A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[LINK] @elfsternberg: “There’s no such thing as “without emotion.””

Elf Sternberg has written a smart essay about emotion, and what we are actually saying when we claim that we are unemotional, that we are beyond this and are purely rational.

When we say someone is “unemotional,” what we’re really saying is that they’re engaged in the privileged feelings of masculinity: pride, reserve, contentment. Act like it, because your peers already terrify you if you don’t.

Queer men like myself aren’t “more emotional;” we’re permitting ourselves a wider range of emotions than other men, because our status requires we either deal with the terror of stepping outside the box of performative masculinity, or surrender to the closet and its miseries. Black men aren’t “more emotional;” they’re acting outside of the emotional range white America would rather see from them (reserved and content with a lesser status), driven by a rage I can understand and with which I can empathize, if not feel as deeply as they do.

Consciousness is a quality we humans seem to possess in unique abundance. When we say, “I feel,” we’re expressing a conscious need at a conscious level, but we are feeling something all the time. Psychologists know this, advertisers know this. Politicians on the right know that making people fearful makes them want simple, authoritarian answers to their problems. It doesn’t even have to be a *political* fear; asking people to walk over a frightening bridge makes them more likely to favor authoritarian policies in a questionnaire administered later the same day!

All consciousness is driven by emotion. All of it, without fail. Jesse Lee Patterson’s man-shaped pack animals tearing into the weakling among them is pure, endocrinological emotion and nothing less. We are not thinking machines operating on pure rationality– and if we were, from where would our motives come? We are feeling machines that developed the capacity to think as our best tool, the one that put us at the top of the food chain, the one that keeps us there unless it leads to our crapping our own nest into an uninhabitable mess. Men who act “unemotional,” who claim their decisions aren’t driven by their feelings, are lying to you, and to themselves. What they’re really doing is performing a pantomime of fearlessness because they’re terrified of what would happen if they didn’t.

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Written by Randy McDonald

November 21, 2016 at 11:59 pm

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