Posted by: Alephwyr | July 22, 2018

Towards the pseudo-formalization of a bad attitude Part 4/4

“All my life, I have lived with the feeling that I have been kept from my true place. If the expression “metaphysical exile” had no meaning, my existence alone would afford it one.” ― Emil M. Cioran, The Trouble with Being Born

Every possibility that could ever have motivated me or endeared human society to me has been incrementally taken away from me over the course of my life, for increasingly asinine reasons.  When I explain this to people, they respond poorly to it.  However, it seems to be a badge of disrepute that I wear very visibly regardless, since even when I make efforts to be cheerful and appropriate the end results are the same.

Cioran also said, “The more one has suffered, the less one demands. To protest is a sign one has traversed no hell.”  But to demand and to complain are two different things.  A protest seeks remedy.  In my youth I sought remedy, and so there was a time when I was quite indicted by this logic.  The evidence of my youthful and conceited exuberance litters the web and, most likely, the files of various government agencies, and doubtlessly left a bad taste in enough mouths to still linger in a few.  At this point, when I speak of my experiences, it is mostly to achieve two effects: to inform, in an absolute sense, in situations where the differences in information are generally so vast that they reflexively trigger responses that nullify any point of speaking at all, and to sadomasochistically revel in these responses for their own sake, as the (probably mutual) tarnishing of character they always are.

Like many with an activist mindset, I once thought I could document people’s impropriety and then present that documentation back to them as a voucher towards future good behavior.  This tendency is central to the ineffectual ressentiment of many a minority group today, whether it’s feminists lobbying mostly male dominated institutions or blacks lobbying mostly white institutions, rather than seeking solutions that are self-driven, autonomous, or community-driven.  Once I realized that this mentality was pathological, performative, and ineffectual, I stopped arguing and became very congenial.  Interestingly, this corresponded to my acquisition of a CCW.  Whether maturity in outlook drove me to arm myself, or whether a newfound cognizance of the realities of force drove me to maturity, I carried a gun for four years, which I would have happily used against anyone who infringed upon my personal sovereignty, whether private citizen, police officer, soldier, or politician.  Sadly, the onset of mental illness put these days behind me, and I once again exist at the mercy of others.

A more recent development in my outlook came when I recognized that I had no incentive to take offense at the extremism of others.  It was quite the epiphany.  I live in a liberal and constitutional democracy, a capitalist society.  These are the properties of the very best, most free and most just society ever to exist.  And yet I am being inexorably destroyed even by this, the very best of systems.  Once I realized this, it became unimportant whether other people were bigots, reactionaries, or fascists.  The very worst thing they could do to me is what is already being done to me.  If anything, these fine people would generally expedite a process which proceeds painfully slowly in a free society due to the fact it is unmanaged and incidental.

It’s certainly not that I haven’t looked for new things to care about.  I’ve never stopped searching for work, and while my reading and thinking have slowed in the face of homelessness, they haven’t stopped.  There are two issues at play: Firstly, I have nothing to do but dwell on these matters at present.  It doesn’t cost me anything to dwell on them, and if there ever was a cost to dwell on them, it’s been paid and cannot be refunded. Secondly, I am not the sort of person who can easily abandon meaningful truth, even if that truth is perfectly useless. Society wants me to counterfeit myself to participate in it, and even if I were willing, a lifetime lack of practice has made me non-competitive (and don’t believe I’ve never tried).

So what about spiritual remedy, the sanitization of suffering into socially palatable wisdom anchored in the experiences and expressions of ancient people, who were all agreeably miserable, both by subjective consensus and the mollifying property of being long dead?  There, the problem is not that too little resonates with me, but that too much does, and in ways which are too eclectic to serve much social use.  I am improved by the process, surely, but I am still left homeless and unemployed, dying a slow death.

“I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” – Ecclesiastes 9:11

I have been very grateful for this verse every time I have read it.  It is exceptional, a result of one of the few times in history someone managed to put the obvious in print without subsequently being censored or rebuked.  Given how many alleged Christians today are believers in the prosperity gospel, it also functions as a lovely muffler.

“Then said the LORD, Doest thou well to be angry?  So Jonah went out of the city, and sat on the east side of the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it in the shadow, till he might see what would become of the city.  And the LORD God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shadow over his head, to deliver him from his grief. So Jonah was exceeding glad of the gourd.  But God prepared a worm when the morning rose the next day, and it smote the gourd that it withered.  And it came to pass, when the sun did arise, that God prepared a vehement east wind; and the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, that he fainted, and wished in himself to die, and said, It is better for me to die than to live.  And God said to Jonah, Doest thou well to be angry for the gourd? And he said, I do well to be angry, even unto death.  Then said the LORD, Thou hast had pity on the gourd, for the which thou hast not laboured, neither madest it grow; which came up in a night, and perished in a night:  And should not I spare Nineveh, that great city, wherein are more than sixscore thousand persons that cannot discern between their right hand and their left hand; and also much cattle?”  – Jonah Chapter 4

Very little has ever calmed my sense of anger as effectively as this has.  People suck, but they are still people.  But as relatable as this is, this is yet more relatable:

“The more consciousness there is in such a sufferer who in despair wills to be himself, the more his despair intensifies and becomes demonic. It usually originates as follows. A self that in despair wills to be itself is pained in some distress or other that does not allow itself to be taken away from or separated from his concrete self. So now he makes precisely this torment the object of all his passion, and finally it becomes a demonic rage. By now, even if God in heaven and all the angels offered to help him out of it- no, he does not want that, now it is too late. Once he would gladly have given everything to be rid of this agony, but he was kept waiting; now it is too late, now he would rather rage against everything and be the wronged victim of the whole world and of all life, and it is of particular significance to him to make sure that he has his torment on hand and that no one takes it away from him- for then he would not be able to demonstrate and prove to himself that he is right. This eventually becomes such a fixation that for an extremely strange reason he is afraid of eternity, afraid that it will separate him from his, demonically understood, infinite superiority over other men, his justification, demonically understood, for being what he is.”  ― Søren Kierkegaard, The Sickness Unto Death

Yes, very much so.  I resemble that remark.  But what’s wrong with this?  If the distress does not allow itself to be taken away, it might as well become a mark of infinite superiority.  I will never be the person I was supposed to be.  You can nitpick the phrasing of this, but it’s irrelevant.  It’s factually true that I’ve lost almost every attribute or opportunity that might have once lead to anything that could be agreed upon as valuable in me, by almost any standard.  It’s factually true that this was mostly a consequence of the behavior of others.  That doesn’t mean these facts need to do anything besides exist, and there are good ways of sublimating them and bad ways of sublimating them.

A bad way:

Ease would recant

Vows made in pain, as violent and void.

For never can true reconcilement grow,

Where wounds of deadly hate have pierced so deep.

So farewell hope, and with hope farewell fear,

Farewell remorse; all good to me is lost.

Evil, be thou my good.      – Lucifer, Paradise Lost

A good way:

“The best revenge is to be unlike him who performed the injury.”― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations

In Christian thought, Lucifer’s sin was just as much about his rejection of God’s plan as it was about his betrayal.  It is the rejection of God’s plan that now most characterizes the concept of the sin of rebellion.  The Just World fallacy is buttressed by Christianity in this respect, whenever it maligns the character of someone who has been injured by life and lacks the common sense to stay quiet about it.  In Milton, Lucifer turns to evil precisely in order to be unlike God.  The intractable and essential perfection of God makes the only possible antipode the embodiment of all imperfection, so Lucifer is effectively forced into a tragic misapplication of stoic wisdom.  But an actual perfect God would never have allowed such a ridiculous collection of circumstances to arise in the first place.

To truly be in rebellion means to be most aware of God’s absence in God’s presence.  The deepest circle of hell, at the greatest remove from God, is the Kingdom of Heaven itself once the spirit of rebellion has been adopted.  People expect evil from those they injure.  Part of the reason this expectation is so strong is because they think of themselves as good.  Any rejection of them becomes a rejection of good, and thus a tendency towards evil.  But this is preposterous.  The idiot god Yaldabaoth walks among us, and when a person truly thinks they’re better than you it means they want to exceed you.  The antipode of a perfect God is a devil, but the antipode of a demiurge is God.  There’s a reason gnostic practice involves identification with the Godhead.

What about the value of forgiveness?  Forgiveness is a very interesting thing.  It’s inherently an egalitarian and humanizing concept.  People are regularly hurt by nature, yet with very rare exception nobody ever sees fit to forgive an earthquake or a flood.  Similarly for animals: Who says “I forgive you” to a dog that bites them or a cat that scratches them?  In my past, there were some people who hurt me very badly on the basis of incoherent logic and natural instinct.  But these were the sort of people who would hurt me very badly on the basis of incoherent logic and natural instinct.  The idea that these people could have enough culpability for their actions to make forgiveness a relevant concept is insane.

Other examples are harder, but my problems with forgiveness still remain more technical than moral.  Most people who think they want forgiveness really only want a relationship reset: they don’t want to feel like there is an imbalance in social exchanges, or a debt to be called in.  They often don’t even know what, specifically, they did wrong, and don’t feel the need to find out before asking for forgiveness.  There is not the sense of “I did wrong and I know it now, please don’t define me forever by that wrong.”  True forgiveness seems to me to be about resetting one’s judgement of character.  If a criminal breaks my legs, I may sue them, and as a consequence they may have to pay me damages for the rest of their life.  If they ask for forgiveness and mean they want to stop paying damages, that’s unreasonable.  If they ask for forgiveness and mean they want me to subsequently treat them equivalently to someone who did not break my legs, that’s unreasonable.  If they ask for forgiveness and mean they want to be accepted as a person first, and someone who committed a crime second, only that is reasonable: the recognition that a person’s future capacity for good behavior is independent of past behavior.  The willingness to accept subsequent virtuous action as demonstrative of virtue, rather than a kind of futile and empty activity that hemorrhages out of a person’s past.

Nobody can ever repay me for what was done to me, but that doesn’t mean I’m unwilling to forgive them.  But nobody ever asks for my forgiveness in these terms.  Consequently in my view there are a lot of people hemorrhaging virtue: how could it be otherwise?  What is being said by not asking for forgiveness but instead ignoring and impugning me is that a sense of license exists.  That sense of license might be rationalized in utilitarian terms, by all the otherwise virtuous action that people engage in, but it is still license.  This world is filled with people who think they have a right to hurt one group of people as long as they are helpful in other contexts, and this is unhealthy.  The modern Christian right is a great example.  In Utilitarian terms, they do a lot of good: they help the homeless.  They build houses, promote education and disperse medicine in undeveloped countries.  They donate large amounts to charity, and contribute substantially to the economy through work.  They also torture, kill, and disenfranchise LGBT youth.  They promote policy that fuels the aids epidemic in Africa.  They contribute to ecological disaster through global warming denial.

In Utilitarian terms, it might be exactly right that all of their good outweighs and thus justifies their evil.  But in human terms this is monstrous.  A pure Utilitarian also shouldn’t care whether I forgive these people or not.  Forgiveness is a social concept, not a utilitarian one.  What is going on here is basically just that I am being destroyed because I have insisted on properly keeping tabs on people’s dispositions towards virtue towards the human race.  I am part of the human race (even though I don’t really feel like it anymore), and so anyone who disregards my humanity has a leak in their character.  Since that leak goes out through me, I have a very real sense of these people’s lack of character.  They are doing a lot, but they aren’t accumulating much.  The world becomes a better place even as they fail to become better people (these are proven by this whole process to be independent things).  And again, in Utilitarian terms that doesn’t even mean their behavior shouldn’t be incentivized (oddly enough, these reflections prove to me that a Utilitarian utopia is possible in which no good people exist).  It just means you can’t get me to call them good people.  And pragmatically, of course, they remain dangerous to me.

I am sure I have my own blind spots.  I am not certain I am a good person.  I don’t think virtue is purely a matter of how we treat good people.  There was a time when I did think that, and it nearly led me to some very bad decisions.  I am glad to have put that behind me.

There is a type of game people play with me, when they find out what a terrible attitude I have.  It is a game of displacement, in which it suffices to find a single example such that:

  1. That person’s suffering appears worse than mine to the average person
  2. That person is either quieter or more successful than me.

It only needs to appear worse, it does not have to actually be worse.  This is because any investigation of the empirical weight of each harm is a prohibited move (it’s prohibited because, circularly, it’s taken as proof of my bad attitude).  The disjunction in 2 is very intentional: A successful social activist is as much a repudiation as a quiet sufferer.

This game has always struck me as a non-sequitur since it seems to me that individual cases of suffering are both independent events and non-zero sum.  The idea that a person wins anything from me by suffering more than me, better than me, seems ridiculous.  They may gain peace of mind, but that is through competition with themselves, and their peace of mind can’t possibly say or prove anything about me.  Nor would I deny that any of the truths I claim for myself apply to these other people.  This game is always played very performatively and in such a way that it never seems like the actual point is to convince me of anything.  I suspect it is a hold-over from the time in human history when surpluses were scarce or non-existent and the non-productive had to stiffly compete for these very scarce resources by appealing to the sensibilities of the productive.  Non-productive is non-productive, so the ultimate determination was whether a person’s attitude was conducive to group survival: The non-productive survive by demonstrating that they will always reciprocate, since universal reciprocation is a valuable enough trait that it’s worth supporting even if a person can’t reciprocate in practice and their expenses have to be born by the group.

I am not going to lie and say “actually, I’m a team player too”, because I have zero way of knowing that, let alone proving it.  But to me, truth is more important, so if I had to select between reciprocation and truth, I would choose truth.  I have no idea whether such trade-offs ever actually emerge, but I am sure being murdered as if they do.

I don’t even identify as human anymore.  That I identify as a dragon and the dragon is the Christian mascot of rebellion is a sort of bizarre lucky accident, and a credulous person might see in it a sort of confirmation of Jungian archetypes.  This wasn’t a consciously or deliberately chosen process, but neither is it the same sort of phenomenon as gender identity.  What happened is, I went insane in such a way that once that insanity collapsed into a lower energy state, I was left in my current stable form of lunacy.  That’s it.  Therianthropy to me is a kind of aesthetic disfigurement, in comparison to gender identity which is a natural property, or philosophical beliefs which are willfully adopted.  I have no incentive to hurt anyone.  I don’t aim to be inhuman.  I want to be better than human.  Right now, my only way of trying to do so appears to be to die well, according to my own standards, as society slowly deprives me of everything up to and including my life.  The standards that seem good to me don’t seem good to others.  Oh well.  That I might be able to get out of this trap by throwing away everything I believe and desperately training myself to meet social expectations may seem to weight against me, but I am convinced, for reasons I can’t explain well, that the truths I am fixated on are more valuable than anything I could at this point achieve even if I successfully bullshitted my way back into society.

One last non-sequitur, which doesn’t really belong in this blog post at all, but harkens back to the discussion about stochastic meme-emission and ex-post facto deductive reasoning in part 2 of this series:

GroupXY

Hiring practices rarely rely on purely objective metrics, instead counting on gut instinct to qualify and weight objective metrics: An employer starts with a set of objective facts, runs them through a set of heuristics, and comes to a hiring decision.  There are a few problems with this.  The tendency will just be to assess whether a potential hire looks like the average case or not, or the average case “of their type”.  Outliers get weeded out, even in terms like both ends of the intelligence spectrum.  A person who gives a stupid answer and a person who gives a brilliant answer an employer doesn’t understand, are both giving the employer an answer that fails to prove their qualifications.  An employer is less likely to have enough experience to assess outliers than to assess average people, regardless of what it is they are assessing.  Additionally, human beings are inherently irregularity recognizing, not irregularity analyzing.  Once a set of hiring practices that “work” have been determined, anything that hasn’t been accounted into that model will tend to lead to a non-hire, regardless of what the nature of the irregularity actually is.  People have a tendency to default to established rules of thumb or raw instinct when presented with irregularity, rather than to escalate to higher level analysis.  As a result, less thought is put into irregular cases, rather than more.  What this means in terms of people who don’t think, is that the given reasons for handling irregular cases a certain way will all be ex post facto rationalizations rather than actual motives, while only the average case analysis will consist of actual motives/deductive reasoning.  This is not because an employer is lying about their reasoning, they are just too stupid to realize their reasoning in these cases came after their decision rather than causing it.

animal

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Responses

  1. Some of your writing is resonating deeply. I find myself wanting to reach out, despite the bleak topic. To get to the point then – you mention finding yourself homeless and unemployed. Do you have a Paypal, a Patreon, something I can buy some meals for you and contribute to? (feel free to dm on Twitter for more privacy, or I can send you my email)

    These two thoughts resonated on my first read-through (there were more, but I’m skimming to find relevant points and to make this comment before I sleep):

    > since even when I make efforts to be cheerful and appropriate the end results are the same.

    > I once thought I could document people’s impropriety and then present that documentation back to them as a voucher towards future good behavior.

    This third and fourth seems ominously predictive, it resonates, and I can see myself ending up in a similar place.

    > Secondly, I am not the sort of person who can easily abandon meaningful truth, even if that truth is perfectly useless. Society wants me to counterfeit myself to participate in it, and even if I were willing, a lifetime lack of practice has made me non-competitive (and don’t believe I’ve never tried).

    > There is a type of game people play with me, when they find out what a terrible attitude I have


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