There are people who know me well who will tell you that I can be the most cold-blooded person they’ve ever met. They’ve seen me work on, look at, or talk about things that cause most people to run screaming, have hysterics, get violently ill, or have nightmares. Yet it doesn’t seem to phase me in the slightest, if anything, I seem to be totally immune to it. In reality, I’m not “immune” by any means, but what I have developed over the years is the ability to detach my emotional reactions in various situations. It’s something doctors and others develop quite early on, it’s called “clinical detachment.” What you do is focus on what you’re seeing, what it means, and what you’re going to do about it, not on “OMG! That’s awful!”
15 years ago, there was a horrific animal abuse case. The investigator had taken a large number of pictures, and people sent money to help pay for developing the pictures and getting high-quality prints made for the prosecution. One of my friends received a copy of the prints, made high-resolution scans of them and sent them to me. As a part of my work, I had several image analysis programs, which I used to put the raw scans through a number of enhancements, bringing out details that weren’t obvious in the raw scans. These were used to help make the case to others as to just how bad this really was. Someone else who saw the pictures told me that they couldn’t believe that I’d been able to do that. They said they’d been physically ill just seeing the first one and had been unable to continue. As I told them, I wanted that abuser put away, and I wanted to make damn sure that no one had any doubts about what he’d done. Yes, I had an emotional reaction, but it wasn’t going to help. So I set aside my feelings, and focused on getting what was in those pictures clear, because that would help.
What does that have to do with anything? In the past I’ve taken a number of shots at various bloggers on the Left, the ones I call the frustrati. They get worked up easily about almost anything, and vent large amounts of prose about it. Yes, they’re upset, they’re having fits about something, and they’re screaming all over the Internet about it. I get it. But when it comes down to it, that’s all they do.
Many of us have been watching what has been happening in Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Florida. Far-right governors have been moving forward legislation that strips unions of collective bargaining rights, and implementing a set of policies which a solid majority of their constituents disagree with. Wisconsin in particular has been a battlefield for this, as the governor and legislature have used a number of shady tricks – including ignoring a court order – to get their way. All of which attracted the attention and ire of the frustrati and various members of the Professional Left. They’ve made appearances, they thundered on the media, they wrote lots of articles and blogs. It lasted about two weeks, before they found something else to be outraged about and moved on. In the meantime, the battle in Wisconsin goes on. Recall election petitions are still gathering signatures, a judicial election is being conducted, and court cases are being fought. The big protest marches have moved into the actual work of getting this changed. It’s not glamorous, it’s not showy, and it’s hard work, but the real activists are in it for the long haul. The frustrati and the Professional Left? Well, they had hysterics on cue. They’re the same as the person who got ill looking at the abuse case pictures. Yes, they have an emotional reaction, but it’s not helping.
I have emotions, like anyone else. I get angry, I get scared, I feel sorry for someone, feel grief, I can be disgusted or just outright horrified by something. I see things happening in this world and in the political arena that evoke all of those emotions at times. Then I take a deep breath, set that aside, focus, and decide what I’m going to do about it. I “detach” my emotions and engage my intellect. I start making plans, prioritizing, and getting awfully, terribly pragmatic at times. I’m more interested in getting something done, and I know that it’s going to be a long haul. Yes, I could join in the hysterics, but you know what? It’s counter-productive. I’d rather do something that helps. Cold-blooded of me, isn’t it?