Saturday, March 02, 2019

Moral Outrage

Of course I like this.  It provides evidence for what I have been saying for decades. Moral outrage is self-serving. While I have learned this partly by observing people around me, at church, at work, in community groups, and online, one of the best teachers has been observing this in myself. Thirty years ago, an eccentric but brilliant psychologist cautioned me "If you are hard on yourself, you will be hard on everyone else."


David Foster said...

Possibly correct, but the opposite is not true. There are plenty of people who are hard on everyone else but quite lenient with themselves.

Texan99 said...

I'm remembering a scene from "Heaven Can Wait," when the protagonist is inhabiting the body of a wealthy corporate executive and applying a refreshing look at the PR problems reported by his staff. They were concerned about demonstrations against a line of tuna because of the dolphin by-catch problem, which would be expensive to fix. He objected, "We don't care what it costs. We care how much more we can sell it for. If consumers want us to protect dolphins, why don't we? We can have an ad campaign: Would you pay a penny more to save a fish that thinks?"

Moral outrage isn't much use to me unless it spurs me to do something. Can't stand it that the addled little old lady down the street was too pole-axed by riding out the hurricane even to go outside and signal to her neighbors that she had no more food in the house and was hungry? That nearly brought me to my knees. I couldn't go on until I figured out some way to contribute to a solution--not directly her problem, which swiftly was taken up by belatedly-arriving family, but to the problem of the storm damage and community dysfunction in general. Taking action insulates me against the most agonizing feelings of guilt.

The book I'm continuing to enjoy, "The Goodness Paradox," analyzes guilt as the signal we get that our tribe is going to gang up on us and kill us for violating norms. The author describes a researcher who lost her temper in a gathering of Inuits and was subsequently shunned. She found the situation "desperately painful until she found a way to explain herself." Less lucky tribe members find themselves executed for sorcery when the group's judgment turns against them. Some people think the rapid development of intelligence resulted from the need to navigate these terrifying waters: humans in groups expressing moral outrage.

Grim said...

Interesting article. I'm going to cite it frequently, I'd wager.