Friday, November 10, 2017

Identification and Those We Admire: Sexual Assault/Harassment Edition

One of the most impactful influential books I have ever read is Donald Horowitz's Ethnic Groups in Conflict.  I didn't take any psychology in college to my everlasting regret, so what I have learned about psychology I have gotten from political scientists who borrow parts of it, such as Robert Jervis and cognitive psych.  Well, Horowitz taught me about social psychology, with the key dynamic here is how our self-esteem partly hinges on those we identify with.  As those people and groups do well, our self-esteem goes up and when they do poorly, our self esteem goes down.

Which is one reason, I guess, that people have a hard time when those they admire turn out to be awful human beings.  For me, this week, this is about Louis CK and Kevin Spacey.  I feel awful that these guys treated people so badly.  I had seen stuff over the years that indicated that both did stuff that was problematic, but I didn't want to face the reality because it would diminish not just my view of them but of myself, I think.   I think this is one reason why folks are reluctant to believe.  This, of course, is in addition to rape culture and everything else in our society. 

I think I feel kind of icky--grossed out, a bit queasy, and sad.  Not just because I have some empathy for those who had to deal with the sexual assaults and harassment committed by CK, Spacey, and all the rest, but because I feel bad about myself. 

On the other hand, that Roy Moore is a pedophilia probably elevates my self-esteem as Horowitz also taught me about the logic of invidious comparison.  That when the other group does poorly, I feel better by comparison.  So, the revelations about someone who was already thoroughly awful makes his whole group look bad (and the reactions of much of the GOP make the group look really bad), making my group feel good.  And, yeah, we don't want to hear about Bill Clinton because it will harsh our buzz about Moore and the GOP.  Unfortunately, these awful people are in all groups, parties, vocations, locations, etc.  So, the boosts to our self-esteem are likely to be temporary as we eventually realize that we (whatever the "we/us" is) have our own assholes who hurt people. 

Obviously, there is much more to these dynamics, but I do think that the logic of invidious comparison is at work here as well.  Anyhow, just overthinking the week's events as I remove the works of Kevin Spacey and Louis CK* from my Netflix lists of what to watch next.
* While Louis CK's apology was better than most, it was still forced by the events of the last few days even as he had ample opportunities over the years to come clean.  So, good but not good enough and way too damn late.

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