Culture of contempt corrodes us

Culture of contempt corrodes us, by Janet Albrechtsen.

In the US, one in six Americans have stopped talking to a family member or a close friend since the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump. …

Psychological researcher and relationship expert John … Gottman’s work with dysfunctional couples found that when relationships break down, anger is not the worst problem. Anger is a hot emotion; it means people still care.

Gottman found that a serious divide opens up when anger is mixed with disgust. That mix of anger and disgust turns a hot emotion into contempt.

And contempt is cold, it reeks of scorn, it says you don’t care about the other person, they are worthless. Contempt makes no room for compromise. It delivers a quick shot of superiority that feels good. And when we do something that feels good, our brain remembers it, creating a dopamine path, recording the pleasure. So we do it again and again, building a highway of recorded pleasure. This is how ­addictions take hold, delivering short bursts of feeling good, even if we know that what we are doing is bad for us.

Dealing with couples, Gottman found that one person will often react to a partner’s contempt with contempt, but they can still love each other. The problem is they have acquired a bad habit. Contempt makes reconciliation much harder. Not impossible, but harder, because of that cycle.

It’s the same in American politics, Brooks says. And sadly, it is the same in Australia.

Guilty of contempt. Keneally demanded that the Morrison government ban the former editor of Breitbart News London, Raheem Kassam, from entering Australia to attend CPAC because his views about Islam (Kassam is an ex-Muslim), his tweet about Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon and no doubt other comments, too, offend her sensibilities.

Keneally is evidence of that culture of contempt, a habit of, even an addiction to, showing contempt for others, believing that people with different views are so lacking in moral worth, they should not be heard. Sadly, she is far from alone.

From attempts by academics to censor historian Geoffrey Blainey in the 1980s, to bogus claims brought against Bill Leak for drawing a cartoon about family dysfunction in some indigenous communities, institutionalised contempt for free speech is evident across the modern left.

That culture of contempt set in when many moved away from classical liberal values to newly created so-called human rights premised on victimhood.

Contempt explains why Richard Di Natale imagines that he is so superior in his views that sections of Sky News — Andrew Bolt, Chris Kenny, etc — should be shut down on the grounds of hate speech, meaning speech the Greens leader hates.

Contempt for free speech has spread to people who should know better about a contest of ideas in an enlightened democracy. When Noel Pearson resorted to abusive language last weekend, accusing the Institute of Public Affairs of using “child soldiers” to delegitimise indigenous people’s role in national debates, that bullying is contempt for other views, and for other people, in his case young white conservative men. …

Suggestion on a better way:

One way to beat this culture of contempt is to obliterate our silos, says Brooks, by listening to different viewpoints. And to resist the contagion. Because contempt is contagious. People can get caught in an escalating cycle of treating others with contempt. And remember that you will never win an argument with someone by making people feel inferior, stupid or worthless. And just as contempt is contagious, so is compassion, he says. If you are around a compassionate person, a respectful person, you are more likely to show compassion, and respect. And if you, in turn, project these same qualities on to people, maybe they will become more compassionate, more respectful.

The aim is not to disagree less. The aim is to disagree better, because our democracy will wither unless both sides of politics beat this culture of contempt.

A leftist conceit is that they are the compassionate ones. Nonsense. They are the haters,  who refuse to engage with opponents but simply shut them down. “Shut up,” they explain.