‘Our New Age of Contempt’

Contempt for others has become mainstream in America. Contempt is a bipartisan problem, and contempt begats contempt. Doesn’t matter “who started it,” as our parents used to say. We have to come to some understandings. Face to face interactions over meals with people who have a different political perspective should be a goal of people concerned about the virus of contempt.

Pointing to the most extreme elements of “the left” or “the right” and their weakest, most irrational arguments as somehow representative of an entire political party or movement is not helpful, just spreads the virus of contempt.

Media does have a bias toward conflict and bad news, as that is what is defined as news. A candidate can talk for 30 minutes, spend 25 minutes talking policy and 5 minutes attacking their opponent and what makes the news is the attack and the pithy quote. So yes, there’s a bias toward division that maybe needs to be rethought when we define what is news.

I tweeted this article from the NYT, which received positive response on social media:

Our New Age of Contempt, by Karen Stohr, an associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University and a senior research scholar at Georgetown’s Kennedy Institute of Ethics. She is the author of “On Manners.”

Some of the comments in the NYT article are insightful: “One of the worst things about contempt is that it creates stupidity. When we despise other people, we effectively stop thinking about them. We think we understand them, but all we’ve really done is attach a few simple labels to them.”

“Stefan, Boston: As a child psychiatrist who also worked for years with juvenile delinquents I have plenty of experience in dealing with juvenile bullies. First, do NOT give them attention for their shenanigans: IGNORE them. Do not get into arguments with them. State concretely the true facts and call their lies exactly what they are: lies. However, give them praise if they do something good and right. Miracles do happen: maybe it will work.”
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