Intellectual Self Defence

Brains are delicate things…

Exasperation versus Contempt

Hmm, every so often I use this blog to propound distinctions (possibly hair-splitting ones) that might be the teensy-weensiest bit self-serving/self-exculpating.
A while back it was “arrogant is better than smug-discuss” – the former being ok because it was upfront and tried at least to point to evidence/falsifiability.

Now I’m back, from outerspace
, and I’m up to my old tricks. I want to say that there is a difference between exasperation and contempt. Exasperation speaks to being fed up with someone because their actions don’t meet their capabilities: you think they could, with help/a bit of a kick up the arse/the very sensible help listed in the last post by those-terrible-people-at-Rhizome-who-will-insist-on-pointing-out-that-shouting-at-people-is-not-hugely-effective-but-merely-selfishly-cathartic. With exasperation, there is hope.

Contempt comes when you decide that there is too wide a capability gap, or hunger-for-success gap, that the individual/group in question is never going to reach its theoretical potential, and/or that the individual/group doesn’t even care.

Exasperation diagnoses about a state of lacking-ness, on that is redeemable. Contempt speaks to a trait, beyond redemption. Exasperation can (from personal experience) curdle into contempt.
Contempt, according to psychologist John Gottman (whose work is profiled in both Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” and also Travis/Aronsons “Mistakes were made (but not by me)” is the absolute killer of relationships…

Both, of course, are positions of judgment (which some take to be a claim to moral superiority). But if we didn’t judge this world to be unjust, then we wouldn’t have the motivations to be activists. And we DON’T take everyone at face value who says they are trying to “help”. We decry ‘greenwash’ and ‘government bullshit’ when we see it. We aren’t opposed to judgment. We just don’t like people we want as our allies casting their beady eyes on us, and finding us wanting.

But how often are we judged as incompetents, dreamers, hippies, students, dropouts etc by wider society. Life is judgment.

I appear to have drifted slightly from the original topic of this post. But “stet”, eh?

One comment on “Exasperation versus Contempt

  1. Pingback: A Ramble on Negotiations with the Self « Horizons of Significance

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