Aggression doesn’t solve problems


I’m a bit worried about energy. There’s a karmic quality to what’s going on around us, and I want folks to think about it.

Conan, in his farewell off of NBC, said:

“All I ask of you, especially young people…is one thing. Please don’t be cynical. I hate cynicism — it’s my least favorite quality and it doesn’t lead anywhere. Nobody in life gets exactly what they thought they were going to get. But if you work really hard and you’re kind, amazing things will happen. I’m telling you, amazing things will happen.”

When my grandfather passed away, I clung to this. He was a quiet, unassuming, hardworking Chinese man brought up through some tough times. But he was never a cynic.

I think he had a lot of reasons to lose faith in people in the world around him. World War II, internment camps, segregation, great depression, Vietnam war… the list goes on. I believe we have pretty good lives compared to what he went through. Relatively, we have a lot of positives out there to write about.

So when it comes to net energy exchange, I don’t want to see what amounts to a few assholes trying to push people’s buttons and troll turn us into cynics. To live that way — to perpetuate that mindset — is counter-productive at best, self destructive at worst.

Because of karma, entropy, net energy, whatever — I personally don’t believe in aggression against aggression as a winning strategy. I find a lot of the language online to be rather aggressive, particularly toward competing viewpoints. This does everyone a disservice and drains energy from you, the other person, and people who reads this content.

And to what end? Do people become so drained that they quit? Is it about catharsis? Are people so shocked and awed at someone’s outrage that they change their mentality? When is the last time you yelled so loud that everyone just up and changed?


I think there are positive aspects to participation, and I agree with embracing what we feel and speaking up — but I don’t think the angry, rage-against-the-machine approach works for the disaffected. I liken this dichotomy to positive reinforcement vs. punishment.

The key there is it’s not either-or. You need both. In this give and take of energy I don’t believe you can have all the punitive language, the call-to-arms and outrage without the positives getting equal airtime. It’s totally out of balance.

Likewise, as people, I think the material and behavior we contribute to our communities needs balance. If all we’re doing is smacking down people who make mistakes and repeatedly punishing them, well, that has been proven to fail time and again in just about every facet of human society: drugs, prison, childhood development, racism, etc.

Pressure, positivity and time are what changes people. Things like learning, understanding, forgiveness, training and awareness. And not just in small doses – in large, consistent doses. I believe this. So did MLK:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

And here’s the thing: it sucks. People can be assholes; they don’t like to change and they cling to their beliefs. I have a lot of pity for any person who hinges their happiness on how well they can change the people around them.

But remember: not everyone is impossible. Not everyone is against you. Being a cynic is not going to move us ahead.

Codes of conduct, honor, etc. — they have their place and a balance in net energy is what they strive to achieve. A landslide of negativity and churn does not march us towards that vision — it sends us in the opposite direction towards something nobody wants to be a part of.

I’m walking the other way.

“Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.” – Mahatma Gandhi

9 thoughts on “Aggression doesn’t solve problems

  1. Well said! This is really hard work, but important work. I’ve worked with too many cynical people over the years. Life is too short for that mindset.

  2. Anonymous

    Such absolute earnestness as this post is what allows cults to thrive. A lack of cynicism and humour is what keeps people in them from finding a way out through the internet.

  3. Some people try way too hard to seek out the assholes around them, just to prove their premise that life sucks.

    If they spent the same effort surrounding themselves with allies that they spent seeking out enemies, they might actually have made a positive impact on the world (and themselves) rather than wearing themselves out on the friction.

  4. Anonymous

    “We must be allowed to insult each other” -Rowan Atkinson, 18 Oct 2012.

    He criticised the “new intolerance” as he called for Section 5 of the Public Order Act to be repealed, saying it was having a “chilling effect on free expression and free protest”.
    Mr Atkinson said: “The clear problem of the outlawing of insult is that too many things can be interpreted as such. Criticism, ridicule, sarcasm, merely stating an alternative point of view to the orthodoxy, can be interpreted as insult.”
    What constitutes “insulting” is not clear. It has resulted in a string of controversial arrests. They include a 16-year-old boy being held for peacefully holding a placard reading “Scientology is a dangerous cult”, a Christian preacher, and gay rights campaigners from the group Outrage! detained when they protested against Islamic fundamentalist group Hizb ut-Tahrir over its stance on gays, Jews and women.

    Former shadow home secretary David Davis joined the campaign, saying: “The simple truth is that in a free society, there is no right not to be offended. For centuries, freedom of speech has been a vital part of British life, and repealing this law will reinstate that right.”

  5. @Courageous Anonymous Poster – I don’t disagree with those sentiments. My point is that someone who implores aggression (which includes sarcasm, ridicule, aggressive criticism, dehumanization, insults) shouldn’t be naive enough to expect immediate positive reaction and progress from their opponents. They should expect the opposite.

    I’m not debating whether they should have the right to. In fact, I think it’s inevitable — especially on the internet — that aggression (and asshole behavior) will enter nearly every conversation whether we like it or not. What we do with it is up to us. For the record, I firmly believe these to be true:

    If we’re in favor of progress, we should fight with positivity and persistence. If we fight with more aggression and hate, things quickly deteriorate into a zero-sum game that doesn’t benefit the greater ecosystem surrounding that conversation because it drains everyone involved.

    I think you are misunderstanding my points and assuming I’m promoting censorship or dismissal of aggressively made points. Not the case — I’m stating that fighting it with more aggression is a losing tactic which typically results in temporary catharsis and short-lived, petty victories.

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