I am a confessed political junkie. I can’t wait to get home, greet my family and turn on msnbc and watch their evening line up of broadcasters. I am a fan of ‘Hardball’ with Chris Mathews, ‘Politics Nation” with Al Sharpton and the ‘The Ed Show with Ed Schultz. By nature we watch certain shows because based on who we are these broadcasts validate our social-political belief systems. However I have another side to this; periodically I also like to watch ‘Hannity’ with Sean Hannity on fox news.
In fact I am addicted to the warped sense of pleasure watching him and his guest freak out over the success of President Obama and the current strength of the Democratic Party. It’s a guilty pleasure and I ask myself what is fueling this addiction? Do I get off on watching someone who clearly has strong opposing views to mine and who is a rhetorically clever xenophobe? Do I like conflict? The answer I came up with is within my own self-esteem and self-development.
Let me explain it this way. I have no interest in being a guest on his show. However I have a fantasy of intellectually challenging and besting him with some good old fashion liberal logic on live TV. When I was younger and had low-self-esteem, I would do just about anything to prove myself. I would get into completely avoidable fights and participate in petty crime activities in which I knew better. Later when I went to college it was a different type of ‘I’ll prove to them’ attitude. I would have awkward social moments and usually handle it by getting into some form of conflict. The temporary feeling of satisfaction was that I had won or I was one up on some one. This was negative motivation from often times feeling like I lost or was one down in a situation. Through my education of self-esteem and the application of its principles, I live the tools that allow me to grow into being a better person.
In addition I learned that even though I understood where my conflict addiction emanates, paradoxically I am actually on the right path towards continued improvement. I learned that it is easy to take a defensive posture in a situation when one has confidence. However one of the most challenging steps towards true self-Improvement is to be empathic and look at the world through the eyes of the other person. We don’t have to agree but we can understand each other’s perspectives.
I understand why some conservative whites are upset with Barak Obama being the president of the United States. In America’s two hundred years comes the birth and belief of white skinned privilege. It was established by the elite founding fathers and strategically passed down to the poor whites. Consequently they were of less labor value than the African slave class. It was a mechanism to create white hegemony for the purpose of undermining any collaboration between poor whites and the slave class revolting against the elite. For some conservative whites Barak Obama represents a complete psychological disruption of white supremacy and its two hundred year legacy. For some poor whites, he is a lethal projectile into their already suffering self-esteem that constantly questions why they have not done better in their lives.
There are three theoretical reasons why we as humans may not like someone else:
1. Transference. When we don’t like someone it is usually because they remind us of something we don’t like about ourselves.
2. Imagined Conflict of Values. We perceive that someone is outside of our personal value system. Rather than practice empathy, it’s easier to reject them and place them in our mental dislike box.
3. Ignorance. When we first meet someone our brains rely on previously stored information from a mental data base that often consist of stereotypes. Again rather than being proactive by asking questions our brains take the easy route and comes to a conclusion about the person without any new information.
I learned this exercise from one of my self-help books. ‘Try to watch a television show or listen to a radio program you would not be caught dead listening to and be as objective as possible. This will increase your sense of empathy and awareness’ I guess with Hannity I was already ahead of the game.
Without me even knowing, watching Hannity on the side does help me evolve as a human being. It is interesting because when you strip away the socio-politics, religious beliefs, the different income levels and various resources, human beings are all the same. We are all trying to survive, have our basic needs met, procure a sense of security and pursue pleasure. From this angle I guess my addiction to ‘Hannity isn’t so bad after all.
© 2012, Ramone Smith. All rights reserved.