Bloody shovel

Don't call it a spade

Emotion

One of the things that strike when reading Chinese history is how everybody cries a lot. Not women; prime ministers, army generals, high officials are crying all the time. This is often used in historical shows to add dramatic flare.

When you ask people why is everybody crying, the answer tends to be “oh, they got emotional”. Emotion. What does that mean? It always struck me how this outbursts of emotion always happen when it’s convenient. See how all those Mandarins cry in front of the Emperor. Well that’s all they can do to express their will if the Emperor isn’t buying their arguments.

Think of a typical interaction. Emperor wants X, Mandarin doesn’t want X for whatever reason. Maybe he thinks it’s insane, and will bring disorder; or he think it will affect him personally and he doesn’t like that.

So:

Emperor: I want X.

Mandarin: X is not a wise idea your majesty.

E: Shut up, I want X.

M: But your majesty, Confucius said blablablablanonXblablabla

E: Fuck that, I want X.

M: I brought 20 famous ministers to say that X is bad.

E: OK I’m getting pissed now, X or else.

What do you do now? Well you can accept defeat. Or you can cry. Fall to the ground and cry your eyes out.

M: Your majesty!! For the sake of the Sages of old, of the rules of your ancestors!! Please!!!

Now the point of crying, or “emotion” in general, is that it’s an involuntary bodily reaction, which signals that the person is so affected that usual brain operation doesn’t work anymore. It’s a way of calling attention to an emergency. This is serious stuff your majesty. I’m crying, you see.

For some reason outbursts of emotion are taken as some expression of a better, truer self. The brain is the rational, self-interested, scheming part, so when emotion takes over that’s by definition your not scheming, self-less, godly heart speaking.

But that’s crap, of course. Emotion is done in the brain. So by definition it’s computation. Your brain takes some inputs, analyzes them, and makes some output to further some purpose of yours. Sometimes the output says: Your majesty, X is not a wise idea. Some others, your brain judges that your purposes are better served by falling to the ground and crying our eyes out, while squeaking like a girl. Surely Emperors known to be merciful to weak people were more likely have people cry, while Emperors known for hating crybabies and flaying them alive didn’t have many mandarins cry at them.

This works of course for all other sorts of emotion. Anger only happens when anger is advantageous. See how everybody today soon gets filled with righteous anger at people who dare oppose gaymarriage, while 10 years ago nobody did. Opponents of gaymarriage are weaker now than 10 years ago, so being angry at them is advantageous. You get more of what you reward.

Same with offense taking. Offense used to be what rich aristocrats took when their reputation was questioned. Daring to suggest that a rich merchant was a crook made him really really offended, the more offended the more accurate the accusations. Also mere contact with low status commoners could make a high status person livid with offense. Today, offense is what women and protected ethnic groups feel when a white man dares say anything about them. Microagressions are felt because they are profitable for the microagressed.

Different emotional reactions depend on their perceived potential results, and that depends on the power relations. If you’re weak, you’re better off crying. If you’re strong, you’re better off getting angry. It doesn’t mean you’re faking it. Simply that everything happens for a reason. That includes your anger, your sadness, your happiness, and everything else you feel, especially when you express it to others.

 

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14 responses to “Emotion

  1. Pingback: Emotion | Neoreactive

  2. EDR June 10, 2015 at 14:05

    Now ask yourself, why did nature make women cry more easily than men?

  3. Handle June 11, 2015 at 01:00

    There’s a new Disney Pixar movie coming out soon called Inside Out. The gimmick is that they show the both the conscious level of the characters, and then the subconscious level, which is composed of a bunch of independent component version of the main character that are flavored with each of the five principle (and primary colored) emotions – Joy, Sadness, Disgust, Anger, and Fear.

    It’s going to be very cute and I’m sure it’ll have tremendous production value.

    But, consistent with what you’ve written here, it would have been a lot better had they added a sixth character, “Advocate”, a lawyer representing the consciousness, and a seventh “master and commander” character in charge, who was an evil-genius, chess-playing, absolutely emotionless, cold-equation-solving ruthless strategic mastermind. The character could be a Gray Robot – Dr. Gray.

    Dr. Gray would look at every social situation and do the math. “My social rank is 2.4, but Charles (3.2) just made a statement that, if accepted by the audience, would lower it to 2.3. However, if I can push back and humiliate him and get him to back down in public, then his standing will fall to 2.9, while mine could stay the same, or even rise slightly. Will employment of any emotions work as a better alternative in this case? Calculating …. Joy 2.1, negative, Sadness, 2.2, negative, Disgust, 1.9, negative, Fear, 1.1, negative, Anger 2.6, Bingo!

    Send instructions to Limbic System Control, “Deploy Anger Right Away!”. Send instructions to Advocate, “Manufacture bullshit rationalization for why anger is ‘justified’ in this instance, to provide word-filler for the rage-offense temper tantrum.”

    Meanwhile, Dr. Gray has hypnotized all the other characters to believe there is no Dr. Gray, and that their expression is always genuine and ‘authentic’, while Advocate ends up believing his own bullshit.

  4. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse June 11, 2015 at 04:59

    I have noticed that most Chinese TV shows have lots of men crying and women going absolutely bat-shit crazy.

    Also, Chinese men seem to have more subcutaneous fat than Caucasian men.

    • spandrell June 11, 2015 at 05:05

      Obesity rates in white countries are 10x those of East Asia.

      Asians aren’t into muscular guys, even for hero characters, so they might look soft on average. But fat is not a real issue. These guys are impossibly thin.

  5. Alrenous June 12, 2015 at 14:39

    Which is why, in the pre-feminized aged, getting angry about an argument was a defeat condition. E.g. ad baculum. Sadly only trolls maintain this norm now, which is useless for moderately apparent reasons.

    There’s a post-rationality thing here too. Anger is a fact. Further, it’s not always unjustified or irrational as a response. While “I’m angry therefore I’m right,” is clearly fallacious, “X causes anger, which causes Y,” is both true and important.

  6. Pingback: This Week in Reaction (2015/06/14) | The Reactivity Place

  7. Crass.us (@crass_us) June 16, 2015 at 01:45

    University of California professors have been stepping into the role of shock jocks, blurting out the wildest-imaginable microaggressions: “Land of opportunity!” “Everyone can succeed… if they work hard enough!” But officials have put this lunacy to an end:
    http://www.crass.us/2015/06/funniest-microaggressions-of-the-week-america-is-the-land-of-opportunity-affirmative-action-is-racist/

    In a better world, microaggressions would be used deliberately and often — as a silly way of needling people.

  8. Pingback: Lightning Round – 2015/06/17 | Free Northerner

  9. Anonymous Coward June 19, 2015 at 05:51

    > Emotion is done in the brain. So by definition it’s computation.

    Your presupposition is not proven. It is not necessarily true that everything the brain does is computation.

  10. Pingback: The Biosemantics of Self-Representation: Part 2 | Darwinian Reactionary

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