Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Those Insignificant in Life

Kevin W. from Wisecracks and Wisdom provides this short little rant about the evasive mentality some people have in the medical care debate:

I'm on one hell of a ranting mood today—the point of no return has been passed. I am so sick of all these absurd ad-hominem accusations by those wanting to enslave the doctors of our country saying anyone who opposes their whim is racist, scared, It is mind-boggling to me that these people can't even fathom that someone could be opposed to them on principle (i.e. disagrees with the very premise of their argument—if you can even call it an "argument"). At this point, these people are either appallingly stupid (in which case it would be dangerous to keep them in power) or they are blatantly intellectually dishonest (a term which I would not even be allowed to use were I a Congressman). [Emphasis added.]

Though my intention today is not to comment on medical care; I have done that extensively over at my brother blog. Instead, I would rather comment on the type of mentality that Kevin points out, the mentality that cannot fathom other viewpoints than its own. Regretfully, I know and experience it all too well.

One of the difficulties in my present life, if you can even call it a difficulty now that I have done further thinking on it (more on that at the end), is that some people often disapprove of my unwillingness to associate with certain people, my reasons being ethical reasons. To cite a concrete example, there is one man (we'll call him Man X) who I will not deal with since he:

  1. Ruined his life by making bad choices, and holds other people responsible for it;

  2. lives his life moment to moment based on the range of his emotions;

  3. consistently brings injury upon himself and expects other people to take care of his ills;

  4. despises other people for their well-being and verbally abuses them if he deals with them enough, and

  5. evades any negative attribute of his character, and so is destined to stay frozen with his current self.

When I myself have dealt with this person, I have been yelled at for not considering his troubles above my own, or not bending to his whims in general; have had my property taken or used without permission, have experienced flash rages set off at random, and so on. It is obvious, given this character, that when dealing with this person I have nothing of value to gain, material or spiritual (especially spiritual). By removing this person's presence from my life I have made gargantuan leaps in health, both mentally and physically. Obviously, I shouldn't deal with this person. Obviously, it would be morally wrong for me to deal with this person since not only would I be giving up every advantage I gained by disassociating with this person, it would be unjust: I would not be treating this person as they should be and deserved to be treated (i.e. not at all). If I did deal with this person, not only would I lose by dealing with the person himself, I would have to deal with the emotional scar of labeling myself an immoral person.

You would think, after having been presented with an outstanding array of negative character traits, that to disassociate with this person would always be the obvious choice to all people, right? Nope! This is, in fact, the one decision I constantly get harangued for; harangued because the people disagreeing have the mentality that Kevin described above and refuse to practice justice.

The people who disagree with my decision present to me the following argument: I should associate with Man X since it would be right for me to associate with Man X. Why is it right? "Because it's right," they would say. How do they know it's right? "Because," they would essentially say. "Because" how? "Because." Their argument is a non-argument; it is merely an assertion of a held belief that was derived from feelings, feelings they know are valid "because they feel it." [Not actual quotes.]

When I argue against this viewpoint it always follows the same formula:

  1. Person A asserts that I should associate with Man X since it would be right for me to do so, and that I'll be the bigger person in the process and will better achieve happiness.

  2. I point out the negative characteristics of Man X, point out that I haven't gained much, if anything, by dealing with him in the past, and assert that morality is otherwise: that I am being the bigger person by not associating with him since I'm practicing the principle of justice, the principle of judging men according to how they act and treating them accordingly. If I wish to be happy, then this person must not be dealt with.

  3. Person A restates his conclusion unchanged and calls me stubborn for not adhering to it.

After a few sessions of this it dawned on me: these people aren't open to debate about basic principles; they but merely put on the facade of being open to argument, ignore the other person's explanation, and then express how their emotions are self-evidently the path to the truth. When I speak to these people they hardly ever address any one of my points; in fact, they often act as if I've never spoken at all. These are the people who cannot fathom any other viewpoint and so think someone is joking or not being serious if they say they hold differing ideals.

Furthermore, these particular people have proven themselves, by their own words, to be immoral evaders. Nearly every time I bring up Man X's negative characteristics they either explicitly tell me to evade them (which would be unjust and immoral), dance around the issue with a perceivable sense of guilt, or grow silent since it is impossible for them to refute or debate the points. (Though it does not silence them forever, for in a few weeks time they regain the courage to confront me with their same arguments, only to be silenced by the same objections or my refusal to deal with them.)

Dealing with this on a consistent basis I can see how Kevin W. could be put into an angry enough mood to want to rant. And for a time I did get very frustrated with having to deal with this, with no chance of convincing the other person otherwise (and their having no chance of convincing me either). Then, last week or so ago, I made the realization: How can I take these people seriously? Not only are these people trying to persuade me by means of their emotions, intimidation tactics, and enticements to mystical happiness (by dealing with a person to whom unhappiness is literally the only possibility, and who despises other people's happiness), their whole life is a testament that they know worst, as they have failed to achieve their own happiness (and yet think they can give me advice as to how I should pursue mine), regularly maintain or lose crumbling relationships, and so on. How can I take seriously the claim that their judgment is superior to mine when in action it is proven otherwise? How can I take seriously people who are impotent to deal with reality and therefore are not fit to live on this earth?

And the answer is: I shouldn't take these people seriously, and neither should anyone else. These people compose that which is the insignificant in life. The significant in life is the good and the pursuit of happiness, not the evil or the impotent. Except in contexts where it would harm your well-being, the bad should not even be given consideration.

Keeping this realization in my conscious memory has virtually erased all my frustration in dealing with people with this type of evasive mentality. It helps me fully feel the effect of the conclusion that these people are insignificant: that they do not matter in the long-run of life, that their judgments upon me do not matter, and that they have little to no power to hurt or stop me. When I deal with these people now I either feel mildly irritated, indifferent, or even amused. Having fully comprehended the extent of their willingness to evade, I simply try to cut off the conversation as soon as possible so that I can get back to living. Living requires that one not spin your tires in the mud.

From now on I'm going to shrug and let these people hold onto their beliefs. They are, after all, doomed to failure. Even though they may not believe in justice, reality will not fail to give them their share.

Monday, September 14, 2009

"Everything's Amazing; Nobody's Happy"

While it may not always be the best strategy in pursuing mental health, it can do some good once and a while to step back and look at what progress has been made, lest it be unappreciated.

From now on I'll be sure to take such notice. It's amazing how much easier life can be made by making such acknowledgements. Sometimes at work I get frustrated with the laborious nature of some of my job tasks, say taking a shovel to go do some digging. Then I think about what effort it took to invent the shovel, and what things would be like without it. The work doesn't bother me after that.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Platonists in the House?

The book I have been reading lately is The Ominous Parallels by Dr. Leonard Peikoff, and so far I have to say I'm intensely impressed. I should have picked it up sooner.

The premise of the book is that the ideological framework (or, the ideas) that gave rise to Nazi Germany is now present in American culture, and is, as a result, moving the country towards a totalitarian state. Dr. Peikoff sets out to prove his argument by citing the specific philosophic theories that were endorsed by the Nazis and showing how they necessarily translated into and served as the justification for the genocidal and economically destructive actions of the Nazi dictatorship.

I am only in the third chapter, but already I am enthusiastic enough to give it my recommendation. I wonder, however, if this book has answered this one question that has been bothering me for several months.

The question that has been on my mind for the past few months is how the politicians of our time can move forward with a course of action that is so massively unpopular when, as per the nature of a democracy (even though we are supposed to be a republic), they are supposed to yield to popular opinion. My original theory was that the size of government has increased to the point that the most despotic-minded politician has inculcated within himself a master-slave mindset and so acts accordingly by pursuing his own ends despite of the protests of his constituents. Reading TOP, however, makes me cast doubt on this.

One of Leonard Peikoff's explanations as to why the Nazis continued to pursue their goals with total disregard for the disasters that they were causing is that they held onto Plato's "Two Realities" worldview. Plato gave forth the theory that there are actually two realities: one reality in which everything is "perfect", and the other reality, the one we live in and perceive, is but an imperfect reflection of the perfect one. Everything we perceive, the trees, people, lands, and et cetera are all reflections of something that is totally different, literally unimaginable for humans, in the perfect dimension.

People in specific, according to Peikoff, are regarded in Plato's theory as multiple reflections of something that is only a single entity in the perfect dimension, so what may appear to you as multiple autonomous persons are really reflected cells of the "Entity" in the other dimension.

Also, Plato stated that knowledge of the perfect dimension is available to only a select few people (philosopher kings?) by some means of the sorts (of course emotions) and that they should have the right to rule over the masses that are ignorant of such knowledge, that only the select few are the "true voice" of the Entity in the other dimension.

In practice for the Nazis this means that they viewed the sacrifices of their own constituents as merely sacrificing a few "cells" and that they had to right to do so since they were the chosen ones with knowledge of the other world and were thus the true voice of the will of the Entity, despite the illusion that the cells were protesting against such actions. One could almost say they may have viewed the extermination of the Jewish as the removal of a cancerous tumor in the Entity.

This philosophical worldview, of course, is nonsensical and arbitrary. There is no evidence in reality that would give rise for the theory of there being two worlds. This originated as daydream and is to be dismissed as a daydream.

However, I wonder: Is the Two Realities worldview by Plato shared with our present politicians? Are there Platonists in the White House?