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Emotion over all

By Bernard Chapin
web posted November 1, 2004

On Tuesday we have a national election that will no doubt greatly impact our future, but the one thing it cannot control is our nation's descent into emotocracy; which is my term to describe the way in which emotion has transcended thought and intellect within the polity.

Politicians now are elected only through promising to do something about every disease, threat, and discomfort that someone shouts to them while they're on the campaign trail. If they don't commit to having their bureaucracies oppose every shadow, then there's no way in which they will ever be elected. It is comical to think of how accepted government's role as magician is when one considers how many of those who validate statism at the ballot box dread the lines at the post office or the secretary of state's. Whenever I talk to those who are opposed to tax cuts and the slashing of government programs I find that they know little about bureaucracies. It's shocking how many do not grasp the ineffectiveness of state bureaucracies or, if they do know then they assume that it's only at their job where the boss has been promoted to their level of incompetence and where workers are systematically punished for thinking up original solutions or showing initiative.

When government is idealized as protector and savior it then takes advantage of the opportunity by acting like a virus to hollow out our spirits and leave us in a debilitated condition. Many of us who believe that logic is intrinsic to good decision making often are so overwhelmed by the weight of the conventional, emotional opinions that surround us that we only make nominal attempts to fight back.

I just had a representative conversation with an emotophile the other day about immigration. She said, "I just can't stand the thought of people suffering so that's why I'm for open borders."

I said, "Well, you realize Miss that they'll always be people suffering in the world. One country can't stop human suffering."

She conceded that but, of course, didn't change her view and I'm sure that in the near future she will say, because of the suffering in the United States, that we should create new programs for X, Y, and Z.

I see the "emotions only/all the time" style in nearly every argument I ever have about public education. I always hear things like "we can't be a free country when we under-fund our schools" and that "Bush is short-changing kids." Yet, George Bush has spent more money on education than any other president in history has. Where does it end? How much is enough? In the emotocracy, you're a bad person for even posing the question. As you may have guessed, the answer is very emotional. It's because with children you can never spend too much. Well, there it is, take my house and everything in it.

I also hear that teachers have the most important job in America so they should make way more than they do. Well, I'd agree that teachers in some areas are underpaid but with emotion as our guide then there can be no conceivable ceiling for future salaries. When one concedes the importance of the job then what stops teachers from being paid as much as Pedro Martinez?

The real point here is that emotions are something to be harnessed and controlled. They should not have shrines erected around them. However, that's exactly what we have done in this culture and there's no end in sight. The average emotophiliac can turn on their television and get their fix from Dr. Phil, Oprah or John Edwards whenever their instability index becomes too low.

With politicians, most of us really don't feel pain until they begin to feel ours and that's when the real hell begins. One day it's a coerced retirement scheme like social security. Tomorrow it's a prescription drug card for individuals whose net worth is miles above the mean. How long is it until we hear rhetoric at the national level about government taking care of us from cradle to grave? After we're done enacting government initiatives in response to every hiccup and paper cut that occurs among 290 million citizens, there will be no way to stop creeping towards socialism. The creep will end with our becoming a full-fledged socialist country. When it comes about they'll be no more technical advances or rich to tax out of existence, and, predictably, they'll be no more welfare state either. Emotions absolutely produce change but nothing in this galaxy could ever make socialism work.

Regardless of what happens on Tuesday, our country is being held hostage to the most primitive of forces. Emotion comes from the reptilian area of our brain and could soon turn our land into a swamp fit only for alligators...and talk show hosts.

Bernard Chapin is a writer living in Chicago. He can be reached at bchapafl@hotmail.com.

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