The Moon shines no light of its own. It merely reflects the light from another source, our sun. It makes no conscious choice on what it reveals to us . . .
For the moment I sit and seem to be without words. So, I’m trying an exercise where I just write something, anything, just to see what shakes loose. It’s strange, that the internal dialog in our minds never wants to shut up, but my writer’s voice goes away every once in a while.
At the same time I’m having trouble writing in this blogging format, I’ve been restraining myself from lashing back on other social media platforms. Reining in those words. Humm, injustice inspires me to want to speak up against it. But that doesn’t always bring out the best in my writing. Better to stay calm and deliberate and write positively.
But deliberating about which words to use, or writing about how to write, is not the same as telling a story. Or delivering a message. Deliberating can turn into avoidance. I watched many a doctor do this back when I worked in the hospital. I called it WWDD – Watch, Wait, Debate, Do Nothing. Ultimately, the patient dies.
Excuses right. Always have a rationalization. Don’t want to get too close to that edge. The sun got in my eyes. I tripped over a rock. I was adjusting my medications. Humm, most probably the later . . .
But I do have to say, the tone of the conversations permeating cyberspace in recent weeks, at least in my neck of the words, has been a bit disheartening. It sort of left me speechless and maybe even a touch morose. I never thought I see a time when so much anger and hatred would spread.
A sort of virus had taken over, and evil one. It seems like people have stopped really communicating and are just sort of screaming at one another. Whomever yells the loudest wins. Wins what? I’m not sure.
And one of my goals in blogging this time around has been to try to find ways to bring people into the conversation. To keep the discussion going. To have people actually consider other viewpoints. But one wrong word choice can shut the whole thing down or explode it.
So how does one write positively when addressing evil?
I was reminded about some workplace research I had recently read about. Contagious Evil. Of course, the authors didn’t call it that. They used terms like “corruption,” “spill-over effect,” “misconduct,” and “bad apple.”
The Harvard Business Review’s study determined that Contagious Evil (we’re going with my terminology) has a social multiplier of 1.59, meaning each time an incident of misconduct occurs, another event of misconduct will be triggered 59% of the time by peer effects. The study focused on financial advisors, who it turns out are 37% more likely to commit misconduct if they collide with a co-worker with a history of misconduct. And the effect can be stronger if the two doing the colliding are in the same ethnic group.
Interesting, if a colleague in your workplace lies, cheats or steals, and you are aware of this, you have a greater than 50% chance of joining in the violation or embarking upon your own dance of misconduct. It’s as though the original evil one handed you a get-away-with-evil-free card. A license to do bad, because, well, someone else got away with it. Your chance to settle some imaginary score? Get back at all those little injustices being perpetuated against you? Perhaps.
This “spill-over” phenomenon has been witnessed in other contexts, like how one mass shooting or a suicide seems to trigger others. A whole bunch of theories have been propounded to try to explain this contagious communal thinking.
Like the moon, an individual may not engage in any conscious determination of their actions, but merely reflect the thoughts, actions and beliefs of others.
One theory is simply called the “Contagion Theory,” where collective behavior is like a crowd induced hypnosis – irrational and emotional. Another is “Convergence Theory.” The crowd behavior reflects the beliefs of the individuals before they joined the crowd, so what pulled that crowd of like-thinking automatons together? Maybe it was the media platform.
On the other spectrum, we have “Emergent Norm Theory.” People, who are uncertain in how to act collectively, actually discuss how their behavior should be governed and allow order and rationality to guide them. I haven’t seen much of that lately.
There is also the “Werther Effect,” so labeled from Goethe’s novel, “The Sorrows of Young Werther.” Unrequited love ends with suicide and this was the inspiration for copycats. The license theory – if it’s ok for someone else, they have granted me their approval and it’s ok for me too.
I don’t know if any of these equations can be applied to evil writing. Collective thought and behavior put into words where the crowd only gathers figuratively. Words of evil that for some reason seem to latch on to some imaginations. Captivate and propagate more collagenous bile. Will one person’s hateful rhetoric escalate, license and embolden? Rising in a crescendo of a million voices, either echoing or repelling? And can all of this hostility spill into the streets? That seems to be what I’m seeing right now.
But then I think, just what is evil? Evil is defined as profound immorality and wickedness and it takes on Biblical proportions when it has the qualities of a supernatural force. But then we have the terms “immorality” and “wickedness” and who gets to define those terms? We may all have different definitions, especially on morality.
We tend to look at things in the world with an eye of relativism not absolutism. My crime was so minor when compared to murder, so I’m not a criminal. Right?
And then there is the “Tonal” of times. Morality changes over time. Whatever the majority of the bee hive is thinking at this particular moment or era of time. And that “Hive Think” can take over, be contagious. Whether it is right or wrong.
We seem to be living in a time of rising intolerance, division, and social disintegration. When I find myself speechless in the face of extreme ignorance though, I become concerned. Are the differences so great now, the division so complete, that people think corrupting our democracy is worth the tradeoff of the loss of liberty? The “my way or the highway mentality” feeding into authoritarianism. Or instead of social consensus, is this merely reflecting a collective fear of deciding, of having to be responsible for one’s choices, so let’s have someone else decide, it will be their fault if it fails . . .
What do you think? Is evil contagious? Can the power of words be used to enhance the social multiplier, escalate collisions with “bad apples?” Or provide a stamp of approval for behavior that is particularly wicked?
I don’t know if there is an off switch for what’s going on right now, but I do hope people will become more civil, will recognize truth, will compromise. And hope they will start shining their own light, thinking and reasoning for themselves instead of being hypnotized with polarizing buzz words. Be the reflection of themselves instead of becoming the reflection of other minds . . .
** So there, I managed to meander through my mind for a bit and put something reasonably coherent into kBs. And hopefully I’ve done so having not offended anyone.
*** The “quoted text” is all my own. I just wanted to set those lines off for rhythm 🙂
Photo: The moon doesn’t shine its own light. It reflects.