I have a love-hate relationship with The New York Times’ “Room for Debate” feature. I know the whole point is to present, in brief, conflicting points of view. It just riles me up. And this past week’s topic REALLY riled me up. “Is Honesty for Suckers?” . I think in our culture, at this time, it probably is. But that doesn’t mean I plan to become dishonest or I envy those who are. It just means I have resigned myself to foregoing some of the rewards that I have seen dishonest people reap for years. And I’m okay with that, as I am very fortunate in many ways, and I’d rather be myself (and live with myself) than go through life the way they do: rushing to grab every advantage, making and dropping “friends” along the way, unable to sustain loving, real relationships (funny how many of these folks seem to have dysfunctional personal lives). If that makes me a sucker, so be it. Honestly.
Well, well, well — it turns out that a certain amount of rage, in specific situations, is strategically useful. Rational, in fact, according to The New York Times: The Rationality of Rage.
We tend to associate anger with the loss of control, but anger has clear applications and obeys distinct rules. It may be blunt, but it has its own particular logic. And used judiciously, it can get us better deals, galvanize coalitions and improve all our lives.
The situations where anger is most useful as a strategy are “balanced”, i.e. they have elements of both cooperation and competition, such as selling a business to a buyer. Makes sense to me but I’m not so sure about this part:
… anger evolved to help us express that we feel undervalued. Showing anger signals to others that if we don’t get our due, we’ll exert harm or withhold benefits. As they anticipated, the researchers found that strong men and attractive women — those who have historically had the most leverage in threatening harm and conferring benefits, respectively — were most prone to anger.
Wow. Strong men and attractive women have the most leverage because they can threaten harm and withhold benefits. Sounds like war, money and sex to me. I guess we really are still primates at heart!
Illustration: Gerard DuBois, in The New York Times.
This week I am chortling, not screaming, at my new middle-aged heroes: Hilarious Parents Re-Create Daughter’s Sexy Selfies With Boyfriend. I love these people! What a way to make their point with a sense of humor!
Selfies. What a concept. And yes, it does irritate me when I find that one of the several teenagers who live here has taken numerous silly selfies on my unattended iPhone. Though if I REALLY minded that much, I would just post them on their Facebook pages for all the world to see. Hmmm …
Illustration: Mark Knight, Herald Sun, 6 September 2013