There’s an adage that’s been floating around the internet in conservative circles for some time now. Facts don’t care about your feelings. It’s the idea that whatever you may personally believe or feel about the topic at hand, it really doesn’t matter ultimately. Not in the nihilistic sense of everything being meaningless but your individual leanings on the subject shouldn’t enter the equation. What we need to deal with societal issues is cold, hard logic.
If you have a problem that you need solved, you need to follow a rational plan based on the facts and divorce yourself from your feelings about it. No one ever removed a tumour by focusing on how wrong it is that it exists in the first place. You need a scalpel, alcohol, and a steady hand braced by years of experience and education. How you feel about wounds or carcinogens or sharp implements isn’t really relevant. The tumor is there and only a knife in the right doctor’s hand can remove it. The facts don’t care about your feelings.
This is a great way of proceeding if you’re building a bridge or removing a growth. Running a society, however, is another story entirely.
The humans that populate this society are not only filled with feelings but driven almost entirely by them. People plunge head first into relationships that they know are doomed to fail and do so on a regular basis. They go to the casino and bet it all on a lucky number they arrived at because it’s the date they were born. They pursue their dream of playing the harpsichord professionally in the face of mounting bills and mortgage payments. They try to feed themselves through freelance writing.
“I just had a feeling. It felt right.”
Ignoring the feelings of massive groups of people when dictating policy is a surefire way to both alienate and anger those very people you are supposed to be serving. It’s to ignore the most fundamental dictating force of human behaviour. People are highly irrational and wildly uninterested in facts or statistics when faced with emotionally charged issues. Doubly so for issues related to equality, race, representation, and acceptance.
This is by no means an argument in favour of emotionally driven thinking or a total disregard for facts or reason. It’s an appeal to take into account the human element when attempting to govern human beings. A person needs both input and feedback. They need to feel heard when it comes to important matters before they become the aforementioned tumour-ridden patient. They get off drugs when their emotional attachments to them are severed and when their underlying problems are being addressed. They don’t quit because you tell them it’s a bad idea. The guy with the hole in his neck is well aware but his failing health is secondary to his feelings of loss or depression or desperation. This is why family interventions are far more persuasive than physical pain.
Have a look at modern advertising, humanity’s greatest mind-altering undertaking of all time. Untold billions are spent every year studying psychological triggers and primal motivations to fashion them into weapons in an effort to separate you from your money or bring in your vote.
The result is one ad after another selling you a feeling rather than a product. Car commercials quick-cut nauseatingly between the machine and unrelated images of young and beautiful people playing sports, jumping into the ocean, kissing, and falling through the air. There is no talk of how many miles per gallon it gets or whether or not it comes with both heated and cooled seats. The imagery alone is confusing but it speaks to the part of your brain that wants to feel something. That rush, weightlessness or spark with a lover. And it can all be had if you buy this car. “Sheer Driving Pleasure.” Lottery commercials tease the anticipation of winning, the feeling that one gets when they’re on the precipice of winning a life changing sum of money. The tagline is “get that 649 feeling.” There is no mention of leisure time or the tax efficient retirement portfolio you can have to care for you in your golden years. Whether it’s nostalgia, joy, grief, or exhilaration, the world’s spin doctors have diverted their efforts from trying to convince you with facts to moving you with feelings. They’ve found a winning formula and they’ve been incredibly successful with its use. We can do this all day if you can stomach it.
(And just in case you thought it was all about consumerism.)
If your opponent refuses to see your line of thinking even when presented with evidence that flies in the face of their argument, there’s likely something else at work here. If you can rule out sophistry or ulterior motives you’ll usually find emotion at the helm. Oil rig workers are afraid of losing their livelihoods and their ability to provide for their families. Climate activists are angry with society’s seeming lack of interest in their future. Pro-life supporters are saddened by the loss of what could have been. Universal basic income advocates are worried about how they will sustain themselves as automation removes people from entire industries. Your perspective will dictate where you stand on these issues but you’re driven at least in part by how you feel about them. If not, your software is long overdue for an update to carry on your masquerade.
Human emotion is overwhelmingly powerful. It dominates our thoughts and can make us act with complete disregard for our own best interests. Our collective feelings have sent us to war and built entire nations. So if you’re looking to convince someone that your policies are sound or that your vision is one where we all have a place, you might want to give them a nod along with proper facts and reasoning.