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Get us to the Greek



Emotions are well and good, everyone should have them, but we make a huge mistake when we let our feelings get in the way of cold, hard reason.

Emotional responses are immediate, visceral and impassioned. They're also irrational, usually exaggerated and occasionally wrong. And when we air our emotions we can trigger a whirlwind of emotional responses we don't expect, which is how a simple argument over leaving a toilet seat up can sometimes end in divorce

By comparison, reasoned responses are based in a calculated and typically based a logical interpretation of the facts and achieving a specific outcome. There is always an emotional component, but feelings are set aside in a rational debate because they tend to muddy the waters and ultimately solve nothing.

I bring this up because of the way emotions are creeping into the debate over issues like the asphalt plant, over the $96,000 post-Olympic Party, the community forest, the HST and... well, pretty much everything.

I'm not suggesting that people stop feeling things, just that they are doing themselves a disservice by expecting their emotions to win the day. When someone screams, "Somebody think of the children!" at a public meeting my limbic system tends to curl into the fetal position and my brain switches off - I've heard this argument too many times in too many contexts for it to ever be convincing. Ditto when people get their facts wrong, or spin the facts in such an obvious way that the devil's advocate hovering over my shoulder starts jabbing me in the ear with his flaming pitchfork and shouting at me to disregard everything a person just said.

After all, this is the age of hyper-individualism and inflated self-esteem, and these days most people don't give a rat's ass what most other people are feeling. When someone reaches out to grab you by your heart strings a rational response is to pull away, having had your emotions manipulated over and over by politicians, advertisers, media pundits and the like over and over again. These manipulators have created a massive trust gap, a credibility chasm, breeding a generation of hardened cynics that distrust both the message and the messenger - and aren't afraid to shoot.

In the absence of real trust, people now feel entitled to seek out their own facts, or even to make facts up wholesale based on the way they feel. Stephen Colbert described this phenomena well with a single word, "truthiness," which Wikipedia has translated to mean "a truth that a person claims to know intuitively 'from the gut' without regard to evidence, logic, intellectual examination, or facts." And as we've seen time and time again, a single distorted or incorrect fact can be used to discredit everything a person says.

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