The recent controversy surrounding Mr Matthew Farley’s published comments on Senator Griffith’s choice of hairstyle in Parliament, and the subsequent responses, are instructive for persons offering public comment.
Mr Farley had an opinion on the matter which he submitted for publication. Those who agreed with Mr Farley and those who disagreed also submitted their opinions for publication. However, what is instructive is the nature of many of the responses that were unsupportive of Mr Farley’s opinion.
On national radio, terms such as: foolish, ignorant, backward thinking and the like were used to describe Mr Farley. A sample of responses published in the national press follows.
“This article was not only shocking to read but indicated a mind preoccupied with superficialities and not with personal worth.” 2 March 2008
“It was a most frightening thing coming from a man who is an educator.” 15 Feb 2008
“Federal High School old boy Farley’s views on the hairstyle of new Senator Damien Griffith are frighteningly unenlightened for a shaper of young minds and I hope he does not pass on his style of argument to his students.” 16 Feb 2008
“He then tells us he understands neo-colonialism “in all its dimensions”. … Then, in the rest of the article, he proceeds to show us clearly that he indeed does not understand these things.” 16 Feb 2008
“The only leap here is Farley’s leap back into the unenlightened past. And now he gets downright ridiculous,” 16 Feb 2008
“It is a pity that in the 21st century a black man, and an educator at that, bears these thoughts about his own culture.” 16 Feb 2002
“However, sometimes in his zeal to ventilate his objections to social developments and cultural changes, the estimable principal breaches the canons of scientific and erudite argument, making us ordinary mortals wish he would check the relevant sources and legal authorities before unburdening himself of anachronistic and uninformed judgments.” 27 Feb 2008
What we have is a scathing criticism of the man rather than a critical review of his ideas. Even when someone actually attempted to criticize the idea, it seems that they still felt obligated to prefix or append the unnecessary insult.
Why do we respond this way? Why do we feel the need to insult and denigrate each other? I have determined three principal reasons by observing human behaviour.
The first reason is that it is a way to elevate ourselves. We can elevate ourselves through two ways. One is through personal and professional development. The other is not actual elevation, but relative elevation, and it can be achieved through pushing others down. The motive appears to be fame.
The second reason is that it gives others the opportunity to experience our misery; as the proverb goes – misery loves company. The motive appears to be selfishness.
The third reason is to discourage others from trying to accomplish their goals. The motive appears to be hate.
There are significant emotional, psychological, and spiritual consequences for practicing this behaviour, and the practitioner appears to inevitably realize a state of inconsolable bitterness. Once this state is reached, the only known remedy is for the person to be born again.
It is therefore important that persons desist from practicing this form of communication, and concentrate on educating their audience through encouraging a debate on the proffered opinion. Trying to embarrass another person into silence educates no one.