In the past few days we’ve had new opportunity to witness how easily emotional light switches can be triggered. Instead of the conventional image of the latter changing darkness to light and vice versa, there’s been ample illustration from a human perspective.
On the local scene in Ottawa, hockey zealotry has transformed disillusionment into renewed adoration for the erstwhile long-time captain of the Senators, as he made an effectively triumphant retirement announcement book-ended with a pre-game salute this past Thursday. Typically, much of the local media turned many a sycophantic phrase before and after the, primarily for diehards, emotional coronation. It’s worth noting that until very recently many fans were skeptical if not somewhat hostile to just sweeping away his acrimonious departure from the team in the summer of 2013 in favour of clearing off his pedestal.
To the south in the U.S. we’ve been witness to an understandable wave of discontent spill into the streets of major cities, calling out the treatment of minorities by what might be charitably termed overzealous members of law enforcement. The fact that the protests have bridged racial and age barriers is a testament to the far-reaching nature of social dissatisfaction. I have relatives living in the U.S. Given that Canadians live in the shadow of its economy and society, what happens there matters here.
One is reminded of Eric Hoffer’s sociological treatise of the 1950s, ‘The True Believer’, with respect to some of this context. Concerning the mentality of seeking change, he stated that people “… must have the feeling that by possession of some potent doctrine, infallible leader or some new technique they have access to a source of irresistible power… One of the most potent attractions of a mass movement is its offering of a substitute for individual hope. This attraction is particularly effective in a society imbued with the idea of progress”. Isn’t that what our countries are imbued with still?
The line between hero and villain has been historically, and continues to be, a fine one. Moreover, one person’s personification of pain is another’s paean to pleasure. Whether the embodiment is an individual in the limited arena of sports, or collective acts affecting much wider elements of a society, we continue to witness not only light switch style in transforming emotional reaction but also reinforcement of our vulnerability to being affected.
Our perception is our reality. Inevitably variables shift; like with the wind we variably feel the impact. When push comes to shove, especially if literally, many of us feel compelled to shine the light and take sides.