Me versus the world

               I, me, myself, my, mine, all these words have a special meaning. They refer to various facets of individual identity, my self, my ego, my superego, my id, or whatever else you may want to call them. They’re all me, parts of the individual writing this piece of shi… paper. Everything I am, is there, contained in those words. Identity, as far as my brain can process this definition, is what I think I am and whatever behavior I exhibit is generated along those lines, conscious or not. I may believe I am important, but I also believe the significant attributes of important men such as myself are humility, wisdom and power – ergo I write (to show off my wisdom) as if I were an old man (which I’m not), making fun or sometimes even portraying my ideas as “shit”, “crap” or similar (because humility might mean humbling myself, right?) but the ideas I write about have to show my intimate knowledge of power mechanisms, or control and the application of control over others – so that the reader might assume I know my shit about things of power and inadvertently places me within that power. For those of slower neuronal connections, I write as a wise, humble old man used to power and its uses so that you, the reader, might assume to associate me with the idea of a powerful individual, because who knows power better than those wielding it, right? Oversimplified, but it’s got to make you think a bit. I mean, after reading the above you know I’ve just pulled your strings and made you dance like a puppet, innit?

               Manipulation is easy, words are easy, acting is easy, so power over others is quite easy to get. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to get it. People actually want to be manipulated, they really do. Not everybody, of course, consciously chooses to give power over their being to others because that would be contrary to what history taught us so far even while being written by winners. No, experience tells us one thing – human being want to maximize their own pleasure while minimizing their own pain. No point denying it, too. We see plenty of evidence everywhere, from sadists to philantrophists shouting their virtue in every newspaper. Let me tell you something you already know – true, selfless acts of compassion require the person doing them to be anonymous, better yet, memory wiped themselves. Even the act of helping somebody else can provide an ego boost, which means pleasure. Everything is selfish unless it’s done by a computer with no emotions. Crazy, cynical thing to say, I know, but it does explain things better than relying on faith. Altruism, true altruism is a thing of the past, now just as real as Santa Claus or Cinderella, or maybe a honest politician.

               To better understand pain, we need to understand our own behavior. Look around, disregarding children because their reason for lacking identity is obvious and valid, and see for yourself. Adults come in 2 flavors – with or without a fixed, solid identity. Those who know who they are and those who don’t know who they are and just imitate others. Keeping in mind everybody wants to feel good (happy) and nobody wants to feel bad (pain), all adults judge the possible outcome of their decisions based on the delta good and delta bad, as in the difference in good and bad they expect to feel after their decision. Some are able to plan a few or many steps in the future and others can’t evaluate their own pockets. If they think their decision will bring an increase in positive feelings, they’ll do it, if not, they probably won’t. But here’s the kicker – identity is a factor in this, a big arse damn bloody factor. For instance, for people with less solid identity or even none at all, they measure the positive or negative outcome by comparing it to what they expect others to be affected. Simply put, if what they get is less than what others get, they think of it as negative even if it’s positive. I mean, if by doing a project well I get a raise of 300 euro and somebody else gets 600 euro, if I hate that person I’d think of sabotaging the project just so the other fellow won’t get 600 euro. It won’t matter I get something good as well, it will matter if the other individual gets more. For those of us with a solid indentity, we’d probably take the money and screw over the other guy just to be sure, if you’re into that thing.

               Does the above paragraph surprise you? No? Well, probably not, we all know at least one person who’d do that. It’s the fact that we’re used to it and not reacting much the whole problem with manipulation – apathy is quite the reason manipulation is so easy. We’re social individuals looking out for number one, meaning each one of us pursues his/her own desires, the only commonality found in this bunch of different, unique, egotistical individuals. So by ignoring the pain of others because it’s not of our concern we’re screwing up our future. Power over people exists because the people don’t want to share power. They are fragmented and because of that the power they have is fragmented, spread and dilluted. Governments, religious leaders, the media, they only have power because they provide something everybody needs – security, morality, depravity, whatever. They have been given power to provide all those things by groups of individuals recognizing a common need, so by virtue of what they have they can also extend it over other areas. To take away that power is not quite possible, because there’s nobody left to challenge them, it would require the people to get together again, to recognize the new common need and act on it. Individuals have no power over their leaders unless they become leaders themselves and if they do, they tend to be selfish and thus, corrupt. The system became self-sustaining, all-consuming. Now extend this to more than one generation of people and you have us.

               To make it easy, imagine a boling cauldron in hell, with selfish people in it – all miserable and in pain. If there’s nobody to find a common need, if there’s no united way of dealing with that reality, then there’s no need to guard the cauldron. If somebody is close to getting out, everybody else piles on him and drags him down under – why should that one be better than the rest? Why should he/she escape when the rest remain? That’s the thing plaguing our society – we’re selfish, we’re narcissists and we’re weak. We avoid pain while avoiding responsibility for our behavior, which means somebody strong and willing to lead will find himself in the position of scapegoat. Strong leads the weak because the weak have somebody to blame, somebody to pin the pain of failure on. You can be dilusional, you can be schizofrenic, you can be dictatorial, you can be whatever you want to be and still be accepted as a leader – all you have to do is demand it. People will do everything in their power to avoid pain, which is why totalitarian regimes show up when there’s pain – nobody else is willing to accept the blame for that pain.

               The consequence me feeling pain is two-fold: I want to avoid pain and I don’t want to feel more pain by believing I made the wrong choices. So I hide in a group of similar individuals and do whatever I can to fit in, including doing things I might find repugnant because being in a group gives me the mental protection I need. Defense mechanisms kick in, cognitive dissonance flurishes and somehow I get to disconnect myself from the blame – everybody else is doing it, I was just following orders, and so on… Rings a bell?

               Where good hides, evil thrives.

   First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Socialist. Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out — because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Nielmoller


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