Thursday, February 09, 2006

Gut Reactions

As I was pulling books for our holds list this morning I had a thought. It seems that every time I handle a romance novel I have this instinctive feeling of disdain. Analytically, I find nothing wrong with them. I think reading should be for entertainment as much as it is for learning. I preach that to parents, in fact, that they need to let their kids read for fun instead of teaching them to hate it as a task. I know people from all walks of life, many of whom I respect, enjoy romances. And I know many people have the same reaction to fantasy novels, which I will defend vehemently, as I do to romance novels. Logically I believe they have a place in our libraries. Despite all of that, I still get this gut reaction that they're stupid.

I've seen the same reaction in others when discussing homosexuality. It's unnatural, they say with their words, while their body language says it's disgusting. We can debate for hours the moral and ethical issues around it. I can even have them convinced that biblically it's virtually a non-issue, that even if they are going to stick to the idea it's a sin, it gets such miniscule mention in the bible compared to the other evils they should be addressing as Christians, yet I can still see that emotionally it upsets them more than anything else they can think of.

In fact, I've come to the conclusion that many of our deeply held values that drive our beliefs, politics, and lifestyle choices, that separate us into camps like liberal and conservative, are driven by those gut feelings. We may spend hours, weeks, years trying to develop our logic, analyzing our sentiments and articulating them, but I think all we're really doing is trying to justify the immediate sensation we get in our guts in response to the issues. All of the arguing doesn't really matter because our final conclusions are predetermined by that emotional signal. I don't know where those gut reactions come from, but I have to wonder if there's really any point in trying to change anyone's mind, or if the conservative political machine has the right idea in simply forcing their views into power instead of trying to win the opposition over.


Lummox said...

I actually like some romance in a story. I have yet to get through an entire romance novel, but I can see their appeal, even though I don't enjoy them fully. However, if I am reading a good mystery, I don't mind so much if it is heavy on the romance (see Janet Evanovich).

Gobula said...

How we respond to different things comes a lot from how we were raised. Most teens will have similar political views as their parents, but as we grow older our views may change. What we read, what we watched, and how we process this information all has a lot to do with our gut reactions.

Take this for example: Racism is not inherit, it is taught, and usually by parents. We don't come into this world as bigoted beings; we learn prejudice along the way.

I had a very interesting conversation with a very staunch republican over this kind of thing (homosexuality was among the topics). A direct quote from her: "I don't care about the facts, I only know what I believe."

I'd like to get into this line of talk more, but I'm short on time at the moment.

Degolar said...

I agree, Gobula, that these attitudes and emotional reactions are not something we are born with, but something that is learned in our earliest social conditioning. But it comes about at such an early age and comes from such a deep place within us that it doesn't feel like we have a choice in the matter or have concluded anything, it's just what we know; it's the way things are. I do believe it's possible for these instinctive reactions to change, but only through a deliberate effort or powerfully affecting experience. You can rarely "change someone's mind" about something like this, because a logical argument is not powerful enough.

Gobula said...

Exactly my point, sort of. Although I'm not sure everyone is like this. It's been my experience that some people have a more open mind and are willing to listen to the arguments of others. I think our society is increasingly moving away from the idea of logic and is getting more and more close-minded.

I don't like the idea that what we know is what we know and that's that. It makes humans sound like robots. I don't believe that our early social conditioning is that difficult to change, but it depends on the person’s environment later in life. If a racist is always surrounded by other racists he is not likely to change his mind.