Scenes from a double life
I am a bad misanthrope since I don’t really hate people. Actually, I should say that I don’t like any random person, nor do I really wish ill will on people who consider me their enemy (apparently these people exist). I wish them well. When I encounter people either online or in real life, I am really hesitant to press the issue on anything, or to exacerbate differences. I figure that if I have someone’s attention, I might as well get the most out of it on my end. It is not an issue of having an “open mind,” my mind is always made up. I have to bite my tongue to really listen to people as I am someone who has the temptation to merely “wait to talk.” It is probably for the best that I tend to keep quiet in many social situations, that I don’t volunteer my opinions, or that I do not intentionally pick fights. If people aren’t going to agree with me, at least I hope that they present the best argument for their school of thought that they can muster so that my beliefs will come out stronger in the engagement. In this project, I have had to attack people, and I suppose I am sort of good at it. I have a zero tolerance policy for sanctimonious bullshit, which has been difficult for me since sanctimonious bullshit tends to be the weapon of choice of the enemy.
But no, I am not edgy. I hate black metal. I hate angry bombastic rhetoric. I don’t like anger for anger’s sake. Perhaps I am just that domesticated, or maybe I’m emotionally lazy. Perhaps this has something to do with principles. As in classical philosophy, I don’t consider evil to be a thing, but rather a privation of the good, or the disordered prioritizing of a lesser good over a greater good, or the clinging to the particular at the expense of the whole. You see, I actually like humanity. Yes, you read that right. I like humanity: goofy awkward guys and attractive young women, cooing babies and laughing children. I like to listen to the experiences of the old and the naive dreams of the young. Where I differ from the average person is that I don’t consider humanity as the highest good. And I believe that the existence of humanity as it is now is an affront to the common good of the cosmos.
I’ll put it to you this way: I may be tempted to choose the good of knocking someone’s teeth in for looking at me funny, but I will probably choose instead the good of walking away as this person may have a crew that would seek vengeance for the attack, or I might be thrown in prison for carrying out my impulse. I may be tempted by the allure of an attractive young woman, but I might choose the greater good of walking away and not having to deal with her jealous crazy boyfriend. Or I might really want a nice car, but I may choose instead the piece of mind of driving a clunker and no one stealing it, or of not having to pay out the nose to fix it if it breaks down, etc. In other words, homo sapiens aren’t evil. We can be clever, we can do amazing things, and we can be downright lovable at times. But we have made it so that our existence is dependent on narcissism, destruction, and an insatiable greed for our own well-being. The world simply cannot afford us. Some can protest that we can change, that we will get to a point where our addiction to our own power and glory will diminish and become “more sustainable”. That’s nice, but I don’t believe it. That’s the line of every junkie, and every junkie just says things so they can live another day to shoot up and get high. You’re an idiot if you fall for their lies more than once.
The things that I really like about being human and human beings in general cannot be systematized or codified into ideology. My children coming to greet me at the door after a hard day at work, a good meal with my family, a beautiful woman’s smile, a sunset over the lake, all of these are things people desire but they are used to justify a system of law and morality so that everyone gets the chance to enjoy them. If only things were that simple, but they aren’t. The task of the humanistic ethos is to instrumentalize the mystery of things into a code of behavior, using that which is pleasant to make people do that which is unpleasant. Ludwig Wittgenstein came close to what I am saying in the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus when he stated:
Not how the world is, is the mystical, but that it is.
Our civilization is obsessed with how the world should be. After all, we made our species into a seven billion strong mass by making the world conform to how we want it. Indeed, there are some very foolish people out there who seem to think that there can be no world if we don’t tell it how it should be! I know, how idiotic, but it seems that humanity has made that its modus operandi. In that sense, if I love mountains, rivers, bobcats, clear skies, and the dirt under my feet, I have a choice, even as a human: either those things or myself (and other humans). Either I love the whole that made humanity lovable even at the level that it is, or I love the narcissistic will to power that the human project has become. One does not even have to be a tree-hugger to appreciate that: the domestication of man tears up the inner psychological landscape of man himself. There is no middle road here, unfortunately. Again, think of the heroin addict who will always quit tomorrow, as long as he has his fix today. What better adjective could one come up with for the hyper-civilized than “addicted”?
Being a bad misanthrope, I have to state that I do not have the determination, the nerve, the guile nor the skill to attack human beings. So I probably won’t. But I do not wear this as a badge of honor, as if “keeping my hands clean” makes me morally or emotionally superior. The attack on the hyper-civilized is not a “moral” imperative”: such talk would be foolish. It is, however, ethically symmetrical and not problematic for me. If the world is the way it is, and one does not like it that way, attack is the logical next step. And seeing as the problem is too complex and people are too intertwined with each other to differentiate the good from the bad, these attacks might appear random. But the humanist ethos has dictated that every life is sacred, every individual is like a little god armed with capitalist productive value and the power of consumer choice. Therefore, an attack on any hyper-civilized is an attack on all, as the Quran says: it shall be as if he had killed all mankind…
Yet I will cling to those small things that get me through life, knowing full well that they are passing and come at the cost of general unpleasantness. This is the logic of the double life: that one enjoys the things that one abhors insofar as one appreciates what they are. You can love them, but you can’t get too attached to them, for they may turn on you some day, especially if anyone ever gets a glimpse of what you really think. I know that the human world only likes me for what I can do for it, and once I am “useless”, it wouldn’t care if I died in the gutter. The kernel of what is really important is still deep inside somewhere, at least I know it’s there. The kernel of the Unknowable that dates back to the eternity of eternities will still be here when I have long decayed: a mystical part of me that is happy that things are without having to worry about how they are. I try to find it everyday in the most unlikely places. Sometimes I’m lucky and I find it somewhere, but at the end of the day, I must let go with the hard but necessary thought: this is not it.