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Monday, June 8, 2009

What's Wrong With the Country?

The population of our country is presently in a largely negative frame of mind. News, conversations, comments--all seek blame for what we have been told by government officials are "rough times." It seems that everyone has accepted the poor condition of our economy, the unpopular view of many of our foreign policies, and the fearful view of our corporate powers. The scapegoat list for causes of our fears is long. Scapegoating is a very effective, if temporary, means of achieving group solidarity when it cannot be achieved in a more constructive way. A turning inward, scapegoating is really a diversion of energy away from serving external purposes toward the specific goal of ruining a disliked co-worker's life. Of course, mobbing in the workplace is collective and used to crush the target as someone with no redeeming qualities. So, scapegoating and mobbing can go hand-in-hand. The mob seeks a scapegoat to blame. As we expend vital energy by building condemnation, we often find support for our negativity to bolster confidence in our judgment. Isn't it much easier to find fault in the people and systems that operate under tremendous pressure in complex operations than to openly state praise the good and go on record as true believers? After all, no one wants his so-called hero to eventually be found a liar or a cheat. Good works are seldom praised, and adequate, steady performance is hardly ever praised. What a boon this might be for productivity. When an angry mob finds the jugular, the scapegoat is often blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others. How often does this lust for punishment lead the mob away from the real cause of the perceived problem?
In fact, how often is the mob correct in punishing the associate? Is the person punished merely a fall guy or a betrayed confederate (one criminal, willingly or unwillingly, who is arrested and sacrificed, while the rest of the criminals go free)? Money problems, job loss, and political ills have helped create a general mood in our country of distrust and seething anger for anything foreign in nature. Solomon, Greenberg and Pyszczynski (1999) in their terror management theory proposed that "people have a need for self-preservation which is raised and frustrated by their awareness of the inevitability of their own death. To deal with their mortality, people adopt a cultural world view that imbues subjective reality with stability and permanence and provides standards of value against which judgments of self-esteem can be made." (Advances in Experimental Social Psychology). This validates their own cultural world view and causes prejudice against members "out of their group."
We seem to be easily swayed toward condemnation. We seek news of the Super Bowl rube who errs, the celebrity gone wild, the politician caught in faux pas. The view of critical judgment has gone beyond common expectancies of human frailty to super-examination of personal life. And, it really seems a shame that a tragedy like the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has to occur to stimulate many of us to find a common cause for good. I wish people could find it in their hearts to praise what is generously afforded them every day.
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