I wrote this a while ago and a recent message from someone in my past (why must we replay the tapes, ya’ll? ::blank stare:: ) reminded me of the insidiously internal aggressiveness of self-righteousness.
* * *
The Unbearable Feeling of Separateness
Self righteousness is a loud din raised to drown the voice of guilt within us.
-- Eric Hoffer
In the philosophical novel, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, author Milan Kundera challenges Nietzsche’s concept of eternal recurrence -- the idea that the universe and its events have already occurred and will recur infinitely. The novel’s themes put forward the alternative; that each person has only one life to live, and that which occurs in life occurs only once and never again (hence the “lightness” of being). On the contrary, the concept of eternal recurrence forces a “heaviness” on our lives and on the decisions we make (and gives them “weight.”) Nietzsche believed this heaviness could be either a tremendous burden or great benefit depending on the individual’s perspective.
Following Kundera’s logic, life is insignificant, and decisions do not matter and therefore rendered light. “If we have only one life to live,” goes the saying, “we might as well not have lived at all.” The awareness of life occurring once and never again means our lives in themselves are insignificant. The insignificance of decisions -- our being -- causes us great suffering, perceived as the unbearable lightness of being. This insignificance is existentially unbearable when it is considered that people want their lives to have meaning.
I don’t agree with Kundera’s position, but I have to admit that the likelihood of our lives amounting to nothing but a grand Cosmic Joke( to which we all know the punchline) is an anxiety that lurks just underneath everyone’s consciousness (by the way, the book is an excellent read).
In my experience our actions and thoughts and words send out karmic ripples that affect us, those we love, and humankind in general. In fact, these ripples become so intertwined with past ripples and the ripples of others that we could never fully know the full implications of our actions. That’s why intention is so important. But here again, I have to concede the well-worn cliche that enough of the roads of hell are paved with good intentions…
I am not an upstanding citizen. I break rules, I swear, I am oftentimes vulgar, and I am no “giant” among humans. I never invented anything worthwhile, or have I liberated throngs of men and women. There have been many times I have acted immorally, cowardly even. I was not a good role model for my younger siblings and quite possibly influenced them in bad ways. I have manipulated, stole, cheated, lied, used women (and been used). At various times in my life I have been hopelessly addicted, a criminal, a failed pimp, institutionalized, and seen and done things most people never live to retell. When I die, a significant portion of those who will bother to remember me will remember me as an asshole, or even worse. And they will have good reason to. In short, I am no gentleman. Nor do I want to be one.
I am no longer the same man I was 22 years ago, and I do try an ethically and morally grounded life. I no longer pillage and plunder, but what I follow (to the best of my ability) are precepts, not commandments, and life is a work of art, not a set of sums. I find that I am much happier when I make an effort to remember my transgressions. It makes me less prone to self-righteousness. I made a promise to myself many years ago I would never become one of those self-righteous reformed motherfuckers, who after pillaging and plundering all their lives, now go around evangelizing their worldview. Most of us have met, at one time or another, a "former sinner" who today spends his or her time telling everyone else how to live, which God to believe in, and the so-called motherfuckin "Truth." Self-righteousness -- that essentially selfish human weakness of seeing yourself as separate -- is most evident in the hypocrite. If you do not believe me, take a closer look around you, read the signs.
Eric Hoffer proposed that self-righteousness (and fanaticism) are rooted in self-hatred and insecurity. He believed that a passionate obsession with the private lives of other people is merely a cowardly attempt to compensate for a lack of character in one’s own life. A core principle of Hoffer's was his insight that mass movements are interchangeable; he notes fanatical Nazis later becoming fanatical Communists, fanatical Communists later becoming fanatical anti-Communists, and Saul, persecutor of Christians, becoming Paul, a fanatical Christian. You can see this dynamic at work with the teabaggers which is a continuation of the right wing’s racist Southern Strategy. For the “true believer” the substance of the mass movement isn’t so important as that they are part of that movement.
I think as a society we exemplify the grabbing and holding for attention that comes from a lack of self-esteem. How else can you explain the right wing (or “reality” TV shows)? We do this even in our quest for a “relationship,” or love. Love is spoken about as if it could be possessed.
We watch people with boundary issues humiliate themselves on national TV and say to ourselves, smugly:
We are seduced by that inner voice that tells us,“I would never do that!”
We hear of the downfall of an acquaintance or friend we note:
“I’m better than him/ her!”
Most people, when they think of selfishness, think of the drive to acquire material goods, but there are many other forms of selfishness. Self-righteousness is about holding all the attention we can get, or denying others the possibility of sharing with us in any community. For the fact remains, dear reader, that if your most humiliating or shameful action were written on your forehead, you would pull your cap low. All of us would.
And to give you a real world example of what I am talking about, someone took exception to my sense of humor recently. anyone who knows me even just a little biut, knows that my sense of humor is warped and definitely “inappropriate.” Shit, I’ve my life’s mission to be inappropriate. Now check this out: the person who took exception? I later found out that the current person she’s living with was the consequence of her taking away from the man’s legal wife. Appropriate my fuckin balls!
We like to represent ourselves as being noble or “right.” I don’t give a fuck about “right,” I am interested in exploring the many levels of truth. And if I were being truthful with myself, I would note I could never condescend to tell someone else what’s appropriate or inappropriate. I was a fuckin criminal at one time, how hypocritical would that be? We like to present to the world this carefully manufactured, oh-so-socially-acceptable image, but God forbid if this pretentious exercise actually included taking yourself out of your comfort zone. Listen champ: what if the status quo you're so desperately trying to mimic needs to be changed in order for a just social order to exist.
The car: Big shit, so you're destroying our ecology in style. The diamonds? Mined by children in Africa who don't live past adulthood. That iPad? Most likely put together by a pregnant woman who has considered committing suicide rather than continue to be subjected to work conditions that no “appropriate” society shoud accept. Appropriate? Who the fuck really gives a fuckin good goddam what you deem appropriate?!! Look in the mirror, motherfuckers.
This form of behavior illustrates my point on the drawbacks of hypocrisy and self-righteousness. Simply put, some people see themselves as separate from the rest and they compensate for their perceived lack by labeling others as different or “less than.” Some define themselves almost exclusively by how much different (and better) they are than others. Is this a reality?
I will state right here that I’m not concerned with “convincing” anyone of my worldview. I don't give a fuck about what you consider appropriate. My concern is to explore and attempt to present the truth as well as I can. Most of the idiots who condemn without reason or rhyme will never be convinced of anything except of the forthrightness of their own foolishness. Their labors are a lot like swirling your finger around your anus and proclaiming the resulting stink perfume.
The essential point here, my “larger” heart tells me, is that all of life is fragile and interconnected. We have a more generous spirit when we are in touch with the fact that it is only when we look at the world purely through our ego-driven neuroses, that the world becomes fearful (or “inappropriate”). When we look at things from the mindset confined by self-righteous indignation we see only a void and the compulsive need to claim to be something better.
My heart also tells me that if there is inequality, then the status quo needs to change. What if social acceptability isn't so goddamned acceptable? My conforming within the confines of social acceptability doesn’t equal growth. Just because I act as a gentleman, doesn’t mean I am evolving as a man, as a human being, as part of the evolutionary process. And don’t tell me I can come to your table only on your terms. That’s bullshit -- total hypocritical bullshit.
My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…