Tuesday, 24 January 2012


All of my post pubescent life life I've been conducting a personal crusade against unnecessary conflict. I can remember myself, sometime in primary school, returning all the time in my mind to the expression "superfluous conflict" (well, the less obscure Hebrew variant thereof). This crusade has expressed itself mainly, possibly entirely, in refraining myself from entering into unnecessary conflict, by the surefire way of never entering into any conflict under any circumstances.

As the years have gone by, I have grown more and more sensitive to and threatened by unexpressed disapproval, concurrently with its waning manifestations, and I've taken dramatic steps of self-assertion, some of them regularly, but they've all felt thoroughly superficial. I'm so afraid of becoming part of the aggression that overwhelms me so much all of the time, that I won't reconcile myself to its place in the social world under any circumstances.

People are idiots. That's a fairly antagonistic phrase I've repeated often in the recent (well, previous) posts. They are idiots because of the unnecessary antagonism they so often create, judging and proscribing and excluding what is not merely harmless, but often exactly what would make life sweeter, richer, and less achingly, depressingly stupid. This antagonism towards antagonism is not a contradiction. Only an idiot would suggest that, at least if he were to make it into a judgemental assertion instead of letting it stew long enough in his brain for him to notice he's being a self-satisfied dickhead entirely removed from reality.

Enter me. I can handle other people's aggressive promotion of people's right to be different. In fact I admire it,  relatively openly, even when this promotion is of themselves and when others deem them to be going over the line. But I think it remains a contradiction in my brain, or wherever this seemingly endless reserve of restlessness is located. Somehow, no context arises where it seems like it would be the right thing to do.

It's much easier for me to relate to the idea of it being a really shitty reality where people put others down just because an opportunity presents itself, and they don't have the self-discipline or inclination to stop themselves. I have my trouble getting my head, or I suppose my heart and soul, around the notion - accepted in principle - of it being a worthwhile life, or meaningful enterprise, defending your and other people's ability to deviate from stupid conventions, even when they're upheld by well meaning, fundamentally good people. I can't even make myself feel it as justified.

For at least a year I've been pumping myself up to reply "No, fuck YOU," but an opportunity somehow never seemed to present itself. And I'm sure it has tons of times. And even where nobody said anything, I would have refrained from expressing myself fully to avoid it. My day-to-day fantasy - the one I don't write about here with defiant pride, is of a life without antagonism. It occurs to me, that in a very crucial way, this is an aspiration to a life without meaning. A life of not bothering people as much as they bother me.

Conflict in unpleasant, and has a potential of finality attached to it. I don't actually know which of these is more significant in hindering its emergence. It would mean a real life and it would mean an end to the world of ponies and rainbows in which I live, at least in terms of the actual social interactions. It didn't use to be pleasant. Not apparently far enough in my past there was unequivocal hostility whenever I let my guard down.  At least some of this is bound to reproduce itself. And once I have actual memories to take with me of years in my life, they will be significant in defining who I am. It's like some strange kind of long holiday that needs to come to an end somehow.

Sometimes you need to respond in a way that is likely to ruin somebody's day. It's a novel thought. I'll see if I can manage to keep it rolling over in my head. It's probably purely a moralistic rationalisation anyway. Idiots have it coming. If they don't want the responsibility they can easily shut their stupid mouths.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Bullshit Artistry

In the great brown land of Down Under, they have the curious habit of dubbing anybody suspected of momentary disingenuousness a "bullshit artist". In the land of English-speaking internet and pop culture, and therefore presumably in the United States of wacky Republicans, there is a tongue-in-cheek tendency to inform people that they have "failed at life". It is my intention here to try and weave both these threads of contemporary philosophy together, so as to shed further light on the childish dichotomy from my previous post, which I am totally sticking by.

"Succeeding" in life is succeeding in bullshit. Were I to be reasonable about this, I'd define it not as a steaming pile of bovine manure, but as survival skills; a faculty for successful cooperation with human beings within the various projects - economic, social, spiritual - they undertake together. It is, however, a steaming pile of bovine manure.

I suspect this is why when I have trouble doing one I inevitably end up having trouble doing the other. When the mere thought of dealing with people's bullshit exhausts me, so does going to work, buying groceries, even cooking. Everything feels polluted by idiotically fucking arbitrary expectations and conventions, in a feeling that probably isn't justified but that I'm pretty sure wouldn't arise were I a farmer growing his own food and not needing to play games even for the simple stuff.

"Survival"  in our close-knit society always has an edge of competition to it - of hostility. This is where all this love and individualism business inescapably leads to a political attitude. As I once irritated a friend professing total political apathy by insisting - your desire to be left alone and not have any service to a grand ideology demanded of you, is a leftist sentiment. Social well-being can be sought after either through victory in the Darwinian conflict - reverberating through my brain at any rate as the "better bullshitting the other bullshitters" option - or through not treading on people, and demanding not to be trod on.

For the life of me I cannot begin to understand why anything else is ever considered necessary. I cannot believe that any inconveniences enabled by a looser leash on people would come anywhere near the suffering and blatant waste of life caused by the current asphyxiating bullshit-regime. Expectations and demands are okay. But it seems like common sense to stop before voicing them to make sure they're not completely fucking stupid.

But that's not how the system works. It needs the act of judging almost more than it needs its supposed protection. It gives people something to do. It makes them feel that their life isn't meaningless, that their emotions aren't confused. Rather than try and keep two contradictory thoughts in their brain for more than 3 seconds, they'll throw a cockfight, and give their religious devotion to the side they think will win, and denounce the other as more or less impure. Or ridiculous. Or "wrong".

Doing this (and avoiding it) well is demonstrating bullshit artistry. But, to paraphrase an important insight more generally, the trouble with the bullshit contest is, even if you win, you're still covered in shit.

Sometimes something or somebody is just different. That really shouldn't have to be a big deal.

Monday, 9 January 2012

The Love-Bullshit Spectrum

Rewatched the brilliant episode where Bart and Lisa are being rabidly set against each other by idiot sports fans in a hockey game, and they finally say fuck this shit, we're not playing, and go give each other a hug instead. A kind of defining moment for The Simpsons I think. Also pretty much a repetition of the episode where Bart and Todd are trying to impress their parents by their achievements in a mini-golf competition until suddenly they aren't, when Todd says "My knees are shaking, I got butterflies in my stomach, but, I guess this builds character," and Bart says "Who wants to build character? Let's quit."

But it's not a repetition, because the first time around, there was no hug, because Bart and Todd never did like each other that much in the first place. An essential corollary of dumping the bullshit is being more open to love. This fits in with this theory I have, about how people are depressed when they feel themselves so deeply sunk in bullshit they can't feel love any more.

Thing is, for some utterly insane reason, the world - that is, the idiotic sports fans, also ably emblemised in The Wrestler - prefer your bullshit to your love. The degree to which you immerse yourself in bullshit will determine the degree to which you'll become accepted by your surroundings. It's a compromise you have to make, one way or another.

The whole notion of Lisa Simpson is of someone rejected by their surroundings because they are too little full of shit. An integral part of finding meaning in life is putting yourself in that kind of conflict. An integral part of giving love is having it thrown back in your face, and being condemned for letting it lead you to fail other, stupider criteria. People do not appreciate you stepping out of the competition. Every move that you make outside it is subject to stricter scrutiny, to more aggressive commentary, to more enthusiastic potential derision.

Should you throw idiots a bullshit bone once in a while to keep them sedated? Probably. But that's all by way of buying yourself time. What do you invest time in? The only sensible investment, unavoidably, is of the kind that will send the sports fans jeering. As a wise, colour-blind prospective pilot once said: You do what you love, and fuck the rest. This "rest" isn't just judgement. It's judgemental people. They are aiming to drown your life in meaninglessness. Give them no more than you absolutely have to.