You Can't Beat People Up And Have Them Say "I Love You"

There has been for some time now, in certain circles, an attitude that "things have to get worse before they can get better" — that the average person is so sunk down in their indifference and apathy that they have to be confronted with a downright existential threat before they can be motivated to act.

Therefore — isn't logic a wonderful thing? — it's a net positive that things have become so appallingly bad, because it means fewer people are motivated to sit on the sidelines. If things were good, we'd be allowing all manner of horror to be slid right under the rug.

One of the terms that started to come into more general use after Trump got elected was the word performative — something done for the sake of showing others you're doing it. Performative cruelty as policy, as a way of seeming "tough" (when all you're doing is just inflicting useless pain), that sort of thing. It's bad enough to do it; it's worse in some ways to sit on the sidelines and hope for more of it, because maybe it'll motivate the one being afflicted to fight back.

Nowhere in my philosophy can I find a justification for any of this. The idea that people will only be moved to do something when they're in so much pain they can barely think is hideously out of touch with actual human behavior — or rather, it's representative of such a privileged and selfish slice of it that it's no wonder people are drawing all kinds of deluded ideas from it.

Every bad idea has the kernel of a good one somewhere in it. It's clear to me that the wretchedness we see all around us right now is not some sudden aberration; it's been there all along, biding its time, waiting for the moment to be right. We were only too happy to ignore it. In that sense, yes, it's a bad thing that the evils of our world were so easily ignored.

But the idea that the most effective counter for hidden evil is to force it to be everyone's problem — whether or not they can do anything about it to begin with — that sounds less like strategy and more like straight-up sadism.

Pain comes into our lives anyway, and everyone's pain is always and entirely their own, apart from anyone else's. We don't need a mandate for inflicting it in the guise of concern for our greater general development. In the words of Murray Roman, rest his soul: "You can't beat people up and have them say I love you."

Tags: these troubled times 

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This page contains a single entry by Serdar Yegulalp in the category Uncategorized / General, published on 2018/10/06 08:00.

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