Election Season: What Remains of Our Civility

I’m not generally a “think of the children” sort of guy, but I actually have been thinking of the effect they’re feeling from this election. It has brought out the absolute worst in almost everyone.

It has made reasonable people truly believe that anger is necessary to success. That to get what we want, we need to be ruthless in our speech, to tear down the opposition in every imaginable way.

When you do this, you cannot pretend that it is for betterment. No reasonable person believes that wrathful criticism is beneficial to persuasive discussion. You do it for gratification. To build up yourself, not to convince others.

I’ve seen some of my literary professors, who once discussed how workshop critique is only useful when the goal is to build and improve rather than shred, take up seething social arms against their opposition. I’ve seen them wield snark, cynicism, and shameless rhetoric to shake up their social circles–that is, provided their social circles aren’t comprised of obsequious praisers, back patters, and pretentious yes men.

I’ve seen friendships shatter, riots in the streets, and foreign leaders bolster arsenals in wait for the results of this election.

When you do this to someone else, you do it only for yourself. When you are cruel, and the blood boils, and it feels good to be angry, and you tear down someone else, it is because they will respond in kind and perpetually justify your continued pursuit of passionate release. It gives reason to continue doing wrong, because you can say it is only in defense.

We tell children when they’re young that they should strive to be kind, always. To be good in the face of insurmountable evils. Then, when they’re a little older, we tell them to be strong, to go to the defense of their friends and family. A little older still, and we tell them they have to fight for what they believe is right. Older still, we tell them that the world is unfair. As teenagers, they’re told that they have to deal with it. As young adults, they come to fight fire with fire. They learn cynicism as comedy. They learn snark as commentary. And then they fight, and they fight, and they fight, because now it doesn’t matter what the truth is, all that matters is that they’re strong of will and they fight for what they think is right because no matter who they are, what they think IS right.

And now here we are, fighting with all the weapons we’ve been handed over the years, and nothing to show for it but sound and fury and not a shred of evidence to any great truth.

We’re getting exactly what we deserve.

Who Do You Think You Are?

I find that I carry multiple and markedly variable ideologies depending on what religious framework I’m being asked to work within.

Many of you already know that I’m a Christian, if not a bit of an odd one, and that comes with a wealth of societal notions that are sometimes accurate and other times hilariously inadequate or outright false. I won’t get into the minutia of what I believe in this regard.

But I find that things are much simpler in the atheist framework. From thatperspective, I recognize that without my faith I’m a moral nihilist. It’s something I hate quite deeply, but it is also, from what I can gather, the most accurate method of thought given our position without ethereal leadership. I hate it, but that doesn’t make it untrue.

If it truly is only us, down here, evolved via half-truths of perception to aid in survival, then we’ve got no empirical right to tell anyone else what is and isn’t best for them. Right down to the individual.

But we’ll do it anyway because of an unjustifiable fear of death, obscurity, and cosmic bewilderment. We’re just wired to form excuses for our desires and points of view.

In short, as far as I can gather, a universe without a single, imperishable creator bearing a particular perspective on it’s creation, is a universe that humans will never observe or understand fully, because there is no definable limit to the information. No theory of everything that can’t be questioned with absurd, but no less possible, ideas. We’ll never achieve anything more than “good enough,” and that’s the best case we can make.

Functionally adequate is not the same thing as “true.”

More likely in this scenario, the universe is our sandbox and we play until we die. It would seem only our impetus drives us.

—-

Considering this, the grand irony comes in like a typhoon. I believe in God only because I want to. Because I’d rather not live in an atheist’s universe. I have no empirical reasoning for believing, only that it prevents humanity from devolving into the chaos that would result from absolute reason, should we ever fully embrace it.

Some might consider me monstrous, perhaps a bad person for being unable to hold moral standing without a God, but to them I would ask upon what have they established their own morality? And where does their authority on the matter come from? From the self? There are over seven billion selves in humanity, all with different moralities. Who gets to decide among the myriad idiosyncrasies which modular collection is the proper morality?

To them I ask, “Who do you think you are?”

A Clockwork Ouroboros

One of our major problems is that we perpetually believe we live in the time of most progressiveness, of most accuracy, of most truth.

We’ll never achieve that time, because it is a fiction. Too variably defined. Something divine would have to come down and end any question of accuracy, because we can’t, as so varying and eclectic a species, and being the only authority upon which to judge anything, pretend to offer an unquestionable definition of such sought after abstractions.

War comes when we pretend that we can. Because we are all wrong and we are all right and we all pretend this isn’t the case.

Argumentum Ad Populum

If philosophy were a required course, we’d all be in a lot of trouble. Too many people would be confronted with the relativity of their deeply held considerations on everything.

The ones that scare us the most are those who realize that all of our rights are people-given and based on nothing more than the popular consideration.

You can decide on what you want and what you don’t want, but at it’s logical conclusion, you still have to admit that it’s all fundamentally arbitrary.

It’s really just you against everyone else, bartering your beliefs so you aren’t terribly alone.

The Impetus of Progress

In the end, we do things because we are compelled to. Not from hate, love, anger, reason, scientific understanding, or faith.
 
We do things because we’re afraid not to. We do things because things must be done or all is for nothing, and if we stopped to really think about it, we might be overwhelmed by fear. It is in the doing that we don’t have to ask why it is being done.
 
We have too many answers to that question and no reason to believe any of them.
 
Humans are fueled by the impetus of progress and fall silent in it’s wake. We fear that we have no purpose and mock others for finding theirs in equally absurd ideologies.
 
We are all bastards by our intelligence and children by our idiocy. We say we know a thing not because we do, but because we fear the not knowing. Out of vanity more often than admitted, and born of our torturous ennui.
 
We are justifiers, excusers, enablers, lovers of conflict who say that it must be so if we are to rid the world of conflict. We think backward but refuse the past its lessons. We come by hypocrisy innately, and through stubbornness and vanity we refuse anything beyond ourselves.
 
It must be me, it must be us and no one else. We are not to be controlled, though we are slaves to our nature. Our bootstraps will wear thin and we will fall, chests puffed and proud that we disappeared on our own.
 
We didn’t need help to die.

For The Love of Rivalry

I think it is important to consider the possibility that you’ve abandoned the thankless obscurity of reason in favor of impassioned rivalry–that in your capitalistic search for truth, you’ve found only the gratification of having an enemy.

This sort of pursuit comes in with all the fury and excitement of a hurricane, and in its wake is left a trail of busted, hollow nothingness. There is little left but the specter of civility–afterimages and ghosts of a thing that was never there, fabricated by our need for relevance.

Enemies die, but the truth remains.

The Pale Blue Sentiment

When people post images of the pale blue dot Earth and talk about perspective and insignificance, it’s still a sentimental response to the sight.

It’s no more reasonable than sentimental response to a spider bite or a fight with a friend. A wealth of feeling does not make sentiment more or less reasonable. It’s all human perspective.

We are both enormous and minuscule. No connotations necessary. We are big and we are small. We can only pretend to decide how much we matter, whether it is a lot or very little.

The Naked Condition

Everyone has their “god.” The thing into which they absolutely must put their faith, logic be damned (or at the very least capped at a point), so that they don’t spiral into an existential crisis of nihilistic madness–the inevitable conclusion of truly coming to grips with the notion of purposelessness, if that be your destination.
 
For some people, it’s the self. For others it’s their property. For others it’s science. For others, still, it’s some semblance of immortality, be it through actual spiritual immortality, memorial immortality, or iconographic immortality.
 
The big fight is nothing but a bunch of people frightened that someone else’s “god” is better than theirs at keeping madness at bay. It boils down to validation.
 
Either I’m right or I’m crazy.
 
The real human condition is the debilitating fear of insanity. The loss of the self. The trivialization of the spirit.