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Spiritually Healthy Attitudes Toward Dissidence
If you are of reasonable intelligence, you can plan ahead, and in fact favor thinking toward the long term for any big decisions. For this reason, you recognize that our society is slowly heading toward self destruction as it consumes irreplaceable resources and ecosystems while expanding at no particular level of merit; the piles of waste, and shattered cultures, that it leaves behind are a result of this obliviousness to long-term thinking. Of course, that leaves you in a pickle: you're the long-term thinker who realizes this is a suicide march, and you would like to do something about it. "But what? Right now!" shrieks the voice of neurotic panic in your head.
Some will immediately screech at you to begin flyering every available surface, or to stand in some kind of silly rally out in the rain, but really, these activities only make the participants feel good and are generally ignored by everyone else. Others will talk about the necessity of immediate violence, or of making inflamed and bigoted speeches, or of finding some way to get onto the news for your twenty seconds before they switch to a story about multicultural hemorrhoids. To my mind, it seems as if these are spiritually unhealthy means of being a dissident; mainly, they focus on making you feel better, but by applying a palliative like a drug, they momentarily suspend reality with illusion and then return you back to it with twice the force.
The main problem afflicting us now is that no one agrees on how to proceed past the current quagmire of monetary values dominating all else, and a moral passivity having settled over our people. Thus, to my mind, the first task is to become clear in your mind on what you desire; simply saying "I want this to burn" or "I don't want this population living among us" is not enough, as that is not a direction but a complaint. What makes more sense is to understand, on whatever level you philosophize, what sort of thing you would desire. In other words, for everything that sucks, there are untold numbers of possible ways around it. This isn't to bleat "Invent something new!" like the most hopeless of the disenchanted, but to suggest that if you want change in the world, make it in yourself first.
To look at the situation analytically, not much has changed since the birth of humanity. We are on this planet as one species of many, and our goal is to find a life for ourselves in balance with our environment that delivers some kind of meaning, as we alone among the species, apparently, have the ability for long-term reasoning and thus can envision our own deaths and thus demand something of "meaning" from life: something so significant it balances out the prospect of not being for all time after our deaths. It's not enough to think of death as being in a lightless room; one is not even present to observe the lightless room. One is simply, like unicorns or the tooth fairy, not there. A good nihilist understands as the basis of his or her philosophy that recognizing death is to recognize life, as anything not death is at least the ground of life. Defining those slippery terms "meaning" and "significant" of course become difficult.
However, there is an easy way around this one. We are what we have experienced, both through genetics and personally living through situations, so we apply our minds to these memories and find we like some more than others. What made those important? -- especially in the context of eternal nothingness. When one looks at life from the prospect of eternity, the movies we watch, the fancy cars we drive, the homes we own and the video games we play are second to the moments of significance, or moments that made us feel most alive. For me, those moments include time among friends and family, great epiphanies of learning, hours spent wandering in the forest and any activity in which I have made something better for those around me.
To recognize nothingness is to realize that nothing endures permanently, and there are no absolutes to cling to, thus what matters is entirely "subjective," but paradoxically, this subjective is objectively defined: because our world is consistent, the same values apply to all who are in human form, whether or not they recognize them. Some will wittily say that since value is subjective, they believe that playing video games or shooting heroin is the most important (to them), and therefore that is an absolute right. This is poor thinking, if we look at life's consistency, in that we see that it rewards the same general types of activity: building a home and having family and friends and a culture of learning around you will always be rewarding, where shooting heroin will always lead to evasion of reality. Life is real, and when we mature enough to get over the subjective/objective split, we see that while we define our own meaning, that definition is entirely shaped by our environment. Thus we dispatch with the triviality of personal preference as "subjective meaning."
Our world rewards abstract achievement in the same way it rewards physical achievement. If you are alone in the forest, you must find food and shelter, maybe warmth, and do it before night overtakes you and ice forms on your limbs, dragging you into the heroin-like warmth of hypothermia. Similarly, in your mind you must find sustenance and peace, maybe even joy, before boredom and depression carry you off to the land of catatonia or suicide. This is what we mean by spiritually healthy, and having recognized the fallacy of "subjective meaning" for what it is, we can see that spiritual health is a universal thing among all living beings of a human intelligence level. Not all individuals will see it, but many of these people will either be incapable or so destroyed they cannot, and thus, why trouble them with it? Death is all that remains for them, even if in the living form of an existence so boring and eventless that television is, like, a really cool thing.
Of course, weakness is among us; when the last ice age ended and the people who had been brave enough to endure the ice left their caves and came south, our modern political time began, and immediately the decay set in. Among those who were then, there were some who were so afraid that they would be judged inferior that they set upon us a morality of utilitarianism, by which the individual as abstract concept was so rigorously protected that society as a whole was paralyzed, since to make any choice meant leaving some individuals behind, to rigid death in living form. There was so much fear of personal ability in some that they demanded society sacrifice itself for their needs, much as a drowning man will in panic drag down his rescuers, and over time, since such behavior was encouraged, more people came about who followed such a pattern. This utilitarianism is the root of all modern error, including democracy, equality, free enterprise and the idea that it's OK to cut down an ancient forest if the mall that replaces it brings someone profit. This is the triumph of the weak.
Those who have these beliefs are weak not in a physical sense, but in a spiritual sense: they are of such low-self esteem, and thus afraid they can do nothing to balance death, that they would drag all of us down to a lowest common denominator rather than risk one of them being seen as less-capable, less-desirable, and therefore less externally important than others. This occurs because if one is inwardly lacking confidence, external affirmation is all one has; this kind of weakness causes them to insist on the individual as beyond criticism, because that way whatever they fear in themselves will not bring them censure, and thus to condemn us all to being part of a mob: a group of granular individuals committed to not doing anything to upset each other, thus incapable of selecting a goal. In short, the mob forces us to serve the aberrant. This is the situation a modern dissident encounters.
It is tempting to pick an issue and to begin fighting for that, hoping to stave off the doom. Unfortunately, doom has many heads and one body, thus to slay a head may delay the onset of collapse, but it cannot stop it; the only thing that can stop the destruction is to find something to replace it that is not destructive. For this reason, jumping onto extreme right or left bandwagons, or running into the arms of religion or some universal good like "I believe in love," is destined to failure. You cannot stop the downfall of a civilization by banning corporations, or by writing more equality legislation, or by murdering all of an ethnic group, or by legalizing marijuana. You have to fix the design of the outlook and worldview of the civilization so that you replace the root of its behavior with something more positive.
In my view, the first step to this is cultivating a spiritual peace in oneself, but there is a pitfall here, which will be explained in a minute. Spiritual peace gives you the state of mind to make real structural change to your world. If you are hysterical, or depressed, or out-of-control angry, you will not accomplish change, although you may accomplish revolutionary acts. Look at the nature of revolutions: they transfer power from an existing structure to that which claims to be its antithesis, but they use the same mechanisms of control and organization as the past system, thus while they may delay the collapse, they don't prevent it. In the meantime, fighting for control results in the deaths of many of the best people in the society. For this reason, it seems to me that revolutions are just highly-organized temper tantrums. They do not accomplish structural change.
Spiritual peace allows you to organize your own mind (and perhaps, soul) so that you know exactly what values you must have, and you can apply these with patience and diligence. Instead of running up to a head of the beast and slapping it, you are instead working on the ground beneath the body, gradually changing it so that it rewards something different, thus making the body of the beast obsolete. Spiritual peace means that you organize your own thoughts and emotions so they do not obstruct you, but also so that you may instead of focusing on your enemies, who are many, focus on the single and unique thing that you desire, which is your goal. Cultivate the ground of your goal and you make your enemies, who by being defined as anyone who opposes your goal, are infinite in potential number, less relevant. They will go elsewhere, or perish in the forest -- it doesn't matter to you. What matters is the goal.
Spiritual peace will also help you avoid self-destructing. If you are raging about in anger or confusion or depression, most of your energy will be dissipated, and your enemies will laugh at your ineffectual tantrums. If instead, secure and self-confident in what you want and how to achieve it, you move methodically and joyfully, you take pride in your accomplishments and realize what you are doing is not the product of an alienation from the world, but a love for it. You are not destroying, but sculpting, taking away some here and adding some there, making a new shape out of reality that you would like to eventually predominate. When you have achieved this shape in yourself, it is second nature to apply it externally, and you do it without thinking -- in everything that you do.
When I look at the youth of the Indo-European tribe at this time, I see either people who are glum and pragmatic, having accepted that they're beaten and thus turning to serve, and then an opposite extreme. This opposite extreme consists in those who recognize that fatality of our current direction, but because it upsets them, they are ineffective in opposing it and their enemies laugh at them. One might guess that there was laughter at Jim Morrison's suicide, or Timothy McVeigh's execution, or even the Unabomber going to jail. This laughter is cruel and full of revenge, and it comes from those who have already given in to the weakness and thus lack self-confidence, and fear change, even if change to something which has been eternally true in every "subjective" interpretation. Only success matters. When you have a goal, anything that is not the goal is an enemy, but you no longer see your enemies as controlling your life; they are like wrong paths taken through a forest, namely, they are ignored when you know the right path.
There is a pitfall to spiritual peace, and we see it in what is left of the great religions of Asia and in Christianity, both of which are broken interpretations of the original Vedic truth concoted in India many millennia ago. Spiritual peace does not mean passivity. Passivity is when you believe that life is beyond your control, and that vast forces manipulate it, and that you should not take action outside of yourself, because your only goal is cultivating spiritual peace. If that really is your only goal, I suggest heroin: it is a superior agent for that changeless, careless state. To my mind, the only reason to cultivate spiritual peace is to be able to act, because we are the only agents that will act in this world; the universe is beyond time and does not intervene to save us or destroy us, but if it does view us, would view us as a colony of ants -- an interesting observation in the afternoon sun of a summer weekend.
This pitfall of passivity is common all around you. People who see nothing but the ego can be either vicious corporate barons replacing forests with shopping malls, or Buddhists meditating on their navels and unable to change the world except to protest the deaths of dissidents. This is error. We are here to change the world, and if we do it according to the principles of the world, good things will result; if not, we perish, and the universe goes on without shedding a tear for us. Spiritual peace means peace of mind, not being so "peaceful" you are afraid to force change upon the world, even if it offends others or costs them their livelihoods or lives. Do what is right for the whole. Only when you have inner spiritual peace will you have the confidence to do this.
January 31, 2005