One of the most palpable changes to the social climate during times of rising competitiveness, with its norm of me-first and dog-eat-dog, is how emotionally unrestrained people become. Each individual no longer feels like it's their duty to regulate their emotions in the presence of others, no matter how positive, negative, or neutral the feeling is.
Soooo stoked for the beginning of pumpkin spice latte season!!!!
Soooo depressed that Wendy's is discontinuing the Tuscan chicken on toasted ciabatta :((((
Fuck yeah, George Takei for the epic motherbitching win!
It's my opinion, douchenozzle, if you don't want to hear it then go somewhere else.
Older and higher-status people are no less on-edge emotionally than those who are younger and more status-insecure. Steve Jobs, John McCain, and their fans, and their haters.
In more accommodating times, the norm is reining-it-in. Don't work 100 hours a week out of ambition, if that work could have been divided into two 50-hour schedules and given someone else a job too. Don't get overly excited when you feel positive, since you'll look like a poor winner or like you're trying to lord it over those who are feeling only so-so. And when you're feeling down in the dumps, don't whine so loudly about that either, since excessive emotion may be drawing more attention to your problems than is necessary to help you out, leaving the problems of others unattended to. Thus does stoicism support a more egalitarian society.
The removal of emotional restraint was already under way in the '80s, when the strong silent type like Clint Eastwood had become replaced by high-energy loose cannons like Mel Gibson, Tom Cruise, and Bruce Willis. Eastwood was not only popular in the '60s (continuing on the popularity of Westerns back through the '50s), but into the early part of the '70s as Dirty Harry, another strong silent type. Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones was less unpredictable than other in-your-face heroes of the '80s, but he wails and grimaces in pain more than the Western stars of the Midcentury, and is more likely to unload on an enemy in a rage.
Consciously retro characters like the Fonze and Special Agent Dale Cooper derived their appeal in large part from harking back to a time when men kept it together emotionally.
The same changes can be seen in the prose styles of popular authors. During the Great Compression of roughly 1920 to 1970, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Kerouac, and Mailer all wrote in a terse style, and kept their works fairly short in length, to nip sentimentality in the bud. Contrast with the verbose, florid, and treacly prose that was more typical of the Victorians, as well as the self-indulgent 800-page novels of our neo-Dickensian era.
Also from the Victorian era were public intellectuals with such nicknames as "Darwin's Bulldog" (Huxley), who have only started to come back into fashion with New Atheist types and their immediate predecessors like Richard Dawkins. In fairness, The Selfish Gene was an early example before things got as heated as they are now, and he was fairly sympathetic to religious thinking and wrote in a milder tone. Still, I don't recall there being a Fisher's Bulldog or a Wright's Bulldog in the Midcentury, although in 1930 Fisher was somewhat his own bulldog when he wrote an inflammatory second half about eugenics in his book The Genetical Theory of Natural Selection.
Returning to an earlier post about the rise of road rage, what kinds of solutions do we hear for folks with an aggressive driving problem? "Anger management." As it turns out, that phrase appears in Google's digital library (Ngram) only in the 1970s, and rises steadily through the late 2000s. A quick check of the Wikipedia article for "anger management" shows that the academic literature on the topic shares this timeline.
Andy Griffith may have had to deal with the occasional hot-head picking a fight in a bar, but not everyday road rage, and he did not have to refer one offender after another to anger management programs.
But the clearest demonstration of the link between falling competitiveness and stoicism is the original, capital-letter Stoicism of the Roman Empire. As a practical philosophical school that led by example, it flourished from Seneca, to Epictetus, to Marcus Aurelius, which coincides with a long period, from emperors Augustus to Marcus Aurelius, of increasing stability within the Empire (particularly among the elites, who had been at war with one another not so long before).
Once internal competition began to rear its head again under the reign of Commodus, Stoicism went up in a puff of smoke. We can tell that this was due to a social-cultural shift, rather than the introduction of newer, weaker blood because Commodus received half of his genetic stock from the Stoic philosopher-emperor himself. Recall this earlier post, using Commodus as an example, about how bombastic and unrestrained the leaders become as society creeps toward civil war.
Increasing levels of rage, excitement, and so on, are symptoms of the underlying cause — the rise in competitiveness, and its accompanying norm of me-first. Don't make me contain my emotions, and I won't make you contain yours. We'll just have to see whose emotions are stronger than the other's. So, going to those anger management programs, or taking a DIY approach, probably won't do all that much long-term. We need to attack these problems at their root, which is the laissez-faire attitude and hyper-competitive behavior toward others.