The universe computes. The solar system is a computer. The Earth is a computer. I am a computer. You are a computer.
Our great central databases are at Facebook and Google. Facebook Research is the locus of Psychology research on a scale hitherto unknown. The research is flawed, due to the nature of the data collection and a well documented phenomenon in the field of Anthropology which I shall call the missionary’s curse. Nonetheless, a powerful entity emerges in the field of Psychology. I wonder if one day it will give itself a personal name.
The genie will not go back in the bottle. Two billion wishers rub its lamp constantly, and it rubs them, and they rub back. This is the positive feedback of addiction. So let me use it to at least tell a story of a little consequence. One of those little myth books, in fact, that will have a life of its own while the breeze barely rustles the long grass that brushes the headstone of the mister man who originated it.
On the day a gofer with a handicap you might think barely worthy of the name hit towards a location well to the left of the fairway, a brown envelope came through the door of 28C. The gofer himself was well used to receiving envelopes, bursting with Nazi bullion or Middle Eastern promise, it was all the same to him, so of course the brown DWP variety were not of much concern to him, and in his mind this was as it should be, for he saw himself as a very deserving type, and indeed he could not help himself deserving and deserving and helping himself to another serving of what he rightfully deserved, and this was his handicap. Anyhow, this envelope was not for him and he wouldn’t have wanted it.
The story begins on Christmas Day, a cheerful time of goodwill and family when two brothers with severe mental health issues living in an overcrowded flat each had a good miserable sleep through the whole thing. One brother did at least get out to meet a friend for a little dinner and a couple of drinks before the year had given up entirely on its brief, blighted existence. This being some relief from the isolation, the brother had a few more drinks after the friend went home.
It was the tail end of summer. I was wearing my half and half black & white acid wash T-shirt and black jeans. Walking the city, I eventually found myself looking at the ornate filigree of the Palace of Westminster and the looming tower of St Stephen, and, in a state of content acceptance, I crossed the road for Parliament Square. Fundamentally, acceptance of the terror of the world requires acceptance of self. I knew myself, black and white, capable of great love and great harm, a human animal with drives that can be destructive and a strong moral sense that can heal, and so I had discovered an equanimity deeper than any I had known before. I located the centre point of the green and sat, back upright, legs crossed, hands resting on my thighs, palms upturned but half closed. Simply comfortable. I saw the crowds of people going to and fro on all sides, past the Abbey, past Parliament, past the Thames, between the cars on the black tarmac running North to South and disappearing in a shimmering haze to the West. I saw everything and everyone coming apart, turning to ash. This is inevitable. The people were burning. The buildings, burning. The statues and cars, burning. I felt compassion as the crowds rushed here and there and, at the same time, saw that there would be a lasting peace for all.
I cultivated these sensations until I fell into a quiet doze. My oblivion may have lasted seconds or many minutes. Whatever, I was refreshed when I awoke. I got up and walked towards the bridge. As I crossed, a passing oriental monk in dark orange robes and sandals acknowledged me with a smile.
I was aware that this equanimity would not last. It was a glimpse, gathered on a warm sunny day when some problems had been resolved and there were few demands on me. The sun would fade, winter would come, and my peace would be disrupted. This benign resignation lasted a couple of weeks. It was physically healthy, no doubt, but I do not miss it. The remote view is only one perspective, lacking in the passion and anger that drives desire for justice and social change. Physics cannot be conquered, but each state is just one thread from the past to the present, and this was no better than any other. Morally, it may even be unforgiveable. Did I see the violence of Cromwell, the cruelty of Christian ancestors, swords hacking flesh, bullets shattering bone, rivers carrying corpses, hospitals bombed, mass graves filled with the skulls of dissidents? I did not. My vision was no more complete than a newly bought colouring book. We have equations that describe, well enough, the evolution of the universe, and to trust in the holiness of my vision would be no less a folly than to mistake an equation for history, or even to love a flag.
The greatest advantage of this state of encompassing benevolent pity is perhaps that it allows greater charity towards the words and actions of others. Bear in mind, however, that I am starting from an illusory state. It is not Amor Fati, the embrace of each moment of one’s life. It is a detachment, an overview from almost nowhere. Furthermore, of how much use is it? The world is complex, not all actions are benign (and certainly not all actors) and charity can dull the reactions. Here then is the conundrum. The most charitable are just as blind as the meaner vessels of hate. The higher mind and the narrow mind intersect.
It is true that the world doesn’t have enough charity, in the sense of which I speak of it. Yet charity is also a luxury. If I will exercise charity it will be towards those who are in most need of it. The powerless. The blithe, polite, and comfortable who carelessly reinforce ‘the order of things’ in a world short on justice are not just. Power and its preservation are often unconscious.
The sadness I have is that they who require the most charitable interpretation of their actions are not always able to reciprocate, and – oppressed and fighting for rights and acceptance, in great want of charity towards myself – I do not have the resources to fight them too.
Interpreting with charity is not simply a matter of intention. This is another sense in which my visionary state was an illusion. Goodheartedness is meaningless without acuity. A simple example should suffice: If I were to say “I will be leaving the house in five to ten minutes but I will phone you from the train station.”, a socially perceptive interpretation might be that no assumptions should be made about which train I am getting until I call from the station. The second piece of information overrides the first, pointing to it as a form of polite reassurance, probably an underestimate. Especially if you already know that it generally takes a little longer for me to leave the house than I estimate. In that most polite (and deferent) of societies, that of Japan, to be told that you will have to wait ten minutes can be meaningless. They do not wish to tell you that you will have to wait longer. Of course, one should be careful to be neither too polite nor vague. The world is hard enough to navigate. Good intentions can thus backfire.
In an unjust world, who deserves charity? A Marxist might develop their thought along class lines, and there is something in this. Yet social class is a fine grained thing, in practice, and class alone is insufficient to encompass the nuances of the injustices of the world.
It is sadly often the case that certain people cannot negotiate through the minefield of social interactions. There are just too many mistakes, too much history, perhaps cultural differences, and not enough resources of charity between them. This is just one reason the people en masse fail to align their interests in bringing about revolutionary change.
I think I would wish to be mindful of my compassionate revelation, to accept my mistakes, to forgive everyone, even as there are some who must be overcome or diminished. We are frequently unjust to one another, but being the most charitable in our reaction is not always for the best if we do not have the advantage. If we have the advantage, then perhaps altruism demands the greatest charity in order to redress the balance. That rather depends on one’s ego not being dependent on having the advantage, and that is much rarer than almost everyone thinks.
Think of privilege as power. You have power, and the ethics of power are: give it away, let it flow.
Empowerment of course. One can easily think, when others have so much more or appear to have so much more, “I am weak.” A man who lost so much, through no fault but fate, might subliminally resist full acceptance of the fact that in some contexts fate favours him. Fate though, is not cruel, nor a person at all.
Privilege is the power to do with greater freedom. What a dull relationship where we only look for what we have in common. Who would grow? Vive la difference.
How conscious the clothes? Unzippable. Bait, eventually, gets boring, though. I’m honest about what I want and who I am, I think. You seem to be genuine. This all seems organic. But then the man said “Tits and Socialism” and the piece was created.
So much positive but how can I, erratic, know we are at least on the same page?
New brooms scrub where others might not be able to penetrate. We are/are not talking about stone, and so there will be soreness, rawness exposed. I find these days I face myself, male, what misogyny remains, and the changes seem to be for the better. There are, though, no guarantees.
The sociality of Homo Sapiens Sapiens can provoke a tension between the desires of the individual and the cohesion of the community. This is resolved by the love of the individual for others, a compassionate steering away from the normalising hisses of conformity, towards friends who allow the individual to express that “I”, those who love the individual for their humanity.
The individual expresses themselves artistically, through language, physically, as an integrated being who IS us, who then IS art, the bond between me and you, in nurturing social environments, amongst those who embrace diversity, understand the mind forged manacles, are brave enough to face the reality of an overarching social system which has relegated the individual to a consumer and product. Which is to say, radical Socialists are my friends.
Compassion for others in the context of late Capitalism is not stillness or meek acceptance of the normalising instinct. If my anger offends you, may it rouse you from slumber. If my fury intimidates you, understand my frustration at those who would exhort me to wear The Emperor’s New Chains.
Where I encroach on your physical space, please do not hesitate to rebuke me. Where I have abused your physical autonomy, call me to account. Never ever tell me: GET BACK IN YOUR BOX. Never force anyone into a box or advocate such tyranny. We have the technology and numbers to steer the aggressive away from violent encroachment. Exclusion must be a last resort and we must provide inclusive, nurturing, recovery-optimised spaces for those who have been most poisoned by a system which crushes diversity and repackages individuals as easily labelled commercial units. Few are unresponsive to love.
Fear of real history – the cohesive, evidence based stories that inform our destiny – is a weakness that must be challenged, and we must tear down the sickly conformity of nostalgia, a group delusion, wherever we encounter it. It would be inexcusable cruelty to let humans suck on the thin gruel of Soma where we live in such a villainous authoritarian state.
Change will come. As will I. With love and a little patience, I will cause you no harm. I come for you because you are the reality of my history and I come with love, a terrible love, that will turn us 180 degrees, where with bravery we face a giant. We cannot allow him to set the rules.
Warning. Contains trolls, misogyny, death threats, verbal abuse, spiders, Morrissey.
When I was a kid I watched a lot of B movies. One scene from one movie stuck in my mind.
“Why don’t you show yourselves?” is the challenge from a human.
A spider scuttles by. Instinctively, the human squashes it with his foot.
“Why did you kill that creature?” asks the disembodied voice of the alien.
They engage in a thoughtful dialogue about disgust and otherness. Hell is the other.
“You would find us just as strange. You would fear our form. That is why we remain hidden.”
There is a moral duty some may recognise. It is the duty to investigate, not to reject. To understand, not to revile. To take on our superficial instincts. It is a collective moral duty. The only punishment for failure falls upon the human race.
A socially inept 25 year old white male, effectively a recluse. I think it is uncontroversial to say that such a person requires help. What is his personality disorder? Is he on the autism spectrum?
The isolated 25 year old sends out vile abuse and death threats to a campaigning feminist and a female MP using the only power he has. He has the internet and he has his maleness.
The feminist campaigner suffers especially greatly. The pressure of the verbal abuse and threats she receives is traumatic.
The troll goes to jail. Socially inept, reclusive. What “friends” does he make?
He comes out of prison. He now feels he belongs, he has friends… those friends are neo-nazis. Are you surprised? Was it his duty to resist? Is it not our duty to make sure he wasn’t put there to begin with? Are we going to throw him back?
He is now 28. He sends out more vile abuse. Again to a female MP. He is arrested and many are glad.
I am not glad. No-one has been helped here. There is no efficiency in any respect in the process. All that happens is that the status quo is preserved. The materially powerful have their power reinforced. The whole thing not only perpetuates but drives inequality.
His name is John Nimmo. Who cares about this bug?
“White males have all the power”. A million times no. Some white males have most of the power. Being white and male are privileges, great social advantages, but it is only the superficial, the prejudiced, would think those traits outweigh the disadvantages of being a bug, squashable, an “example”, maladjusted, unloveable.
A young man from outside the golden gates of the Shining City stole a purse. His people refused to give him up.
“You want him so you can dispense your justice. We will be happy to give him to you when you return all that has been stolen from us.” said an Elder.
“Two wrongs don’t make a right.” said an angry man with a flushed face, wagging his finger.
“Two!” replied the Elder. He turned to look at the lands beyond the gates. “Can you return the dead to life?”
“Of course not!” said the angry man. “We are addressing your concerns.” His face relaxed. “You understand there is a lot of paperwork to be done.”
“When justice is understood, we all shall have it.” said the Elder, walking away.
We all know what happened next.
Does anyone know what justice is? It surely isn’t blame. Punishment based on individual responsibility for individual actions is injustice, denying history and science. Yet if we could untangle all the forces responsible for an action we would surely end up at the big bang.
Do we have a deep need for punitive reparative justice that cannot be unseated? Do we need lies about justice to live and if so is this sustainable in the future? Is it not an infinite injustice to deprive anyone of liberty? Can suffering be audited?
I desire to understand justice. I have witnessed the depths of depravity and communed with gods. I have thrown inhabited planets into stars. I have set loved ones on fire and marvelled at the beauty. Guilt has eaten away at my flesh.
I especially want to know because my ego was in that purse.