Whilst reading one essay on another site moons ago, I came across a statement so fundamentally true that its obviousness makes its elusiveness worrying. Pretty much all adherents to the sciences of understanding how people think follow one basic precept that can serve as a litmus test concerning the individual’s intelligence. Namely, our intellect serves our emotions, not the other way around.
That simple fact is why we have alcoholism, deceptive advertising, propaganda, and idiots like Adam Sandler getting work. All of these things play on the fact that our intelligence comes second to our emotions when determining our choices.
The level of disparity between intelligence and emotion in terms of influence over our choices, however, can vary on an individual basis. A hick fukktard who really does not realise that the land his hogs are on is only his because of the force that the Federal government exerts on his behalf, for instance, is often entirely ruled by his emotions. A self-educated man with a strangely-wired brain, on the other hand, might only succumb to his emotions when under a great deal of stress.
This subservience to our emotions that our intellect has is not an accident, at least from an evolutionary point of view. If we calculated every decision from top to bottom, the Human species would have died out long before what we refer to as anatomically modern Humans ever came on the scene. The extreme risk and discomfort entailed by the process of giving birth would have put an end to a calculating, intellect-driven species very quickly.
Fortunately, so far as I have observed second-hand, our species is able to sell itself on the concept of motherhood through pure appeals to emotion. Sure, they display a lot of screaming and agony, but they emphasise more the part about observing a newborn child and watching them grow to be healthy and strong.
(By the way, if you really believe that lifeforms of this planet had an “intelligent” designer, compare the size of the uterus shortly before giving birth with the size of the vaginal opening. And realise that if we, or indeed most mammals, had a designer, said designer was a fukking idiot.)
Even though I profess to have most of my actions guided by intellect as much as emotion, the truth is that many things I do are compulsive in nature because of the extremely strong hand that emotions play in the decision-making process. Yesterday, for reasons I am still not entirely clear about, I reversed the journey I made in moving to my current location, and then carried a couple of dozen pounds of stuff back. I did think on an intellectual level that I needed the stuff, but it was my emotions telling me that I might never see the stuff again if I did not act that got me going.
The entire advertising industry depends on this rather strange fact about the Human brain. Take a close look at any advertisement you see for any product. They do not appeal to the subject’s intellect (“drink Pepsi Max because it tastes less bloated by gas”, to cite an example from my real life). They appeal to the subject’s emotions. Hence the footage of alleged Pepsi Max drinkers jumping off hills on skateboards and the like. Or the satire in which the alleged Pepsi Max drinkers are shown to actually be drinking car fuel, followed by the slogan, “You would have to be drinking more than soft drink to start acting like this”.
Films, television series, and to a lesser extent novels, are no different. All of them succeed on the basis of appealing to a certain audience’s emotions.
If there is one emotional appeal that truly disgusts me, however, it is the kind that charity organisations most frequently use. The “this little boy is sick, give us money to help make him well again, waaah” advertisement. Just about every major illness that afflicts our society, from diabetes to cancer to asthma, has been the subject of such appeals. However, the best appeals of this nature ride the line between pure appeal to emotion and appeal to intellect. Let us take diabetes for example.
Even in a solely user-pays system of medicine, diabetes costs society in a big way. Lost productivity, premature death, accidental death, and disablement are the general categories under which the costs of diabetes in society fall. When a man who is hypoglycaemic is tasered for trying to get to the lollies in his glove compartment, for example, it presents a cost to society and the world in terms of all the paperwork that policemen and courts end up having to file.
The problem with advertising the real cost of diabetes to society in this manner, however, is that intellectual appeals only go so far with the non-intellectual member of society. Pa Kettle might be a bit outraged that his tax money is partly being “wasted” on things like my maternal grandfather having to get a leg sawn off due to vascular complications. But if you really want him to open his pocketbook, his lack of reasoning power means that the most effective way is to ask him what if it were his child living under the threat of such a thing happening to them.
This cruel reality of the Human mind is a key to the survival of fraudulent, cynical “charities” like the Bakkers or Autism Speaks For Normie Assholes. It is also the basis of the old phenomenon in marketing, the dumbest buy the mostest. And regardless of what any of us think, we are all to a degree susceptible.
A good example of the attempted rebel who succumbs to using the appeal to emotion would be the British post-punk band Killing Joke. Killing Joke have made numerous albums and songs, one of my favourite of which is Extremities, Dirt & Various Repressed Emotions. However, one song (I forget which) on this album makes it difficult for me to listen to both the album and Killing Joke in general.
Killing Joke‘s main theme is the fact that our consumption-based economies and their growth are tipping us over the edge of a point that could mean extinction for our kind. Nobody in their right mind can deny that reducing the amount of breeding our species does is not only the right thing to do, but very necessary. However, at one point in this song, vocalist/keyboardist Jaz Coleman sings “The struggle is hard / the struggle is hard / the struggle is beautiful”. Uh, no, Jaz, you lost me completely there.
The reason we are in this mess to begin with is very complex and multi-faceted, but a powerful component thereof is that prior to the full effects of the Industrial Revolution being realised, our species struggled terribly. And it was not beautiful at all. People died in infancy for reasons that were entirely preventable by modern standards. Those who did live to be an adult were often sickly, undernourished, and in frequent despair.
In our appeals to emotion, we lose sight of the fact that emotions are often contrary to our best interests. We often feel wonderful about things that might destroy us. We often feel insulted by or angry toward things that might serve our long-term interests.
I will not pretend I know what is ahead of me in the coming months. When I was fourteen years old, I was scared of the future. Now, I am more so. But I think this highlights the difference between myself and those more ruled by their emotions. They blindly stumble into the future, sure that it will all work out as long as their short term interest is served.
I would rather knowingly walk forward to my doom.