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Sunday, May 28, 2006

Sick and Brutal

Philosophers have been gassing for millennia about the meaning, purpose, and design of both humanity and the universe. Unable to face the evidence that logic, morality, and culture are human-made creations, proclamations of divine will and fate have been posited to justify our perpetually disfunctional civilizations and near-constant slaughter. The most honest, albeit still extremely flawed, explanation of our self-destructive historical cycles rely on the Darwinian proposition of survival of the fittest, which includes the concept of thinning the herd to ensure continuation of the species. Revolution, genocide, civil war, and imperial conquest are the more obvious facets of this process of "Natural Selection," granting debate points to the Napoleanic and neoconservative argument that God loves a strong military.
Leaving aside for a moment the fact that this attitude is based on the dogma of limited resources and lowered expectations, there is a more subtle and civilized form of this territorial sadomasochism that is a dominant theme in the most affluent and self-indulgent societies. The petty and frivolous beauty and popularity contests that give rise to celebrity worship are the heart and soul of the democratic process. Intelligence, pragmatism, and benign intentions will never be common among our leaders, not because there are no strong leaders with these qualities but simply because such qualities are essentially egalitarian. While the fact that equality is forever doomed to be unpopular may seem paradoxical, this is only because the vast majority of people never reach (much less acknowledge) their full potential. If we did, we would all be gods and goddesses. As it is, hero worship is much easier.
The other side of this is a devout refusal to see beyond preconceived notions of the worth of anyone else. We all exist in a soft pink fog of hormonally and environmentally defined aesthetics that severely limits both individual as well as international relationships. Who doesn't prefer a pretty face to talent? Who sees beyond their own lust to other's need for affection? Who doesn't put their own pride ahead of grace and humility? Sure, everyone has their moments. Nonetheless, the sad fact is that we carry at the level of our collective unconscious the eternal myth that nice guys finish last. It is as much a part of us as the pretense to righteousness.

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