behavioral governance systems (thought control?) of social groups that identify themselves as “outlaw,” public, and private- however minor those variations.

English: Insulin shock therapy is given in Lap...

English: Insulin shock therapy is given in Lapinlahti Hospital, Helsinki in 1950’s Suomi: Insuliinišokkihoitoa Lapinlahden sairaalassa Helsingissä 1950-luvulla (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Clearly, the scale and technological dominance of the operations of organized violence differ considerably from gangs and tribes and clans to nations and crusades of international alliances for intimidating “second-class populations” by threatening them with annihilation by nuclear weapons if they do not abstain from developing nuclear weapons themselves. The complexity of the methods of indoctrination, propaganda, and influence also vary from complex, obscure and subtle diplomacy (innuendos, insinuations) to direct warnings, overt threats and of course bribery (AKA “foreign aid”).

man confronts tank

So, back to a rather mundane example, the actual acceptable behaviors are secondary to the identity itself. What is acceptable for a city bus driver is not the same as for a public school bus driver. While policies may change with regard to a particular social identity, the changes may also be fast or slow, subtle or definitive.

English: David Marshall, Bus Driver from Melbo...

English: David Marshall, Bus Driver from Melbourne, Australia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To use an even less controversial example, if a musician is hired to play two songs, the fact that the two songs are identifiably distinct does not change the consistent pattern of the musician playing music. The musician is still a musician regardless of the particular song. In fact, if the musician stops playing songs and takes a break or signs autographs, they are still operating from the social identity (linguistic role or distinction) of “musician.” However, if a reggae musician plays a blues song, then are they still a reggae musician or what? In fact, were they ever really fundamentally a reggae musician (other than as a social construction, as a labeled identity)?


Musician_from_Sweden_02 (Photo credit: Barbro_Uppsala)

Every social identity has some variety of “appropriate variations” that are acceptable within the framework and some range of “excluded variations.” Further, being a musician might conflict with being an orchestra conductor (one cannot do both at once), but would not conflict with being a mother or an American and so on.

What eventually becomes clear is that social identities are malleable, arbitrary social constructs involving language and culturally-specific norms and “what should be”, while the physical entity or organism is fundamental. “What should be” may be quite irrelevant in matters of biochemistry, nutritional development, and physiological functionality.

Now, let’s review the four emotional stages of political thought. The first stage, like that of a newborn, is wide open, suggestible, impressionable, naive, innocent. There is virtually no interest in matters of societal politics at this stage. We might say that if there is even any particular emotion at this stage, it would simply be curiosity.

All concerns with practice are personal for those in the first stage. The word politics is probably unfamiliar for those in the first stage, but the idea of models for behavior such as right and wrong or good and bad is clear. This is the stage of the forming of identity.

At the next stage, there can be a particular formal construct (socially recognizable as a particular subculture) of “how the world should be” and “how the (political) system should be” and “how people should be.” That is the stage of hope. There is a beacon of hope that the current reality, which is implicitly rejected as wrong in some way, can hopefully be corrected eventually. The interesting issue is just which policy is the best policy to correct the issues identified as problems.

Note that the hoping is entirely rooted in fear. Various cultures of hope may conflict with each other in regard to fearing different possibilities or patterns. There are various hopeful ways of rejecting aspects of reality as bad (and celebrating certain aspects as good or better or holy).

That required development stage of fearful (judgmental) hoping is idealistic based on socially-constructed ideals. The next stage is quite similar.

As various cultures of hope conflict with each other, certain groups may become convinced that the only barrier to their progress is not that their hopes are unrealistic and based on repressed fears, but that certain other groups are interfering with (frustrating) the accomplishment of the outcomes that are obviously the best. In this stage, the naive, frightened hope shifts to naive, frightened, angry arrogance. “Those people are disappointing us, frustrating us!”

Here is the stage of antagonism and blame. The alleged problem with reality is not identified as a technological barrier, but a human barrier. “If not for the __________, then our ideals would be manifest already!” (In politics, it is a group that is the demonized evil, as distinct from an individual, such as “my mother” or “my ex-husband” or “that one neighbor who is such a nuisance.”)

That is the stage of resentment and contempt. The Greek word “dia-bolos” means “to throw a label across something, to slander, to accuse, to vilify, to blame.” That is the origin of the English word devil. That is the nature of the stage after hope, which I call anger. All anger is self-righteous anger. Just ask someone who is angry if they are right about the reasons for their anger. “Of course I am right” is always the sentiment or emotion or linguistic belief construction/presentation.

The first stage is pre-idealistic, then two stages of idealism (hopeful and frustrated/angry/raging/self-righteous). Both of those stages of idealism involve a lack of awareness of the reality of neurology, language, and the biochemical mechanisms of cultural hysterias. When someone is clear about the prior three stages, that is itself the fourth stage of clarity.

It is also called enlightenment and spiritual rebirth and various other labels. However, the use of those labels is most popular amongst the hopeful who have no actual experience with these developmental stages and just “believe in them” or worship them, perhaps even claiming to be at that stage, but often with tremendous anxiety and defensiveness and distress and concern for the approval of others (or at least the absence of disagreement).

alex jones condemns and opposes people who are wrong

A reactive animosity toward anyone who does not formally agree is typical of the third stage (self-righteous anger). That is the fascist stage of totalitarian “anti-communist” political correctness, as evident in the US in the McCarthy era (or in media icons like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, or Alex Jones). Of course, it is identical functionally to a communist anti-fascist idealism, or an anti-racist idealism, anti-sexist idealism, anti-homophobia idealism, or even anti-idealist idealism, which is the pinnacle of hypocritical tension and shame, but also the gateway to the fourth stage of clarity, acceptance, inner peace, empathy, and equanimity.

It is not wrong to make clarity or wisdom or enlightenment in to an ideal. It is practically inevitable.

Political struggle and organized violence (governments) may be inevitable as well. To the one who is clear, there my be occasional attentiveness to trends of culture and society and politics, but no particular pre-occupation with “the real issue” and instead more interest and attention to practices that are more directly within the control of the individual or small groups, such as the exploration of the reality of physiology, nutrition, language, perception, and perhaps even propaganda, mythology, and idealism.

In the last stage, there is no desperate seeking of others who share similar hopes (so as to cope with debilitating fear/paranoia/distress). There is no reflexive contempt for contempt, animosity toward animosity. These are recognized as just possible patterns.

Image sources:’s+American+Dream

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