Saturday, March 6, 2010

"Slow to speak, slow to anger"

Comments on this blog are moderated. That means they will not be posted until I've read them. I decided to do that after receiving too many that were simply splenetic outbursts of rage entirely failing to make any kind of argument [and often showing no evidence of having read or understood the entry]. According to Theodore Dalyrmple in "Thank You For Not Expressing Yourself," that kind of response is much more frequent at internet sites than anywhere else. Anyone who has spent any time reading the comment sections of unmoderated sites would agree. Dalyrmple:
.... No subject is too recondite to provoke the insensate rage of those who disagree with the view the author has taken of it. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if fury leading to ill-mannered personal abuse and foul language is the predominant mode of disagreement in our society, at least among those who append their comments to an article that appears on the internet. ....

The immediacy of the response which the internet makes possible also means that people are able to vent their spleen in a way which was not possible, or likely, before. The putting of pen to paper, to say nothing of the act of posting the resultant letter, requires more deliberation than sitting at a computer and firing off an angry e-mail or posting on a website. By their very physical nature, then, letters are likely to be less intemperate than e-mails.

The question now arises as to whether it is a good thing that people should be able now so easily to express their rage, irritation, frustration and hatred. Here, I think, we come to a disagreement between those of classical, and those of romantic, disposition.

According to the latter, self-expression is a good in itself, irrespective of what is expressed. Indeed, such people are likely to believe that any sentiment that does not find its outward expression will turn inward and poison the person who has not been able to express it. Better to strangle a new-born babe and all that.

The person of more classical disposition does not believe this. On the contrary, he believes that there are some things that are much better not expressed at all. He counterbalances his belief in the value of freedom of opinion with that in the value of freedom from opinion. He believes that rage will not decrease with its habitual expression, but rather increase with it.

By now it should be clear which of these two viewpoints seems to me to be the more accurate. The habit of not containing your rage is likely to lead you to easily provoked enragement. And, as almost everyone knows who has taken the trouble of self-examination, there is a great deal of pleasure to be had from rage, especially when it supposes itself to be in a righteous cause. .... [more]
One of the reasons I decided to reduce my Facebook interaction was that I discovered in myself a tendency to respond immediately, without much consideration, and in ways I would not have done face-to-face.

Thank You For Not Expressing Yourself - New English Review