Note: If you have not read Evenhanded Pursuit of Truth by Leaven and the response thereto by Wheat, then please read before continuing below.  This is continuation of the conversation that began there.

Speak up, son Leaven, Leaven, Leaven.  You’re never going to make it on the interwebs with that attitude.  Where’s the rage?  I didn’t read any baseless ad hominem attacks or gross misstatements of fact used to support your position.  I don’t remember any ludicrous hyperbole or thoughtless stereotypes being carted out to demonize your opposition.  For the sake of Glenn Beck, son, you didn’t even type anything in all caps!  How do you expect anyone to read that?

How do we even out these hands? Out of the many, many things that terrify me and give me serious second thoughts when I think about starting a family and bringing new babies into this scary world*, one of the scariest is that our society seems to have lost the ability to have a reasonable and, to borrow Leaven’s term, evenhanded discussion about, well, anything.   Rage and bombast are necessary if you’re going to discuss politics, religion, sports, hairstyles, coffee, favorite toothpaste, whatever.  It isn’t sufficient for the other side to be wrong (even about matters which are entirely opinion), they must also be stupid or selfish or driven by evil motives.  If you’re running for office, you can’t merely state and defend your position and qualifications, you must also characterize your opponent as an anti-American communist or fascist.  In sports, a coach or manager isn’t doing his job right unless he has enough “fire” or “passion,” which usually consists of constantly screaming at everyone in sight, be it his players, the referees or the opposition.**  The ends justify the means, and uncivil behavior is praised as long as it gets the job done.  Strangely, in a world in which the greatest virtue is supposedly tolerance, we are increasingly intolerant and strident.

"We must agree to disagree, sir."
*Seriously, so many things.  Did they ever fix that hole in the ocean?  Will my grandkids    even know what Social Security is or will they be too busy learning to speak Mandarin after China buys the United States? **Speaking of sports, there’s this terrifying story of a man who beat another man to DEATH because the victim, who was refereeing a hockey game involving the assailant’s sons, was letting the children be “overly aggressive.”

Any number of things have been suggested as causing or contributing to our society of rage.  Talk radio and the Internet get a lot of the blame, and it’s easy to see how the anonymity of the Internet fosters the largely consequence-free spilling of invective, exemplified by the “flame wars” that appear in many comment sections.

The Long View I think there’s more to it, though.  I think our society of rage is a symptom of a bigger problem, namely that, as a society, we seem to be entirely incapable of sacrificing our short-term pleasure for long-term goals.*  We have forgotten how to take the long view.  We pay our debt with more debt; we eat and drink what we want today and let the doctors sort it out down the road; we sacrifice the well-being of our children for our personal enjoyment; we don’t make the hard choices and sacrifices.

"I demur from your position on this issue."
*Okay, this is clearly a gross overstatement.  Plenty of people are very good at delayed gratification and working toward their goals.  So, you know, lots of grains of salt or whatever.  But, with that qualification, I stand by my hyperbole.

And we rage.  Why?  Rage feels good.  Rage makes us feel like we’re in control.  It gives us a sense that we can bring justice to a crazy, frustrating, unjust world.  And it works, short term.  You can browbeat your employees or players or children into doing what you want them to in the here and now.  You can win the argument if you are willing to shout the longest and the loudest.

But at what cost?  Stephen Covey discusses the idea of borrowing from the strength of your position to force people to do things rather than building enough trust with that person that they will do the right thing on their own.   Borrowing from your strength works in the short-term, but it weakens you long term, until you ultimately have no moral authority over that person, be it your child or employee or someone else that you wish to influence.  You burn bridges.  You plant seeds of hostility and resentment that will produce a harvest of broken relationships.  Rage works short term, but it will destroy you in the long run.

"I would like to register my objection for the record."

I guess all of these ramblings about rage and taking the long view and whatever are just my way of re-affirming Leaven’s commitment that we will all try our best to maintain a civil tone in the proceedings of this blog.  There will be passion, and we will all have a take on the topic at hand, and we will often disagree; otherwise, this blog would be both boring and pointless.  I guarantee there will be plenty of snark and sarcasm.  But we will try to keep our eye on the ball and, as has been said, maintain a civil tone.

Readers, do the same.  Give us your comments, your retorts, your huddled rejoinders yearning to be free.  But, before you type the squiggly word into the box and hit that submit button, take a second to check that your tone is appropriate.