Wednesday, October 04, 2017

You Had One Job, Assoul

Man has one job. Or three, rather: know truth. Cultivate virtue, AKA do good. Create and love beauty (or at least refrain from making the culture even uglier).

Each of these is related, so it's really a one-in-three situation. The rightly ordered soul loves truth, wants to do good, and is repelled by ugliness. Or, truth is the virtue of the intellect, virtue the beauty of action, and beauty the truth of creativity.

Before we proceed any further, let me say that this is an off-the-cuff meditation on evil -- the sort of evil carried out in Las Vegas three days ago. My only promise is that it will be a completely inadequate exercise in futility.

Everyone wants to know "why" he did it. Usually we "know" why right away: he was an Islamist, or a Bernie Bro, or a cop-hater, or whatever. As if that is a sufficient explanation! We could say that Stephen Paddock did it because he wanted to kill a lot of people. Obviously.

But even if we eventually discover that he was motivated by an ideology or religion, that doesn't really answer the deeper question, which is, Why do people want to murder innocent people? How and why does this thought ever enter their minds? In no other species does this occur. If not a function of humanness, it is certainly a feature. Why is someone attracted to a murderous ideology to begin with?

Thinking about this yesterday, I was reminded of Freud's theory of the death instinct, which few people ever took seriously. Nevertheless, that doesn't mean the phenomena the theory tries to explain don't exist and aren't in need of explanation.

For example, I've had a number of leaks in my tires lately. Let's say I have a theory that my liberal neighbor is sneaking into my garage at night and pounding nails into them. Even if this theory doesn't pan out -- and I'm working on it -- that doesn't mean the leaks aren't real. Much less does it mean that I shouldn't sneak into his garage and flatten his tires for being such an irritating moonbat.

What exactly was Freud trying to explain with the theory? Let's find out! Prof. Wiki writes that "the death drive (German: Todestrieb) is the drive towards death and self-destruction":

The death drive opposes Eros, the tendency toward survival, propagation, sex, and other creative, life-producing drives. The death drive is sometimes referred to as "Thanatos" in post-Freudian thought, complementing "Eros"...

It's very much as if we exist in the crosscurrents of two arrows, one ascending upward into love and unity, the other downward toward the inanimate state. Instead of a one-way movement from the inanimate to the animate, it is more like a complementarity between the two: Freud "found it ultimately 'an urge in organic life to restore an earlier state of things' -- the inorganic state from which life originally emerged."

There are people who hate themselves -- who are self-defeating, intro-punitive, guilt-ridden, and prone to shame. Freud would say that this is the death instinct turned inward. Others turn it outward, AKA externalize it. And again, even if we reject the death instinct explanation, there is no doubt whatsoever that such people -- millions and billions of them -- engage in this defense mechanism.

This subject is very much tied in with the problem of aggression. Man is an aggressive animal, or at least potentially so. To back up a bit, all animals are either predator or prey. Wolves and sheep. Man is both, but this isn't the source of his flaw. One man -- our police, or military -- uses aggression to protect the sheep. Another uses it to slaughter them.

I'm sure you are aware of how many people -- especially liberals -- see aggression as the problem, as opposed to the uses to which it is put. Nuke imperial Japan to end World War 2? Good. Nuke Japan because you're a crazy and paranoid dictator? Not good. "Enhanced interrogation" because you're dealing with a known terrorist and are trying to save lives? Good. Torture people for the thrill of it? Death instinct. Or something.

So, yesterday I was wondering if there might be some way to update the death instinct.

By the way, I think there is something like this operating in certain types of addicts. A heroin addict such as Tom Petty or a barbiturate addict such as Kurt Cobain have very peculiar motivation, as if they want to return to the blissful oceanic oneness of the womb -- before there was all this duality, tension, asymmetry, and frustration. It is one surefire way to make the torture stop in the tortured soul. It's like a living death. Or, life without the hassle of being alive.

(I know the feeling well from my two post-colonoscopy experiences with fentanyl. Paradise is guarded, but there are ways to slip past the cherubim.)

Now I am reminded of Dracula, which I watched the other night. You know, the undead. Note that in order to maintain his undead status, he needs the living blood of victims. That is of course a myth, which is to say, entirely true. The left puts the bite on various victim groups, draining them of their living individuality in order to go on being as a viable political entity. Can you imagine a more vampirish woman than Hillary Clinton? I can, but we're running out of time.

Anyway, I pulled some of my old psychology books from the closet to see if I could find a way to update this thanatos business. Back in the day, one of my main influences was Ignacio Matte Blanco. He has this to say about the death instinct: the study of biology is embedded in standard, classical logic, but "there is some evidence of bi-logic also in biology." That is, in order to be, "life requires death, and in a way both are co-extensive."

To be or not to be is not the question. Rather, how to negotiate their complementarity. It's the difference between a living death and a life-in-death.

4 comments:

JP said...

"I wonder. Mental illness and evil are privations -- ultimately the substance of nothing, so to speak. I was thinking about this yesterday, in the context of Freud's widely rejected positing of a "death instinct." Just because his theory is wrong, that doesn't mean the phenomena don't exist. There is indeed something in man that loves darkness, death, and destruction. What is it?"

Well, to start with, it's kind of undertow. That at against which you strive. A resistance, perhaps. You have to strive against something.

If God is the non-local attractor, then God reflected through a dark mirror (mirror symmetry of some kind) would be a different kind of non-local attractor. The not-God of darkness, death, and destruction. That which those who love darkness, death and destruction desire to become through the spiritual descent including meditations on violence and slaughter. Its certainly reflected in the recent slaughter. Perhaps less than nothing?

Whatever it is, it's definitely there. It's malignant and it's causing all kinds of wrong.

Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe Petey is right that existence is the greatest sin, in that one is automatically distanced from God. I'll have to ask him next time he drops in.

JP said...

That is, in order to be, "life requires death, and in a way both are co-extensive."

Well, I suppose that life-death a really a sine wave.

That's pretty co-extensive.

However, life *is* for the living, not the undead.

julie said...

We could say that Stephen Paddock did it because he wanted to kill a lot of people. Obviously.

Amygdala guy has an interesting take on this kind of evil as a function of malignant narcissism:

"A character like this is doing this type of shooting for a specific reason. He wants to get back at somebody. Narcissists are notorious grievance accumulators. The grievances may be ridiculous – like he wasn’t asked for his opinions on subjects, and thus felt slighted, or some stupid thing. But he has a grievance. The shooting is to let everyone know they didn’t win – he did. That is also why they self terminate. a Police officer killing them is seen in their mind as a loss. Self-terminating is the final act of taking control and winning in the narcissist mind. They won, and you can’t do anything to them."

Not, of course, that this really answers the question of why.