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.”
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.