For example, during your dinner hour, a traveling salesman bangs insistently on your door. You tell him you’re not interested, and he gets indignant.
“But I drove all this way, and I’m lugging these heavy carpet samples,” he says. “I have every bit as much a right to earn a living as you do.” Now he’s got you: you must either state a belief in inequality or a disregard for his suffering.
A good salesperson knows that getting the foot in the door is the point of no return. If she makes you hesitate for just a few seconds, that’s tacit permission to continue with the spiel. And at this point, you’re using up that salesperson’s time and since they’re equal, guilt is expected.
Passive aggression strikes when someone uses that guilt at inequality to make you receptive to their message, and then to make your changing the situation seem like an inconvenience or attack directed at them.
You can see this in our politics and interpersonal behavior:
- You can’t change anything. Once we’ve passed a law entitling people to a certain benefit, we can never retract that — jobs or lives are on the line now. Nothing is temporary in government.
- Everyone has the right to you. If someone has a need or a want, they should be able to ask you about it, because you’re there and since they’re equal, your rights don’t come before theirs.
- It’s personal — except for you. If you vote down their bill to award $5,000 to every person with hangnail, they assume you hate them. Since they’re equal, there can be no other way, because taking it personally is one of the most effective guilt-inducing techniques.
- If they are offended, you are to blame. Offense is in the eye of the beholder. Something that is innocent to you, in a relative sense applied like an absolute, might not be innocent to them and that makes them the injured party, so you should compensate them.
- If you have more, you owe it to those who have less. They’re human too, and they bleed red just like you. So if your farm was successful this year, hand out the “extra” cows, if you please. Never mind that your greater skill at farming could result in a better society.
- You cannot have secrets or differing opinions. They — the Crowd — know what is right, because they know what they as individuals fear, and as a group of individuals, they’ve turned those private fears into a paranoid lynch mob mentality. Burn the unbelievers!
- Their bad behavior is your fault. This brain-buster is so blatant you’ll chew on it for weeks, trying to figure out how the logic works, but it’s a trick question: there is no logic. If they behave badly, and you either strike back or don’t save them from themselves, you’re the one who’s to blame.
- If they think they’re right, your objections are wrong. Unless of course you find an “officialTM” source saying exactly the opposite of what they’re saying, you have no reason to reject. Not wanting to or not liking the looks of things isn’t enough. You need a scientifically verified reason for saying “no.”
Our society — which doesn’t lead, but polls us to see what is popular, profitable and inoffensive — forms a paradise for both salesmen (consumerism) and socialists (parasites). In both cases, people irrelevant to your life want something from you.
Whether that is your time, your allegiance, your money or just your eyes, they’re taking something from you — your irreplaceable moments. That quiet dinner you were enjoying? Not for you; they have needs, you know. Your house? Your business? Your family? Not yours; theirs.
Understanding passive aggression helps us understand one great mystery of the modern time: how normal people get caught up in destructive waves, usually by not daring to oppose the passive-aggressives who manipulated them:
Communist Russia was comprised of Russians who just wanted to live in peace, yet the Russian Communists were responsible for the murder of about 20 million people. The peaceful majority were irrelevant. China’s huge population was peaceful as well, but Chinese Communists managed to kill a staggering 70 million people. The average Japanese individual prior to World War II was not a war-mongering sadist. Yet, Japan murdered and slaughtered its way across Southeast Asia in an orgy of killing that included the systematic murder of 12 million Chinese civilians – most killed by sword, shovel and bayonet. And who can forget Rwanda, which collapsed into butchery? Could it not be said that the majority of Rwandans were “peace loving”?
History lessons are often incredibly simple and blunt; yet, for all our powers of reason, we often miss the most basic and uncomplicated of points. Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by the fanatics. Peace-loving Muslims have been made irrelevant by their silence. – INN
We all get taken for a ride when we don’t stand up to people with insane, incomplete or impractical ideas. Yet in a society where each individual is an island, and any island can be offended and reject oversight by any other, ignorance spreads. Eventually ignorance is united in a movement for The Common Good of one kind or another, and then it’s off to the races.
One reason for this is that in a society of people who put their own interests first, being a victim is the only safe role:
The article, titled ‘To Escape Blame, Don’t be a Hero – be a Victim’, is published in the March issue of the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology.
The findings are based on three experiments conducted by Gray and Daniel Wegner, professor of psychology at Harvard University.
‘Our research suggests that morality is not like some kind of cosmic bank, where you can deposit good deeds and use them to offset future misdeeds,’ said Gray, who directs the Mind Perception and Morality Lab at the University of Maryland.
Gray suggests that the explanation for these findings is our tendency to divide the world up into moral agents – those who do good and evil – and moral patients – those who receive good or evil.
‘People ignore heroic pasts – or even count them against you – when assigning blame’
‘Psychologically, the perceived distance between a hero and a villain is quite small, whereas there’s a wide gap between a villain and a victim. – Daily Mail
The problem is that without people who are in charge, and keeping others in line through heroic and often unpopular actions, society rages out of control. It starts to follow what people want to be true, instead of what they know to be true or can estimate is more likely to be true. Inconvenient questions get ignored in favor of a gold rush toward what is popular and thus, rewarding.
A new study reveals how ecosystems crumble without the presence of top predators be keeping populations of key species from growing too large. It also provides a cautionary lesson to humans, who often remove top predators from the food chain, setting off an eventual collapse.
The top predators play their role by happily munching away at each channel’s top consumers, explained study leader Neil Rooney of the University of Guelph in Canada.
“Top predators are kind of like the regulators of the food web—they keep each energy channel in check,” Rooney told LiveScience. “The top predator goes back and forth between the channels like a game of Whac-a-Mole,” a popular arcade game in which constantly appearing
Constant predation of the top consumers prevents a population from growing larger than the system can support. – MSN
We can see this kind of passive aggressive behavior in the news quite a bit of late. Generally, it takes the form of individuals putting their interests before all other concerns (individualism) and then justifying their behavior with appeal to an external, socially-recognized good like “equality” or “fighting global warming.”
- Police have told residents to stop putting wire mesh on their garden shed windows – because they could be sued if a burglar is injured.
- Countries that cannot tell people “no” when they want entitlements or early retirement go bankrupt, hurting the world economy
- Government workers riot after losing the exclusive right to higher salaries and less efficiency through unions, sinking the state budget
- Leisure time is vitally important for your thinking, yet someone always wants you on the phone or in a meeting
Beyond politics, our tolerance for passive aggression threatens our ability to have a functional society. By concentrating power in the individual, and making the individual judge and jury as perceiver, we have created an inherently divisive society where we can undermine each other with catty social demands.
As we face an uncertain future, we will have to make hard choices. Choice A or Choice B, but not both, and not half of each since doing either one halfway would mean nothing got done. In this time, we’re going to see passive aggression finally put to the practicality test, something we’ve avoided with four centuries of industrial wealth and easy living.