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Monthly Archives: April 2018

Thoughts in proper fragments after listening to the wisdom of Amy Tan.  §

Don’t try to make things more than they are.

We are specialists at this in our society. This is the story of marketing, of the anthropology that we embrace in the west, and the story of much of modern science—a kind of metaphysical striving for more, for the same kind fo achievement and accumulation that we seek in everything else.


© Aron Hsiao / 2018

That’s not to say that science is bad, necessarily, but that its purpose shouldn’t be the mere enlargement of things, if those things are to be meaningful for and useful to us in the end.

— § —

This is the very same impulse that led me by mistake to academics, and that I discovered that academics in turn made and makes.

I went in search of wisdom, but what I found was facility under the banner of Wisdom, on the mistaken theory that wisdom isn’t enough, and Wisdom is what we’re really after, and Wisdom can’t possibly be Wisdom if it is as small as wisdom.

But if you take wisdom and try to engineer it to skyscraper heights and nuclear powers, what you get is instrumentalism. Mere wisdom is not merely the small, but also the understanding that it is the small that is wisdom.

— § —

We are a culture and a species and a collective metaphysics that hungers for conclusions. Not just in the academy. Not just in commerce. Not just in religion.

We want to know how the story ends; how the argument ends. Not just to know, as it turns out—because we long ago discovered that this knowledge doesn’t readily present itself. The innovation of the Enlightenment was the realization that in this absence, which is all that being provides to us, we could construct the ending instead. Follow the threads, add the girders, tighten the bolts, erect the edifice.

If the universe won’t provide the conclusion, the end, the outcome, the fruition, the final, the tool, the affordance—then we will. And we did. And they are powerful things in the most immediate sense.

But they are so utterly, utterly temporary as to be meaningless in the bigger sense. As the power of the event shock wave approaches the infinie, its durability and thus ultimate reach throughout all that is, being inversely correlated, approaches the infinitesimal.

— § —

What’s missing in everything—everything we do, from parenting to academics to cooking to vacations—is the observing. The conclusion is never profound. The result is never profound. The outcome is never profound.

The numinous cannot be found in Wisdom, but rather only in wisdom.

And wisdom can only be found in observation. In the endless geographies of being, which stretch as they do over so many axes—time, space, memory, feeling, mind, God, color, breath, thought—the observation is infinitely more powerful, more profound, and more wise than the conclusion.

— § —

To succeed, we can rely on any number of Enlightenment technologies.

To meaningfully be is to dwell in mere observation of the small and the actual and to consciously refrain from going any further than that.

Belonging is a subtle joy that is not to be underestimated.  §

Humans need one and only one thing to function successfully: belonging.


Public domain

Note that it’s not enough to find one group or another who’s willing to “take you in” as a member; it only works if you belong in every sense of the word—that is to say, if there is some measure of similarity in values, habits of thought, levels of capability, etc. Belonging generates and supports identity, but it is also enabled and constrained only by identity.

It’s also not enough to “belong” in atomic ways—to belong to one person here and one person there, in a fragmented social miasma that doesn’t rise to the level of a group or a network. A social aggregate can’t sustain belonging, only a social body can. Belonging, in other words, must be more than a matter of location; it must be justified, intelligible, called for in some sense.

To someone like myself that is struggled for a lifetime to find belonging—not for want of trying or for lack of social interaction and people around me—it is edifying and comforting to see my children find it. It makes me want to issue a warning to parents: all the achievement in the world, all the love in the world, cannot make up for a sense of belonging. If your child finds it, do nothing to upset it. It is the primary, and perhaps only, determinant of success and happiness in life.

When a child is able to say, “I am one of them and they are those like—and for—me,” the negative effects that accrue from all the rest of existence and its suffering are rendered largely moot.

And as for me… Forty-two years and countless people and places in, the quest continues.

The struggle to make peace with life.  §

Sometimes it seems as if everything is dark and everything is suffering, and as though no matter how hard you try, you cannot do things right or well or without harm.


© Aron Hsiao / 2004

I don’t know what to do with that feeling.

Even worse, a lot of people seem to think that they know how to do things right and well and without harm. I don’t believe them. Nothing in my 42 years has come close to convincing me that there are any paths that don’t lead to injustice and sadness.

It seems to me that all paths lead to injustice and sadness, and that anyone that thinks they can find one that doesn’t… is likely on one of the most direct paths to causing it.

— § —

I have been living with a sense of permanent catastrophe for many years now. This is how people become “tired.”

Something wicked this way comes.  §

Alfie, speech control, and the subversion of democratic outcomes in Europe; compelled speech, compelled action, and the statutory concentration of wealth and control in North America.


© Magnus Manske / CC-2.0

The plebes are far more aware of the tendencies of the elite than are the elites themselves, who are blinded by the very high moral regard in which they hold themselves.

Trump and Brexit were forces of reaction, yes. But the reaction is reaction against a new kind of oppression that lies somewhere in the center of the Venn Diagram on which is plotted totalitarianism, autocracy, and oligarchy.

If no one is willing to concede—and at this point, everyone gives every impression of being determined to hold fast, then faster—then catastrophic things and a new chapter in the history of suffering are on the horizon. The only question is just how distant the horizon remains at the moment.

I think both sides overestimate how long it will take us to travel there.

The incoherence of the cultural moment, especially on the left.  §

Just stumbled across this article from Commentary again, and was floored by it again:


© Gage Skidmore / 2016

“Hillary was running as a woman at precisely the cultural moment when gender had become a highly fluid concept. College kids (the majority of whom are now female) reject ‘gender binaries’ like male and female; transgender activists successfully argue for gender-neutral bathrooms and locker rooms; men become women and vice versa; and the Cover Girl company recently featured a male model in a full face of makeup to hawk its wares. As liberal culture is constantly reminding us, it’s a post-feminist, gender-fluid world, right? So who cares if a woman is in the Oval Office?”

I’d forgotten after reading countless other post-morta about this insight that really serves to illuminate what happened to college-educated white Women, who are both amongst the most “woke” in the country and also amongst the most maligned for their supposed treachery. Role strain a-go-go; to be “woke” in this country is to be pulled in a thousand different directions at once. Yet to have a strong, coherent opinion on anything at all is to be either an ideologue or a reactionary. The cultural injunction on all sides is to refuse to be “for” anything, as preference implies discrimination in the literal sense, and discrimination is bad. Yet to act without preference as a matter of pure contingency, lacking articulated principles, in all cases, is also the very definition of reaction.

All things are bad; therefore, embrace nothing; however, to refuse to embrace anything is equally bad—it is seen as the most self-serving member of the set of “all things.”

It’s so emblematic of where we are as a nation, left and right—the contradictions in both are undermining our ability as members of society to function in an integrated way; it’s no wonder that in the aggregate we are also not integrated.

The tragedy of natural selection is catching up to us.  §

In some traditions, despair is a sin, so I’ve been trying to figure out where mine comes from.

A great deal of it, of course, comes from my own circumstances, but these are themselves metonymous to me of the larger circumstances of humanity in some ways—of the stench of fait accomplis everywhere around us.

My own circumstances don’t really warrant much of a discussion and everyone who knows me well knows them anyway. Meanwhile, talking about the larger circumstances of humanity is largely beyond me these days; my communicative faculties and thinking faculties have left me as I age and fall away in time and distance from pursuits that actually required sustained and nuanced thinking of any kind.

But I do want to complain, to lament, for just a bit.

— § —

As a matter of historical contingency, the greater part of the world and its population is and are today riven into two distinct tendencies. If we anthropomorphize each of these, they are both hopelessly naive and have been captured by a kind of weak-kneed denial in the face of the human condition. Probably both have been softened by the advances that humanity made since the Enlightenment, and as a result, neither is capable of setting jaw and pulling triggers, either at the level of consciousness or at the level of action.


Public domain

There are not enough battle scars on faces; there is not enough real trauma in the history to grant perspective about what amounts to endless stores of pettiness.

Both sides are working as hard as they can to destroy humanity, quite literally—to wipe us from the face of the earth in the space of just a generation or two. I won’t bother to go into all of the mechanisms by which this can occur—climate change, nuclear proliferation, superpathogens, etc. And I won’t bother to stand against the accusation that I’m Chicken Little and the sky is falling, same as it always was, same as people “like me” always were, etc.

I’ll just get on with it by saying that on one side, an infantile, sentimentalist tendency mistakes “nurturing” for “survival” and essentializes everything about humanity, our ecosystem, and the geosystem in precisely backward ways. They see dignitity and the importance of the inividual where none exists. They mistake the natural for the social and the social for the natural, at every level and scale and in every nuance, seeking to rectify through tears and indignation that which can only be rectified instrumentally and through instrumentality that which can only be rectified with empathy. These are the left, and they will cry maudlin tears that no-one hears as the forces of physics cop to their demands and destroys us.

The other side misconstrues anthropology and greatly misunderstands the scale, importance, and survival prospects of the lone individual. They see power and the efficacy of the individual where none exists. They mistake the individual for the collective and the collective for the individual, at every level and scale and in every nuance, seeking to rectify through lone initiative that which can only be rectified collectively and through social action that which can only be rectified through the personal vision-quest. These are the right, and having called the out a bold challenge to the forces of physics, they will stand proudly armed with their little pistol and shoot at the forces of unleashed armageddon with a box full of small game ammo.

— § —

In short, humanity is not meant to survive, nor is it likely capable of surviving, not just in the long term, but—in would increasingly seem—in the short term, and not only is there no way around this, but in fact, the silly little individuals of this species will stand around squabbling like rats in a cage as the laboratory burns down.

What is needed most right now is probably a totalitarian regime of incredible technocratic efficiency to save us. This as opposed to the totalitarian regime of incredible emotional catharsis that appears to be making a play to come to fruition in the general collective right now.

The last great hope is probably China. But given human nature, the flaws of the Chinese regime, and the state of things already, China is probably about as far away from being able to lead us to survival as the average bourgeois spinning class attendee is from being able to design a nuclear reactor.

We suck. And rather than doing anything about it, we are either clawing for “luxury goods” of dubious value or histrionically trying to cry our way to the negation of masculinity, somehow imagining that thermodynamics cares and that this will save us.

Abrahamic theism and ancestor worship have been replaced by a worship of our own weak productive apparatus (Right) or our own cognitive epiphenomena (Left), but misplaced religion is misplaced religion all the same, and the new ones are likely even less functional than the old ones.

— § —

In short… Social justice is stupid. Economics is stupid. Feminism is stupid. Belief in the power of markets is stupid. “Consciousness” in the political sense is stupid. Classical liberalism is stupid. “Freedom” is stupid. Virtually every value embraced on either side of the political aisle across the bulk of the world right now is… stupid.

Whichever side wins, we are fucked, because every value system on offer right now is stupid and fails to confront the realities of the natural world as they actually are, mainly because we’ve become too comfortable to be willing to—or capable of—looking death, collective or individual, in the face and making the hard choices that it compels us to make.

— § —

Everyone will be shocked when they finally realize that the 1950s immediately prior to the clarity of the spirit of nuclear catastrophe probably is and was as good as it gets, or will ever get, for humanity before its destruction.

As the saying goes, you don’t appreciate what you’ve got until it’s gone, and (given my previous statement about the metonymous relationship between my life and the life of the species as I experience it right now), I am feeling this quote at multiple levels of scale and analysis.

And the despair causes me, beset by all of the same weaknesses as everyone else, to want to just throw my hands up, concede, and drink myself into a stupor at the party.

— § —

The signs are all around us. We are heading into dark, dark times. Everyone will insist that they are not responsible; it is their opposition who is responsible.

Everyone is responsible. Everyone is wrong.

Sometimes springtime brings flowers; other times, it brings the flood.  §

It’s not easy to write tonight, and yet at the same time I am compelled to do so. It’s a cry on the wind. It’s a verse written in the sand on a beach left behind. It’s a note to oneself, packed away and likely to be discovered only decades later by one’s heirs, as they sort through one’s things.

— § —

Spring is here and I should be relieved. It’s been a long winter. Of illness for the kids and of snow and cold at inopportune times and of changes that haven’t been welcome. Last year I felt optimistic about springtime, about the return of new growth and the opening up of the world under the resurgent sun.


© Aron Hsiao / 2015

I do not feel that way this year.

Permeating everything is a sense of decay, a sense of melancholy, a sense of the passage of time. If I let myself slip just a little, I might even say that permeating everything is a sense of foreboding—the sense that the die has been cast, that it was cast long ago, that circumstances now have a logic of their own that must play out, that destiny will in fact soon arrive to demand its due.

I am doing my best to keep up appearances through all of this. Fulfill obligations. Chop wood. Carry water.

But I am not optimistic. No, I am not optimistic just now. Samuel Johnson once said that nothing concentrates the mind like the knowledge that one will be hanged in the morning. This is very much the feeling that I have, seeping in around every edge.

The feeling that there is no exit.

— § —

Yes, there will be something to come next. No, I don’t really want it, nor do I want to find out what it is. I wish the would could be paused, and could stay exactly as it is right now—forever. At that I would breathe a transcendental sigh of relief, and perhaps fall dead right then and there in ecstatic peace.

But the world will not be paused.

It will conduct and demand its reckoning. I can’t honestly say that I stand here, ready to face it with courage. Rather, I stand here helpless to do anything else, come what may.

From the outside, that probably amounts to the same thing. From the inside, it’s not the same thing at all. Let’s just get this all over with already.

Vampire, werewolf, surgeon, billionaire, and pirate.  §

Could it be that all of western society right now is a massive, unconscious shit test? There are times—increasingly frequent times—when I am absolutely certain that this must be so.


Public domain

And that men are failing miserably.

Maybe it’s time for all of us to wake up. But after everything that has gone before—after generations of the inheritance have been lost—is this even possible any longer?

— § —

My level of trust these days? Zero percent. Less than zero percent.

The question is what I can do with that. Hopefully not nothing, but we’ll see.

— § —

One side is wrong. Given the level of diametric opposition involved, it cannot be anything other than so.

And given the level of diametric opposition involved, when it is determined just which side it is that is wrong, bound up with the emergence of that decision we’ll find catastrophe and the collapse of western civilization.

Maybe, given material circumstances, even all of human civilization.

Human psychology is an absolutely brutal thing.

That we’re so damned smart is precisely why we’re so damned stupid.

— § —

I repent of all the ideological sins I committed in my youth. From here on out, I fight the good fight.

Things that can’t be said but ought to be.  §

Some people are better than others.

Some families are better than others.

Mothers and fathers are both empirically important in childrens’ lives.

Two mothers or two fathers is not as good as one mother and one father.


© Aron Hsiao / 2017

A single mother or a single father are not as good as a mother and a father.

Boys need physical play, volence, and risk.

There are biological differences between boys and girls.

Sex is a biological characteristic.

Gender is statistically tightly correlated to sex.

The world would not be any better if entirely run by women than entirely by men.

Too much femininity is as evil and dangerous as too much masculinity.

Historically men have suffered more than women in terms of excess deaths.

Men still suffer more than women in terms of excess deaths.

Appropriate femininity is invaluable to society.

Appropriate masculinity is invaluable to a society.

Gender is not a spectrum, it is a culturally variable series of specific instantiations.

Sex is not a spectrum, it is a dipole.

The left is no longer the left; it is an ideological project to hide from hard stuff.

The global right and left are equally morally bankrupt.

Trump is not reaction, he is reaction-reaction.

The reaction to which he is reaction was on the left over the past twenty years.

Both reactions have made life worse, not better.

All mature, sensible, empirically-minded people are now “radical right” to those on the left.

All mature, sensible, empirically-minded people are now “radical left” to those on the right.

Things will get worse before they get better.

Morality is a thing.

According to conventional sociological definitions, everyone is religious.

Some are theists. Some are atheists. Some are ideologues. All are religious.

Real, metaphysical evil exists, is real, and is present in the world.

The fact that we don’t believe this after Hitler, Mao, and Stalin is precisely evidence for it.

The people who fancy themselves most moral are the most likely to be evil.

A “just world” is a world without suffering is a world composed entirely of suffering.

Have I left anything out?

— § —

“The dividing line between good and evil cuts through every human heart.”

— Solzhenitsyn

Our problems with literacy are the same as our problems with social life.  §

I spend a certain amount of time writing reviews on Amazon.com. (My reviewer rank right now is around the 400 mark.) I spend just about as much time reading the reviews on Amazon.com.

In many ways, the reviews section of Amazon.com is the closest thing we have to a useful public square. The comments sections of most online properties, whether highbrow or lowbrow, are far too unmoderated, incendiary, and impulsively confrontational to be worth much. Somehow, for the purposes of reviewing, people seem to clear their heads just a bit more, and to leave their bile and reaction behind just a bit more willingly. Amazon’s moderation system and editors do the rest.

So in general, I like its reviews sections and find there to be some interesting analysis there of many interesting books.

One thing that I also see, however, is an approach to and regard for writing in general that causes me some amount of despair. This is for a simple reason.

Many of the critiques of the best books, and much applause for what I consider to be the worst books, come down to evaluations of the “quality of writing” involved. And to my eye, what the public seems to regard as “good writing” and “poor writing” are exactly backward.

“Good writing,” more and more, is writing that is shallow, expedient, blunt, brief, and unimaginative—not so much Yeats and Donne as marketing copy for Wal-Mart or Target.

Similarly, “poor writing” is exactly those authors that offer something real—something deep and ambiguous and nuanced and textured to the reader.

People seem to understand “good writing” to be simply “economical and literal writing,” rather than illumination, edification, allusion, or explication. They would find this to be utterly horrible writing:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

And they would likely ask why it couldn’t simply be written as:

The world sucks. Everyone is mean. And mean people get their way.

Obviously, the problem is that the second is in no way even remotely the equivalent of the first—yet people do not realize this in the least.

There is a strong correlation between where we are as a society and the habits and level of development of mind that lead so many readers to prefer the second, and to assume that the first is merely a “badly written” instance of it.

Lots of college grads are coming out of college with not much more in hand (or in mind) than was there when they went in.

Radically empowering individuals in society may be the worst mistake we ever made.  §

There is a deep paradox at the heart of the current liberal order.

  1. We say we want a more just world.

  2. We say that we want to speak truth to power, that we want to empower individuals.

There is this odd presumption that these two things go together. They don’t.

Empowering individuals—which is the full-court press that’s on in technology, in politics, and just about everywhere else—means just that. Giving more power. To individuals. Giving more power to every single person.

What is the nature of this power? The power, of course, to affect the world. The things in the world. The other people in the world.

How on earth do people imagine that to give each and every individual more power to affect the world and the other people in it… is a path to greater justice?

Individuals do bad things. Always have, always will. Hitler existed. Stalin existed. Jack the ripper existed. Rape, insurance fraud, armed robbery, harassment, racist violence—all of these things exist because individuals do them. To empower all individuals is also to empower these individuals.

Widening the sphere of influence that every individual has in the world means widening the sphere of influence that rapers, fraudsters, robbers, and harassers, and racists have. Over things. Over people. That is the meaning of “equalizing the playing field” and “truth to power” and so on.

It means that instead of just being able to reach, influence, and affect ten people, every person can potentially reach, influence, and affect thousands of people. Or millions of people. This is exactly the “promise” and the “goal” of much of what has been done over the last quarter-century in our society, in any number of life domains.

But in principle “equalizing the playing field” between individuals and other individuals means equalizing the relative influence of the white supremacist and the Barack Obama. And in principle “equalizing the playing field” between individuals and institutions means equalizing the relative influence of a single white supremacist and the ACLU. Enabling the speaking of “truth to power” means enabling the speaking of white supremacist screeds to the New York Times. And let’s be honest, the “truth to power” trope isn’t merely about speech. It’s about applauding the efficacy of that speech—its ability to overcome power. It’s about enabling the a single DACA child or a single Stoneman Douglas student to change the world by outflanking a deadlocked congress, sure, but it’s also therefore about enabling a lone white supremacist to outflank the FBI.

It’s hard to argue persuasively that the overall quotient of justice has been increased here; it’s much easier to argue that we’re just including more and more extreme cases to arrive at the same average in the end, but with worse effects along the way.

But I don’t think even that is the case.

Because what’s the response to the quandary outlined above? The response is that it’s not the idea of radically empowering individuals that’s the problem; rather, it is increasingly argued that the fundamental problem is in applying this enablement across the board. Instead, what we ought to do, goes the argument, is empower the only the “right” people, which in common relative measures means disempowering the “wrong” people.

I don’t need to point out that this is where we are today (it is both the essence of the SJW movement and the Radical Right), or that there is little consensus on this point, but rather open, aggressive, oppressive warfare in which every empowered individual is using this empowerment to pursue the disempowerment of the individuals that he or she perceives to be wrong.

Concepts like civility, comity, due process, and basic rights can’t be countenanced when as a mechanical default all individuals are to be empowered to a historically unprecedented degree; this creates a massive risk quotient that must be managed. When you’ve flipped a switch to empower everyone, it becomes an urgent manner to follow immediately behind and to quickly pursue and disempower the dangerous, lest any random individual with bad intentions have the power to blow up the world.

Yet just what “bad intentions” are and what constitutes “blowing up the world” are personal understandings that inhere in the thoughts of the very individuals that we have generally radically empowered.

And around and around we go.

— § —

What all of this isn’t—is justice. In fact, it all makes justice—in any way in which the term has any meaning—if indeed we are able to have collective meanings at all any longer in this state of affairs—completely and entirely impossible.

So I’ll posit this:

Beyond some threshold of empowerment that we have likely crossed, justice is impossible when individuals are generally empowered, and this limitation inheres in the structures of human social life and reality in its most pedestrian sense.

Continuing to ever-increase individual empowerment and the ability to “speak truth to power” only exacerbates the situation and renders justice less and less possible, rather than more and more so.

The solution to our problems is not the empowerment of the individual or the ability to speak truth to power, but rather a general disempowerment (one that applies to all) of the lone individual and a reduction in the reach and efficacy of individual speech.

But this only works if it applies across the board, entirely, to all sides.

And as a result of the unflinchingly and wrongheadedly utopian trajectory outlined above, it would appear that we have likely neutered any machinery by which this could plausibly be accomplished.

We may already be too far slid down too steep a hill to do anything but fall all the way to the bottom.

Ten heterodox assertions about society and life as a human being.  §

Let’s not beat about the bush. Here they are.

  • Men and women are essentially and biologically different, and no socialization or appeal thereto can change this.

  • Humans are not gods, but every human being will, without exception, find and worship one.

  • The essence and native tendency of life—social and individual—is perpetual struggle, not peace.

  • Nature is not by nature nurturing and friendly, but unforgiving and ruthless.

  • No society survives without a masculine dimension of fortification and struggle; reality does not permit it.

  • No child thrives without a masculine tutelage in fortification and struggle; reality does not permit it.

  • A healthy child and a healthy society balance masculine and feminine appropriately; they do not eliminate one or the other.

  • Without a shared god grounded in humanity’s mythic needs, a random assortment of capricious, narcissistic gods will govern.

  • All attempts to eliminate suffering instead create it at greater scale.

  • Justice cannot be had; we have a word for the attempt to create it despite this truth: “terror.”

Sue me.

Want to be a radical? Refuse to suffer. Then, wait for the assault.  §

The single most radical act that one can carry out in our society to refuse to suffer. Not to keep regrettable things from happening to you (that’s impossible), but to simply refuse to suffer as a result of them. To be emotionally and spiritually unharmed, to continue to take the next moment, and the moment after that in stride, to move on, and to ask for no recognition or sympathy and indeed to evade recognition or sympathy.

This is an incredibly taboo thing to do. People will attribute to you repression, or bad faith, or lies about what’s happened to you; they’ll shun you; they’ll attempt to intervene in your life to “help you.”

Why?

Because they need you to suffer. They are dying for you to suffer.

In our activist culture in which the victim-martyr has become the most sacred icon of society, and in which people no longer have families, religion, or indeed manual labor to add meaning to their lives, it is the suffering of others, and their concern and activism about it, that gives them meaning. That justifies their life.

When you refuse to suffer, you decline the vampire his or her salvation. And let’s be honest, 99.5 percent of the population now consists of vampires. They need you to suffer. They need you to experience sexism. Or racism. Or abuse. Or depression. They need you to be tormented, to become the sacred idol so that they can venerate you, worship at your feet, and embody “virtue” by serving and making an icon of you.

They need the suffering of others so that they have something to which to aspire—so that they can maintain in their heart of hearts the image of the tormented sufferer and, following the “virtue” that they embody by indulging and ministering to the tormented sufferer, hopefully one day become a recognized tormented sufferer and victim-martyr in their own right, bringing the moral arc of the universe full-circle and giving melodramatic meaning to the whole.

Tormented suffering and activism that venerates it are the west’s religion of the moment, the only salvation that it grants in a world devoid of all forms of traditional meaning. Every member of society needs to find another(s) in tormented suffering and to act in response to that tormented suffering in order to have an identity, a purpose, a moral universe, and a reason to wake up in the morning.

This is why people need so badly for everyone to be a victim, and why “victims” who refuse to suffer in melodrama are objects of opprobrium—because those who would coo at them and yell at their transgressors have lost everything else that matters: their nuclear family, their childhood, their spouse, their faith, their cosmology, their ethnic identity. There is nothing else by which to place oneself in a virtue hierarchy or to publicly demonstrate (not to mention internally experience) morality and piety.

What we are left with are people who need, more than they need anything else, tragic victims at hand to weep bitterly and performatively for. So many are so happy to assert the unreality of the God(s) of tradition—yet tell them that the suffering of the victims in their “care” is equally unreal and measure their response at your having recklessly defamed and blasphemed their god.

That’s why they need you to suffer and to suffer bitterly—because the recovery and preservation of their very soul depends on it. “Activist” is another word for “vampire in desperate search of salvation.”

It’s also why the most radical thing you can possibly do at this particular moment is to simply be okay in the face of adversity. Just be careful, though—no one is more likely to become the victim of violence or revenge than the deliverer of disillusionment about the meaning of life.

Just keep that in mind. When you refuse to suffer, those who need you to do so—nearly everyone in today’s society—will be more than willing to take it upon themselves to ensure that you do suffer, since it is only your suffering that can render their lives meaningful and offer a state of “grace.” People are willing to do shocking things when there exists a risk that salvation will be denied to them.

But then it’s always risky to be a radical.