And by a prudent flight and cunning save A life which valour could not, from the grave. A better buckler I can soon regain, But who can get another life again? Archilochus

Sunday, June 27, 2021

Ridiculous Men...

Fyodor Dostoevsky, "The Dream of a Ridiculous Man" (1877)
Translated by Constance Garnett
Chapter I

I am a ridiculous person. Now they call me a madman. That would be a promotion if it were not that I remain as ridiculous in their eyes as before. But now I do not resent it, they are all dear to me now, even when they laugh at me - and, indeed, it is just then that they are particularly dear to me. I could join in their laughter--not exactly at myself, but through affection for them, if I did not feel so sad as I look at them. Sad because they do not know the truth and I do know it. Oh, how hard it is to be the only one who knows the truth! But they won't understand that. No, they won't understand it.

In old days I used to be miserable at seeming ridiculous. Not seeming, but being. I have always been ridiculous, and I have known it, perhaps, from the hour I was born. Perhaps from the time I was seven years old I knew I was ridiculous. Afterwards I went to school, studied at the university, and, do you know, the more I learned, the more thoroughly I understood that I was ridiculous. So that it seemed in the end as though all the sciences I studied at the university existed only to prove and make evident to me as I went more deeply into them that I was ridiculous. It was the same with life as it was with science. With every year the same consciousness of the ridiculous figure I cut in every relation grew and strengthened. Everyone always laughed at me. But not one of them knew or guessed that if there were one man on earth who knew better than anybody else that I was absurd, it was myself, and what I resented most of all was that they did not know that. But that was my own fault; I was so proud that nothing would have ever induced me to tell it to anyone. This pride grew in me with the years; and if it had happened that I allowed myself to confess to anyone that I was ridiculous, I believe that I should have blown out my brains the same evening. Oh, how I suffered in my early youth from the fear that I might give way and confess it to my schoolfellows. But since I grew to manhood, I have for some unknown reason become calmer, though I realised my awful characteristic more fully every year. I say 'unknown', for to this day I cannot tell why it was. Perhaps it was owing to the terrible misery that was growing in my soul through something which was of more consequence than anything else about me: that something was the conviction that had come upon me that nothing in the world mattered. I had long had an inkling of it, but the full realisation came last year almost suddenly. I suddenly felt that it was all the same to me whether the world existed or whether there had never been anything at all: I began to feel with all my being that there was nothing existing. At first I fancied that many things had existed in the past, but afterwards I guessed that there never had been anything in the past either, but that it had only seemed so for some reason. Little by little I guessed that there would be nothing in the future either. Then I left off being angry with people and almost ceased to notice them. Indeed this showed itself even in the pettiest trifles: I used, for instance, to knock against people in the street. And not so much from being lost in thought: what had I to think about? I had almost given up thinking by that time; nothing mattered to me. If at least I had solved my problems! Oh, I had not settled one of them, and how many there were! But I gave up caring about anything, and all the problems disappeared.

And it was after that that I found out the truth. I learnt the truth last November--on the third of November, to be precise-- and I remember every instant since. It was a gloomy evening, one of the gloomiest possible evenings. I was going home at about eleven o'clock, and I remember that I thought that the evening could not be gloomier. Even physically. Rain had been falling all day, and it had been a cold, gloomy, almost menacing rain, with, I remember, an unmistakable spite against mankind. Suddenly between ten and eleven it had stopped, and was followed by a horrible dampness, colder and damper than the rain, and a sort of steam was rising from everything, from every stone in the street, and from every by-lane if one looked down it as far as one could. A thought suddenly occurred to me, that if all the street lamps had been put out it would have been less cheerless, that the gas made one's heart sadder because it lighted it all up. I had had scarcely any dinner that day, and had been spending the evening with an engineer, and two other friends had been there also. I sat silent--I fancy I bored them. They talked of something rousing and suddenly they got excited over it. But they did not really care, I could see that, and only made a show of being excited. I suddenly said as much to them. "My friends," I said, "you really do not care one way or the other." They were not offended, but they laughed at me. That was because I spoke without any not of reproach, simply because it did not matter to me. They saw it did not, and it amused them.

As I was thinking about the gas lamps in the street I looked up at the sky. The sky was horribly dark, but one could distinctly see tattered clouds, and between them fathomless black patches. Suddenly I noticed in one of these patches a star, and began watching it intently. That was because that star had given me an idea: I decided to kill myself that night. I had firmly determined to do so two months before, and poor as I was, I bought a splendid revolver that very day, and loaded it. But two months had passed and it was still lying in my drawer; I was so utterly indifferent that I wanted to seize a moment when I would not be so indifferent--why, I don't know. And so for two months every night that I came home I thought I would shoot myself. I kept waiting for the right moment. And so now this star gave me a thought. I made up my mind that it should certainly be that night. And why the star gave me the thought I don't know.

And just as I was looking at the sky, this little girl took me by the elbow. The street was empty, and there was scarcely anyone to be seen. A cabman was sleeping in the distance in his cab. It was a child of eight with a kerchief on her head, wearing nothing but a wretched little dress all soaked with rain, but I noticed her wet broken shoes and I recall them now. They caught my eye particularly. She suddenly pulled me by the elbow and called me. She was not weeping, but was spasmodically crying out some words which could not utter properly, because she was shivering and shuddering all over. She was in terror about something, and kept crying, "Mammy, mammy!" I turned facing her, I did not say a word and went on; but she ran, pulling at me, and there was that note in her voice which in frightened children means despair. I know that sound. Though she did not articulate the words, I understood that her mother was dying, or that something of the sort was happening to them, and that she had run out to call someone, to find something to help her mother. I did not go with her; on the contrary, I had an impulse to drive her away. I told her first to go to a policeman. But clasping her hands, she ran beside me sobbing and gasping, and would not leave me. Then I stamped my foot and shouted at her. She called out "Sir! sir! . . ." but suddenly abandoned me and rushed headlong across the road. Some other passerby appeared there, and she evidently flew from me to him.

I mounted up to my fifth storey. I have a room in a flat where there are other lodgers. My room is small and poor, with a garret window in the shape of a semicircle. I have a sofa covered with American leather, a table with books on it, two chairs and a comfortable arm-chair, as old as old can be, but of the good old-fashioned shape. I sat down, lighted the candle, and began thinking. In the room next to mine, through the partition wall, a perfect Bedlam was going on. It had been going on for the last three days. A retired captain lived there, and he had half a dozen visitors, gentlemen of doubtful reputation, drinking vodka and playing stoss with old cards. The night before there had been a fight, and I know that two of them had been for a long time engaged in dragging each other about by the hair. The landlady wanted to complain, but she was in abject terror of the captain. There was only one other lodger in the flat, a thin little regimental lady, on a visit to Petersburg, with three little children who had been taken ill since they came into the lodgings. Both she and her children were in mortal fear of the captain, and lay trembling and crossing themselves all night, and the youngest child had a sort of fit from fright. That captain, I know for a fact, sometimes stops people in the Nevsky Prospect and begs. They won't take him into the service, but strange to say (that's why I am telling this), all this month that the captain has been here his behavior has caused me no annoyance. I have, of course, tried to avoid his acquaintance from the very beginning, and he, too, was bored with me from the first; but I never care how much they shout the other side of the partition nor how many of them there are in there: I sit up all night and forget them so completely that I do not even hear them. I stay awake till daybreak, and have been going on like that for the last year. I sit up all night in my arm-chair at the table, doing nothing. I only read by day. I sit--don't even think; ideas of a sort wander through my mind and I let them come and go as they will. A whole candle is burnt every night. I sat down quietly at the table, took out the revolver and put it down before me. When I had put it down I asked myself, I remember, "Is that so?" and answered with complete conviction, "It is." That is, I shall shoot myself. I knew that I should shoot myself that night for certain, but how much longer I should go on sitting at the table I did not know. And no doubt I should have shot myself if it had not been for that little girl.


Chapter II

You see, though nothing mattered to me, I could feel pain, for instance. If anyone had stuck me it would have hurt me. It was the same morally: if anything very pathetic happened, I should have felt pity just as I used to do in old days when there were things in life that did matter to me. I had felt pity that evening. I should have certainly helped a child. Why, then, had I not helped the little girl? Because of an idea that occurred to me at the time: when she was calling and pulling at me, a question suddenly arose before me and I could not settle it. The question was an idle one, but I was vexed. I was vexed at the reflection that if I were going to make an end of myself that night, nothing in life ought to have mattered to me. Why was it that all at once I did not feel a strange pang, quite incongruous in my position. Really I do not know better how to convey my fleeting sensation at the moment, but the sensation persisted at home when I was sitting at the table, and I was very much irritated as I had not been for a long time past. One reflection followed another. I saw clearly that so long as I was still a human being and not nothingness, I was alive and so could suffer, be angry and feel shame at my actions. So be it. But if I am going to kill myself, in two hours, say, what is the little girl to me and what have I to do with shame or with anything else in the world? I shall turn into nothing, absolutely nothing. And can it really be true that the consciousness that I shall completely cease to exist immediately and so everything else will cease to exist, does not in the least affect my feeling of pity for the child nor the feeling of shame after a contemptible action? I stamped and shouted at the unhappy child as though to say--not only I feel no pity, but even if I behave inhumanly and contemptibly, I am free to, for in another two hours everything will be extinguished. Do you believe that that was why I shouted that? I am almost convinced of it now. I seemed clear to me that life and the world somehow depended upon me now. I may almost say that the world now seemed created for me alone: if I shot myself the world would cease to be at least for me. I say nothing of its being likely that nothing will exist for anyone when I am gone, and that as soon as my consciousness is extinguished the whole world will vanish too and become void like a phantom, as a mere appurtenance of my consciousness, for possibly all this world and all these people are only me myself.

I remember that as I sat and reflected, I turned all these new questions that swarmed one after another quite the other way, and thought of something quite new. For instance, a strange reflection suddenly occurred to me, that if I had lived before on the moon or on Mars and there had committed the most disgraceful and dishonourable action and had there been put to such shame and ignominy as one can only conceive and realise in dreams, in nightmares, and if, finding myself afterwards on earth, I were able to retain the memory of what I had done on the other planet and at the same time knew that I should never, under any circumstances, return there, then looking from the earth to the moon--should I care or not? Should I feel shame for that action or not? These were idle and superfluous questions for the revolver was already lying before me, and I knew in every fibre of my being that it would happen for certain, but they excited me and I raged. I could not die now without having first settled something. In short, the child had saved me, for I put off my pistol shot for the sake of these questions. Meanwhile the clamour had begun to subside in the captain's room: they had finished their game, were settling down to sleep, and meanwhile were grumbling and languidly winding up their quarrels. At that point, I suddenly fell asleep in my chair at the table--a thing which had never happened to me before. I dropped asleep quite unawares.

Dreams, as we all know, are very queer things: some parts are presented with appalling vividness, with details worked up with the elaborate finish of jewellery, while others one gallops through, as it were, without noticing them at all, as, for instance, through space and time. Dreams seem to be spurred on not by reason but by desire, not by the head but by the heart, and yet what complicated tricks my reason has played sometimes in dreams, what utterly incomprehensible things happen to it! My brother died five years ago, for instance. I sometimes dream of him; he takes part in my affairs, we are very much interested, and yet all through my dream I quite know and remember that my brother is dead and buried. How is it that I am not surprised that, though he is dead, he is here beside me and working with me? Why is it that my reason fully accepts it? But enough. I will begin about my dream. Yes, I dreamed a dream, my dream of the third of November. They tease me now, telling me it was only a dream. But does it matter whether it was a dream or reality, if the dream made known to me the truth? If once one has recognized the truth and seen it, you know that it is the truth and that there is no other and there cannot be, whether you are asleep or awake. Let it be a dream, so be it, but that real life of which you make so much I had meant to extinguish by suicide, and my dream, my dream--oh, it revealed to me a different life, renewed, grand and full of power!


Chapter III

I have mentioned that I dropped asleep unawares and even seemed to be still reflecting on the same subjects. I suddenly dreamt that I picked up the revolver and aimed it straight at my heart--my heart, and not my head; and I had determined beforehand to fire at my head, at my right temple. After aiming at my chest I waited a second or two, and suddenly my candle, my table, and the wall in front of me began moving and heaving. I made haste to pull the trigger.

In dreams you sometimes fall from a height, or are stabbed, or beaten, but you never feel pain unless, perhaps, you really bruise yourself against the bedstead, then you feel pain and almost always wake up from it. It was the same in my dream. I did not feel any pain, but it seemed as though with my shot everything within me was shaken and everything was suddenly dimmed, and it grew horribly black around me. I seemed to be blinded, and it benumbed, and I was lying on something hard, stretched on my back; I saw nothing, and could not make the slightest movement. People were walking and shouting around me, the captain bawled, the landlady shrieked--and suddenly another break and I was being carried in a closed coffin. And I felt how the coffin was shaking and reflected upon it, and for the first time the idea struck me that I was dead, utterly dead, I knew it and had no doubt of it, I could neither see nor move and yet I was feeling and reflecting. But I was soon reconciled to the position, and as one usually does in a dream, accepted the facts without disputing them.

And now I was buried in the earth. They all went away, I was left alone, utterly alone. I did not move. Whenever before I had imagined being buried the one sensation I associated with the grave was that of damp and cold. So now I felt that I was very cold, especially the tips of my toes, but I felt nothing else.

I lay still, strange to say I expected nothing, accepting without dispute that a dead man had nothing to expect. But it was damp. I don't know how long a time passed--whether an hour or several days, or many days. But all at once a drop of water fell on my closed left eye, making its way through the coffin lid; it was followed a minute later by a second, then a minute later by a third--and so on, regularly every minute. There was a sudden glow of profound indignation in my heart, and I suddenly felt in it a pang of physical pain. "That's my wound," I thought; "that's the bullet . . ." And drop after drop every minute kept falling on my closed eyelid. And all at once, not with my voice, but with my entire being, I called upon the power that was responsible for all that was happening to me:

"Whoever you may be, if you exist, and if anything more rational that what is happening here is possible, suffer it to be here now. But if you are revenging yourself upon me for my senseless suicide by the hideousness and absurdity of this subsequent existence, then let me tell you that no torture could ever equal the contempt which I shall go on dumbly feeling, though my martyrdom may last a million years!"

I made this appeal and held my peace. There was a full minute of unbroken silence and again another drop fell, but I knew with infinite unshakable certainty that everything would change immediately. And behold my grave suddenly was rent asunder, that is, I don't know whether it was opened or dug up, but I was caught up by some dark and unknown being and we found ourselves in space. I suddenly regained my sight. It was the dead of night, and never, never had there been such darkness. We were flying through space far away from the earth. I did not question the being who was taking me; I was proud and waited. I assured myself that I was not afraid, and was thrilled with ecstasy at the thought that I was not afraid. I do not know how long we were flying, I cannot imagine; it happened as it always does in dreams when you skip over space and time, and the laws of thought and existence, and only pause upon the points for which the heart yearns. I remember that I suddenly saw in the darkness a star. "Is that Sirius?" I asked impulsively, though I had not meant to ask questions.

"No, that is the star you saw between the clouds when you were coming home," the being who was carrying me replied.

I knew that it had something like a human face. Strange to say, I did not like that being, in fact I felt an intense aversion for it. I had expected complete non-existence, and that was why I had put a bullet through my heart. And here I was in the hands of a creature not human, of course, but yet living, existing. "And so there is life beyond the grave," I thought with the strange frivolity one has in dreams. But in its inmost depth my heart remained unchanged. "And if I have got to exist again," I thought, "and live once more under the control of some irresistible power, I won't be vanquished and humiliated."

"You know that I am afraid of you and despise me for that," I said suddenly to my companion, unable to refrain from the humiliating question which implied a confession, and feeling my humiliation stab my heart as with a pin. He did not answer my question, but all at once I felt that he was not even despising me, but was laughing at me and had no compassion for me, and that our journey had an unknown and mysterious object that concerned me only. Fear was growing in my heart. Something was mutely and painfully communicated to me from my silent companion, and permeated my whole being. We were flying through dark, unknown space. I had for some time lost sight of the constellations familiar to my eyes. I knew that there were stars in the heavenly spaces the light of which took thousands or millions of years to reach the earth. Perhaps we were already flying through those spaces. I expected something with a terrible anguish that tortured my heart. And suddenly I was thrilled by a familiar feeling that stirred me to the depths: I suddenly caught sight of our sun! I knew that it could not be our sun, that gave life to our earth, and that we were an infinite distance from our sun, but for some reason I knew in my whole being that it was a sun exactly like ours, a duplicate of it. A sweet, thrilling feeling resounded with ecstasy in my heart: the kindred power of the same light which had given me light stirred an echo in my heart and awakened it, and I had a sensation of life, the old life of the past for the first time since I had been in the grave.

"But if that is the sun, if that is exactly the same as our sun," I cried, "where is the earth?"

And my companion pointed to a star twinkling in the distance with an emerald light. We were flying straight towards it.

"And are such repetitions possible in the universe? Can that be the law of Nature? . . . And if that is an earth there, can it be just the same earth as ours . . . just the same, as poor, as unhappy, but precious and beloved for ever, arousing in the most ungrateful of her children the same poignant love for her that we feel for our earth?" I cried out, shaken by irresistible, ecstatic love for the old familiar earth which I had left. The image of the poor child whom I had repulsed flashed through my mind.

"You shall see it all," answered my companion, and there was a note of sorrow in his voice.

But we were rapidly approaching the planet. It was growing before my eyes; I could already distinguish the ocean, the outline of Europe; and suddenly a feeling of a great and holy jealousy glowed in my heart.

"How can it be repeated and what for? I love and can love only that earth which I have left, stained with my blood, when, in my ingratitude, I quenched my life with a bullet in my heart. But I have never, never ceased to love that earth, and perhaps on the very night I parted from it I loved it more than ever. Is there suffering upon this new earth? On our earth we can only love with suffering and through suffering. We cannot love otherwise, and we know of no other sort of love. I want suffering in order to love. I long, I thirst, this very instant, to kiss with tears the earth that I have left, and I don't want, I won't accept life on any other!"

But my companion had already left me. I suddenly, quite without noticing how, found myself on this other earth, in the bright light of a sunny day, fair as paradise. I believe I was standing on one of the islands that make up on our globe the Greek archipelago, or on the coast of the mainland facing that archipelago. Oh, everything was exactly as it is with us, only everything seemed to have a festive radiance, the splendour of some great, holy triumph attained at last. The caressing sea, green as emerald, splashed softly upon the shore and kissed it with manifest, almost conscious love. The tall, lovely trees stood in all the glory of their blossom, and their innumerable leaves greeted me, I am certain, with their soft, caressing rustle and seemed to articulate words of love. The grass glowed with bright and fragrant flowers. Birds were flying in flocks in the air, and perched fearlessly on my shoulders and arms and joyfully struck me with their darling, fluttering wings. And at last I saw and knew the people of this happy land. That came to me of themselves, they surrounded me, kissed me. The children of the sun, the children of their sun--oh, how beautiful they were! Never had I seen on our own earth such beauty in mankind. Only perhaps in our children, in their earliest years, one might find, some remote faint reflection of this beauty. The eyes of these happy people shone with a clear brightness. Their faces were radiant with the light of reason and fullness of a serenity that comes of perfect understanding, but those faces were gay; in their words and voices there was a note of childlike joy. Oh, from the first moment, from the first glance at them, I understood it all! It was the earth untarnished by the Fall; on it lived people who had not sinned. They lived just in such a paradise as that in which, according to all the legends of mankind, our first parents lived before they sinned; the only difference was that all this earth was the same paradise. These people, laughing joyfully, thronged round me and caressed me; they took me home with them, and each of them tried to reassure me. Oh, they asked me no questions, but they seemed, I fancied, to know everything without asking, and they wanted to make haste to smoothe away the signs of suffering from my face.

Chapter IV

And do you know what? Well, granted that it was only a dream, yet the sensation of the love of those innocent and beautiful people has remained with me for ever, and I feel as though their love is still flowing out to me from over there. I have seen them myself, have known them and been convinced; I loved them, I suffered for them afterwards. Oh, I understood at once even at the time that in many things I could not understand them at all; as an up-to-date Russian progressive and contemptible Petersburger, it struck me as inexplicable that, knowing so much, they had, for instance, no science like our. But I soon realised that their knowledge was gained and fostered by intuitions different from those of us on earth, and that their aspirations, too, were quite different. They desired nothing and were at peace; they did not aspire to knowledge of life as we aspire to understand it, because their lives were full. But their knowledge was higher and deeper than ours; for our science seeks to explain what life is, aspires to understand it in order to teach others how to love, while they without science knew how to live; and that I understood, but I could not understand their knowledge. They showed me their trees, and I could not understand the intense love with which they looked at them; it was as though they were talking with creatures like themselves. And perhaps I shall not be mistaken if I say that they conversed with them. Yes, they had found their language, and I am convinced that the trees understood them. They looked at all Nature like that--at the animals who lived in peace with them and did not attack them, but loved them, conquered by their love. They pointed to the stars and told me something about them which I could not understand, but I am convinced that they were somehow in touch with the stars, not only in thought, but by some living channel. Oh, these people did not persist in trying to make me understand them, they loved me without that, but I knew that they would never understand me, and so I hardly spoke to them about our earth. I only kissed in their presence the earth on which they lived and mutely worshipped them themselves. And they saw that and let me worship them without being abashed at my adoration, for they themselves loved much. They were not unhappy on my account when at times I kissed their feet with tears, joyfully conscious of the love with which they would respond to mine. At times I asked myself with wonder how it was they were able never to offend a creature like me, and never once to arouse a feeling of jealousy or envy in me? Often I wondered how it could be that, boastful and untruthful as I was, I never talked to them of what I knew--of which, of course, they had no notion--that I was never tempted to do so by a desire to astonish or even to benefit them.

They were as gay and sportive as children. They wandered about their lovely woods and copses, they sang their lovely songs; their fair was light--the fruits of their trees, the honey from their woods, and the milk of the animals who loved them. The work they did for food and raiment was brief and not labourious. They loved and begot children, but I never noticed in them the impulse of that cruel sensuality which overcomes almost every man on this earth, all and each, and is the source of almost every sin of mankind on earth. They rejoiced at the arrival of children as new beings to share their happiness. There was no quarrelling, no jealousy among them, and they did not even know what the words meant. Their children were the children of all, for they all made up one family. There was scarcely any illness among them, though there was death; but their old people died peacefully, as though falling asleep, giving blessings and smiles to those who surrounded them to take their last farewell with bright and lovely smiles. I never saw grief or tears on those occasions, but only love, which reached the point of ecstasy, but a calm ecstasy, made perfect and contemplative. One might think that they were still in contact with the departed after death, and that their earthly union was not cut short by death. They scarcely understood me when I questioned them about immortality, but evidently they were so convinced of it without reasoning that it was not for them a question at all. They had no temples, but they had a real living and uninterrupted sense of oneness with the whole of the universe; they had no creed, but they had a certain knowledge that when their earthly joy had reached the limits of earthly nature, then there would come for them, for the living and for the dead, a still greater fullness of contact with the whole of the universe. They looked forward to that moment with joy, but without haste, not pining for it, but seeming to have a foretaste of it in their hearts, of which they talked to one another.

In the evening before going to sleep they liked singing in musical and harmonious chorus. In those songs they expressed all the sensations that the parting day had given them, sang its glories and took leave of it. They sang the praises of nature, of the sea, of the woods. They liked making songs about one another, and praised each other like children; they were the simplest songs, but they sprang from their hearts and went to one's heart. And not only in their songs but in all their lives they seemed to do nothing but admire one another. It was like being in love with each other, but an all-embracing, universal feeling.

Some of their songs, solemn and rapturous, I scarcely understood at all. Though I understood the words I could never fathom their full significance. It remained, as it were, beyond the grasp of my mind, yet my heart unconsciously absorbed it more and more. I often told them that I had had a presentiment of it long before, that this joy and glory had come to me on our earth in the form of a yearning melancholy that at times approached insufferable sorrow; that I had had a foreknowledge of them all and of their glory in the dreams of my heart and the visions of my mind; that often on our earth I could not look at the setting sun without tears. . . that in my hatred for the men of our earth there was always a yearning anguish: why could I not hate them without loving them? why could I not help forgiving them? and in my love for them there was a yearning grief: why could I not love them without hating them? They listened to me, and I saw they could not conceive what I was saying, but I did not regret that I had spoken to them of it: I knew that they understood the intensity of my yearning anguish over those whom I had left. But when they looked at me with their sweet eyes full of love, when I felt that in their presence my heart, too, became as innocent and just as theirs, the feeling of the fullness of life took my breath away, and I worshipped them in silence.

Oh, everyone laughs in my face now, and assures me that one cannot dream of such details as I am telling now, that I only dreamed or felt one sensation that arose in my heart in delirium and made up the details myself when I woke up. And when I told them that perhaps it really was so, my God, how they shouted with laughter in my face, and what mirth I caused! Oh, yes, of course I was overcome by the mere sensation of my dream, and that was all that was preserved in my cruelly wounded heart; but the actual forms and images of my dream, that is, the very ones I really saw at the very time of my dream, were filled with such harmony, were so lovely and enchanting and were so actual, that on awakening I was, of course, incapable of clothing them in our poor language, so that they were bound to become blurred in my mind; and so perhaps I really was forced afterwards to make up the details, and so of course to distort them in my passionate desire to convey some at least of them as quickly as I could. But on the other hand, how can I help believing that it was all true? It was perhaps a thousand times brighter, happier and more joyful than I describe it. Granted that I dreamed it, yet it must have been real. You know, I will tell you a secret: perhaps it was not a dream at all! For then something happened so awful, something so horribly true, that it could not have been imagined in a dream. My heart may have originated the dream, but would my heart alone have been capable of originating the awful event which happened to me afterwards? How could I alone have invented it or imagined it in my dream? Could my petty heart and fickle, trivial mind have risen to such a revelation of truth? Oh, judge for yourselves: hitherto I have concealed it, but now I will tell the truth. The fact is that I . . . corrupted them all!

Chapter V

Yes, yes, it ended in my corrupting them all! How it could come to pass I do not know, but I remember it clearly. The dream embraced thousands of years and left in me only a sense of the whole. I only know that I was the cause of their sin and downfall. Like a vile trichina, like a germ of the plague infecting whole kingdoms, so I contaminated all this earth, so happy and sinless before my coming. They learnt to lie, grew fond of lying, and discovered the charm of falsehood. Oh, at first perhaps it began innocently, with a jest, coquetry, with amorous play, perhaps indeed with a germ, but that germ of falsity made its way into their hearts and pleased them. Then sensuality was soon begotten, sensuality begot jealousy, jealousy--cruelty . . . Oh, I don't know, I don't remember; but soon, very soon the first blood was shed. They marvelled and were horrified, and began to be split up and divided. They formed into unions, but it was against one another. Reproaches, upbraidings followed. They came to know shame, and shame brought them to virtue. The conception of honour sprang up, and every union began waving its flags. They began torturing animals, and the animals withdrew from them into the forests and became hostile to them. They began to struggle for separation, for isolation, for individuality, for mine and thine. They began to talk in different languages. They became acquainted with sorrow and loved sorrow; they thirsted for suffering, and said that truth could only be attained through suffering. Then science appeared. As they became wicked they began talking of brotherhood and humanitarianism, and understood those ideas. As they became criminal, they invented justice and drew up whole legal codes in order to observe it, and to ensure their being kept, set up a guillotine. They hardly remembered what they had lost, in fact refused to believe that they had ever been happy and innocent. They even laughed at the possibility o this happiness in the past, and called it a dream. They could not even imagine it in definite form and shape, but, strange and wonderful to relate, though they lost all faith in their past happiness and called it a legend, they so longed to be happy and innocent once more that they succumbed to this desire like children, made an idol of it, set up temples and worshipped their own idea, their own desire; though at the same time they fully believed that it was unattainable and could not be realised, yet they bowed down to it and adored it with tears! Nevertheless, if it could have happened that they had returned to the innocent and happy condition which they had lost, and if someone had shown it to them again and had asked them whether they wanted to go back to it, they would certainly have refused. They answered me:

"We may be deceitful, wicked and unjust, we know it and weep over it, we grieve over it; we torment and punish ourselves more perhaps than that merciful Judge Who will judge us and whose Name we know not. But we have science, and by the means of it we shall find the truth and we shall arrive at it consciously. Knowledge is higher than feeling, the consciousness of life is higher than life. Science will give us wisdom, wisdom will reveal the laws, and the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness."

That is what they said, and after saying such things everyone began to love himself better than anyone else, and indeed they could not do otherwise. All became so jealous of the rights of their own personality that they did their very utmost to curtail and destroy them in others, and made that the chief thing in their lives. Slavery followed, even voluntary slavery; the weak eagerly submitted to the strong, on condition that the latter aided them to subdue the still weaker. Then there were saints who came to these people, weeping, and talked to them of their pride, of their loss of harmony and due proportion, of their loss of shame. They were laughed at or pelted with stones. Holy blood was shed on the threshold of the temples. Then there arose men who began to think how to bring all people together again, so that everybody, while still loving himself best of all, might not interfere with others, and all might live together in something like a harmonious society. Regular wars sprang up over this idea. All the combatants at the same time firmly believed that science, wisdom and the instinct of self-preservation would force men at last to unite into a harmonious and rational society; and so, meanwhile, to hasten matters, 'the wise' endeavoured to exterminate as rapidly as possible all who were 'not wise' and did not understand their idea, that the latter might not hinder its triumph. But the instinct of self-preservation grew rapidly weaker; there arose men, haughty and sensual, who demanded all or nothing. In order to obtain everything they resorted to crime, and if they did not succeed--to suicide. There arose religions with a cult of non-existence and self-destruction for the sake of the everlasting peace of annihilation. At last these people grew weary of their meaningless toil, and signs of suffering came into their faces, and then they proclaimed that suffering was a beauty, for in suffering alone was there meaning. They glorified suffering in their songs. I moved about among them, wringing my hands and weeping over them, but I loved them perhaps more than in old days when there was no suffering in their faces and when they were innocent and so lovely. I loved the earth they had polluted even more than when it had been a paradise, if only because sorrow had come to it. Alas! I always loved sorrow and tribulation, but only for myself, for myself; but I wept over them, pitying them. I stretched out my hands to them in despair, blaming, cursing and despising myself. I told them that all this was my doing, mine alone; that it was I had brought them corruption, contamination and falsity. I besought them to crucify me, I taught them how to make a cross. I could not kill myself, I had not the strength, but I wanted to suffer at their hands. I yearned for suffering, I longed that my blood should be drained to the last drop in these agonies. But they only laughed at me, and began at last to look upon me as crazy. They justified me, they declared that they had only got what they wanted themselves, and that all that now was could not have been otherwise. At last they declared to me that I was becoming dangerous and that they should lock me up in a madhouse if I did not hold my tongue. Then such grief took possession of my soul that my heart was wrung, and I felt as though I were dying; and then . . . then I awoke.

It was morning, that is, it was not yet daylight, but about six o'clock. I woke up in the same arm-chair; my candle had burnt out; everyone was asleep in the captain's room, and there was a stillness all round, rare in our flat. First of all I leapt up in great amazement: nothing like this had ever happened to me before, not even in the most trivial detail; I had never, for instance, fallen asleep like this in my arm-chair. While I was standing and coming to myself I suddenly caught sight of my revolver lying loaded, ready - but instantly I thrust it away! Oh, now, life, life! I lifted up my hands and called upon eternal truth, not with words, but with tears; ecstasy, immeasurable ecstasy flooded my soul. Yes, life and spreading the good tidings! Oh, I at that moment resolved to spread the tidings, and resolved it, of course, for my whole life. I go to spread the tidings, I want to spread the tidings--of what? Of the truth, for I have seen it, have seen it with my own eyes, have seen it in all its glory.

And since then I have been preaching! Moreover I love all those who laugh at me more than any of the rest. Why that is so I do not know and cannot explain, but so be it. I am told that I am vague and confused, and if I am vague and confused now, what shall I be later on? It is true indeed: I am vague and confused, and perhaps as time goes on I shall be more so. And of course I shall make many blunders before I find out how to preach, that is, find out what words to say, what things to do, for it is a very difficult task. I see all that as clear as daylight, but, listen, who does not make mistakes? An yet, you know, all are making for the same goal, all are striving in the same direction anyway, from the sage to the lowest robber, only by different roads. It is an old truth, but this is what is new: I cannot go far wrong. For I have seen the truth; I have seen and I know that people can be beautiful and happy without losing the power of living on earth. I will not and cannot believe that evil is the normal condition of mankind. And it is just this faith of mine that they laugh at. But how can I help believing it? I have seen the truth--it is not as though I had invented it with my mind, I have seen it, seen it, and the living image of it has filled my soul for ever. I have seen it in such full perfection that I cannot believe that it is impossible for people to have it. And so how can I go wrong? I shall make some slips no doubt, and shall perhaps talk in second-hand language, but not for long: the living image of what I saw will always be with me and will always correct and guide me. Oh, I am full of courage and freshness, and I will go on and on if it were for a thousand years! Do you know, at first I meant to conceal the fact that I corrupted them, but that was a mistake--that was my first mistake! But truth whispered to me that I was lying, and preserved me and corrected me. But how establish paradise--I don't know, because I do not know how to put it into words. After my dream I lost command of words. All the chief words, anyway, the most necessary ones. But never mind, I shall go and I shall keep talking, I won't leave off, for anyway I have seen it with my own eyes, though I cannot describe what I saw. But the scoffers do not understand that. It was a dream, they say, delirium, hallucination. Oh! As though that meant so much! And they are so proud! A dream! What is a dream? And is not our life a dream? I will say more. Suppose that this paradise will never come to pass (that I understand), yet I shall go on preaching it. And yet how simple it is: in one day, in one hour everything could be arranged at once! The chief thing is to love others like yourself, that's the chief thing, and that's everything; nothing else is wanted--you will find out at once how to arrange it all. And yet it's an old truth which has been told and retold a billion times--but it has not formed part of our lives! The consciousness of life is higher than life, the knowledge of the laws of happiness is higher than happiness--that is what one must contend against. And I shall. If only everyone wants it, it can be arranged at once.

And I tracked down that little girl . . . and I shall go on and on!


Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Woke Capitalism

Marxist Philosopher Slavoj Zizek Speaks Out Against ‘Woke’ and ‘Cancel’ Culture
Zizek argued that it should not be surprising that Big Tech supports these movements, since, in his opinion, we are living a ‘woke capitalism’

This Thursday, the Slovenian Marxist philosopher, Slavoj Zizek, published an article in which he insists on the need for the world to confront woke culture. Zizek says that we are facing “an exemplary case of false egalitarianism aimed at feeding hatred and envy.”

“I think Ben Burgis is right in his claim that the woke agents of cancel culture are ‘Canceling Comedians While the World Burns’: Far from being ‘too radical’, their imposition of new prohibitions and rules is one of the exemplary cases of pseudo-activity, of how to make sure that nothing will really change by pretending to act frantically,” Zizek said in the article published in Vox Populi.

In this sense, he argued that it should not be surprising that Big Tech supports these movements, since, in his opinion, we are living a “woke capitalism.” He also criticizes the fact that there are people who promote the end of meritocracy in schools.

“We are facing an exemplary case of false egalitarianism aimed at feeding hatred and envy,” he asserted.

Slavoj Zizek and his critique of cancel culture

Furthermore, he added “that in any case, the ‘woke’ position touches on a really important aspect in the reproduction of hegemony. I mean the reaction of the system, which changes from ridiculing its opponents to panicking and trying to suppress antagonism by legal means.”

However, he pointed out that it must be clear that those who oppose the cancel culture advocate the same issues: feminism, anti-racism, etcetera. But the criticism lies in the fact that the methods of achieving progress on these issues are not correct.

“Our criticism lies in the inefficiency in reaching them. With the defenders of the foundational myths, the story is very different: their goals are unacceptable, so we hope they will never reach them,” he concluded.

Vozpópuli SLAJOV ZIZEK, "No to the 'woke' culture: it's time to really wake up
The Slovenian philosopher dismantles the mirages of the new left 
PUBLISHED 06/17/2021 4:33 PM UPDATED 06/17/2021 21:37 

The usual reproach of liberal-conservatives towards the so-called 'woke' culture (also known as 'cancellation culture') is that it seems too radical: their partisans want to destroy all the statues, purge our museums, deprive us completely of our collective memory and purify everyday language by imposing its insipid jargon, the fruit of censorship. On this matter, I think Ben Burgis is correct when he argues that the agents of the cancellation culture are 'comedians in a world on fire': far from being 'too radical', his imposition of new rules and prohibitions is an exemplary case of pseudoactivity, how to make sure nothing is going to change by frantically feigning activity. It is not surprising that new forms of capital, particularly the anti-Trump tech moguls (Google, Apple, Facebook…) passionately support feminist and anti-racist struggles: our reality is a 'woke' capitalism. Things are not really changed by prescribing measures that lead us to a superficial ‘fair’ balance, which does not attack the root causes of imbalances. 

This is the latest case of the politically correct fight against privilege: the California Department of Education proposed that the differences between students with good records and their peers with lower grades disappear: Teachers must contain those who excel and encourage the less gifted , treating them as if they were equal in their abilities. Justification? "We reject the idea of ​​talent and natural abilities", since "there is no cut that determines who is talented and who is not." The objective is to "replace the concept of innate talent in mathematics with the recognition of each student who is on a path of improvement." 
Is it not a case of supreme injustice that some individuals are sexually much more attractive than others? ", The philosopher ironically raises 
We are before an exemplary case of false egalitarianism destined to feed hatred and envy. We need good mathematicians dedicated to advanced science, and the measures that are proposed do not help. The solution: why not demand better education for all and better living conditions for the poor? It is easy to imagine the next step of this false egalitarianism: is it not a case of supreme injustice that some individuals are sexually much more attractive than others? Sexuality, in effect, is a territory of terrible injustice and inequality ... Equality of sexual enjoyment is the last dream of this false egalitarianism.

Zizek and female desire 

There are a few genuine leftist opposition voices in this tide of false justice: in addition to Burgis, I must mention Angela Nagle and Katherine Angel. The only problem I have with Nagle's book is the title: Women and Desire in the Age of Consent: Tomorrow's Sex Will Be Good Again. The claim seems to imply that sex was once good, in the non-antagonistic sense, and that it will be good again. On very few occasions have I read a book with which I agree so completely on its basic premise, collected in a paragraph of editorial advertising, which I quote here extensively, without shame: “Women are in trouble: in the name of consent and From empowerment, they are forced to express their wishes clearly and confidently. Meanwhile, experts in sexual behavior suggest that female desire emerges slowly. Men insist that they know the mechanisms of what women seek, and also their desires. Meanwhile, sexual violence abounds. In this environment, how can women know what they want? And why do we expect them to know? Katherine Angel challenges our Assumptions about female desire. Why, the author wonders, should we be expected to know what we want? And how seriously can we take sexual violence when not knowing exactly what we want is key to our eroticism and our personality? "

The parts in italics (which are mine) are crucial: any feminist theory should take into account 'not-knowing' as a key piece of sexuality and base its opposition to violence in sexual relations not on explaining usual terms of “ only yes means yes ”, but rather to evoke that 'not-knowing'. This is why the motto that women "must proclaim their wishes clearly and confidently" is not just a sexual imposition, but a desexualization, a defense of 'sex without sex'. That is why feminism, in some instances, reinforces precisely that "shaming and silencing" female sexuality that it claims to oppose. What is objectionable about male sexual advances is not only direct, physical or psychological violence, but also the presumption that the man knows what the confused woman does not (and that this knowledge legitimizes his violence). A man is violent even when he treats a woman with respect if he condescendingly assumes that he knows her wishes better than she does. 
The only form of sex that perfectly fits the criteria of political correctness is the sadomasochistic contract. 
This in no way implies that female desire has any deficiency compared to male (who are supposed to know what they want): the lesson of psychoanalysts is that there is always a distance that separates what we want from what we want. It may happen that I not only want something but want to obtain it without explicitly asking for it, pretending that it has been imposed on me, and that asking for it directly would ruin the pleasure. Conversely, I can want something, dream about it, but not wish to obtain it: my subjective consistency may completely depend on not obtaining it and if I did obtain it my subjectivity would collapse. We must always keep in mind that one of the most brutal forms of violence occurs when something we secretly desire, or fantasize about (but are not prepared to do in real life), is imposed on us by an outside force. 

Crucial censorship 

The only form of sex that perfectly fits the criteria of political correctness is the sadomasochistic contract. Partisans of the politically correct left often reproach their critics for focusing too much on the excesses of political correctness, for example the censorious aspects of the cancellation culture and the 'woke' culture, ignoring much more serious forms of censorship. . In the UK we have the MI6 secret service with the right of veto in any state and academic instance, police controls of union activity, secret regulations on what can be published in the media, interrogations of Muslim minors about terrorist activities, not to mention of the illegal imprisonment of Julian Assange 
... According to some reactionaries, children should be taught a false version of the founding of the United States that looks more like a mythical virgin birth than the bloody and painful reality. 
I agree that this list brings together more serious sins than the cancellation culture, but I think all of this provides the definitive argument against the 'woke' culture and its politically correct regulations: why, then, is the left focusing on minor aspects of our everyday language rather than on these more relevant questions that we have cited? Not surprisingly, Assange himself was targeted by some politically correct feminists from Sweden (but not just from Sweden) who refused to support him because they took allegations of sexual misconduct very seriously (later dismissed by the Swedish judicial authorities). It seems that a minor infraction of the politically correct rules was more important than being a victim of the state terror machine.
In any case, the 'woke' position touches on a really important aspect in the reproduction of hegemony. I am referring to the reaction of the system, which changes from ridiculing its opponents to panicking and trying to suppress antagonism by legal means. Many times we find in the media complaints about the "excesses" of the theories of race or gender that ask to return to the hegemonic narratives about the American past. We are in the middle of a reactionary counteroffensive to reaffirm and whitewash the American myth. New laws proposed in at least fifteen US states propose to ban the teaching of critical theory about race, the New York Times Project 1619, and also any "divisive concepts." Children must be taught a false version of the founding of the United States that looks more like a mythical virgin birth than a bloody, painful reality. 

Divisive doctrines 

In Idaho, Governor Bill Little signed a law that schools cannot teach critical theory of race, which was stated to “inflame and exacerbate divisions on the basis of sex, race, ethnicity, religion, color, national origin. national, contrary to the unity of the nation and the welfare of the state of Idaho and its citizens. State Lieutenant-Governor Janice McGeachin established a task force to "examine indoctrination in Idaho education and protect our young people from the scourge of critical race theory, socialism, communism and Marxism." 

Are the forbidden theories really divisive? Yes, but only to the extent that they oppose (separate from) the hegemonic official myth that is already ‘divisive in its essence’: excluding certain groups and positions, which it places in a subordinate position. Beyond all this, it is clear that partisans of official myths are not so concerned with the truth as with the stability of the founding myths. These partisans, and not the people they despise as "cultural relativists," are engaging in post-truth; they like to mention the "alternative facts" but refuse to accept alternative founding myths. 

While we criticize the culture of cancellation, we must always keep in mind that we share its goals (those of feminism, anti-racism, etc.) since our criticism lies in the inefficiency in reaching them. With the proponents of the founding myths, the story is very different: their goals are unacceptable, so we hope they never achieve them.
Wokeness is an appeal to the "canned laughter" of cultural capitalism to  "laugh".

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Right-Populism Losing Momentum?


Andrew Higgins, "Populist leaders in Eastern Europe run into a little problem: unpopularity"

LJUBLJANA, Slovenia — A right-wing populist wave in Eastern Europe, lifted by Donald Trump’s surprise victory in 2016, has not crashed as a result of his defeat last November. But it has collided with a serious obstacle: Its leaders are not very popular.

After winning elections by railing against widely disliked elites, right-wing populists on Europe’s formerly communist eastern flank, it turns out, are themselves not much liked. That is due in large part to unpopular coronavirus lockdowns, and, like other leaders no matter their political complexion, their stumbling responses to the health crisis. But they are also under pressure from growing fatigue with their divisive tactics.

In Hungary, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán is being countered by an uncharacteristically united opposition. In Poland, the deeply conservative government has made an abrupt shift to the left in economic policy to win back support. And in Slovenia, the hard-right governing party of the Trump-loving prime minister is slumping disastrously in the polls.

Slovenia’s leader, Janez Janša, who made international headlines by congratulating Trump on his “victory” in November and is a self-declared scourge of liberal, or what he calls communist, elites, is perhaps the most at risk of the region’s unpopular populists.

Propelled by nationalist promises to bar asylum-seekers from the Middle East and “ensure the survival of the Slovenian nation,” Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party won the most votes in a 2018 election. Last year, a new coalition government led by the party had an approval rating of 65%.

This has since plunged to 26% and Jansa is so unpopular that allies are jumping ship. Street protests against him have attracted as many as tens of thousands of people, huge turnouts in a normally placid alpine nation with a population of just 2 million.

Jansa has staggered on, narrowly surviving a no-confidence vote in parliament and a recent impeachment attempt by opposition legislators and defectors from his coalition.

But he has been so weakened “he does not have the power to do anything” other than curse foes on Twitter, said Ziga Turk, a professor and Cabinet minister in an earlier government headed by Janša, who quit the governing party in 2019.

“The whole wave has lost its momentum.”— Luka Lisjak Gabrijelcic
An admirer of Hungary’s Orban, Janša has sought to bring the news media to heel, as nationalist governments in Hungary and Poland have largely succeeded in doing, at least with television.

But the only television station that consistently supports him, a bombastic and partly Hungarian-funded outfit called Nova24TV, has so few viewers — less than 1% of the television audience on most days — that it does not even figure in ratings charts.

Slavoj Žižek, a celebrity philosopher and self-declared “moderately conservative Marxist” — one of the few Slovenians well-known outside the country, along with Melania Trump — said it was too early to write off leaders like Janša, Orban and Jarosław Kaczyński of Poland, whose three countries he described as a “new axis of evil.”

Nationalist populists, he said, have rarely won popularity contests. Their most important asset, he said, has been the disarray of their opponents, many of whom the philosopher sees as too focused on “excessive moralism” and issues that do not interest most voters instead of addressing economic concerns.

“The impotence of the left is terrifying,” Žižek said.

That nationalist populism remains a force is demonstrated by Marine Le Pen, the French far-right leader. Her party fared poorly in regional elections over the weekend, but opinion polls indicate she could be a strong contender in France’s presidential election next year. She has done this by softening her image as a populist firebrand, ditching overt race-baiting and her previous and unpopular opposition to the European Union and its common currency, the euro.

Having never held high office, Le Pen has also avoided the pitfalls encountered by populists in East and Central Europe who have been running governments during the pandemic.

Hungary, Europe’s self-proclaimed standard-bearer of “illiberal democracy” under Orban, has had the world’s highest per capita death rate from COVID-19 after Peru.

Poland and Slovenia have fared better, but their right-wing governing parties, Law and Justice and Janša’s Slovenian Democratic Party, have both faced public anger over their handling of the pandemic.

The biggest danger to leaders like Janša and Orban, however, are signs that their quarrelsome opponents are finally getting their act together. In Hungary, a diverse and previously feuding array of opposition parties has united to compete against Orban’s ruling Fidesz party in elections next year. If they stick together, according to opinion polls, they could well win.

In Slovenia, Janša has rallied a loyal base of around 25% of the electorate but has been “even more successful at mobilizing his many opponents,” said Luka Lisjak Gabrijelcic, a Slovenian historian and a disenchanted former supporter. “His base supports him, but lots of people really hate him.”

This includes the speaker of parliament, Igor Zorcic, who recently bailed from Janša’s coalition. “I do not want my country to follow the model from Hungary,” he said.

Gabrijelcic said he quit Janša’s party because it “turned too nasty,” moving away from what he had viewed as a healthy response to stale center-left orthodoxy to become a haven for paranoiacs and nationalist hatemongers.

Israel as the bellweather

Across the region, he added, “The whole wave has lost its momentum.” Trump’s defeat has added to its malaise, along with the recent toppling of Israel’s longtime leader, Benjamin Netanyahu, whose pugnacious tactics have long been admired by nationalist leaders in Europe, despite the antisemitism that infects parts of their base.

Trump’s presidency was never the trigger for Europe’s populist surge, whose leaders had been around and winning votes for years before the New York real estate developer announced his candidacy.

But Trump did give cover and confidence to like-minded politicians in Europe, justifying their verbal excesses and placing their struggles in small, inward-looking countries into what seemed an irresistible global movement.

The danger now that Trump has gone, said Ivan Krastev, an expert on East and Central Europe at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, is that the once “confident populism” of leaders like Janša and Orban morphs into a more dangerous “apocalyptic populism” of the kind that has gripped segments of the right in the United States.
“[The] negative coalition against Netanyahu, [deeply shocked Europe’s right-wing populist leaders] because Israel was their model.” — Ivan Krastev
But America’s political convulsions, he added, are less relevant to Eastern Europe than the fall of Netanyahu in Israel, a country that he described as the “true dream of European nationalists” — an “ethnic democracy” with a strong economy, capable military and an ability to resist outside pressure. The “negative coalition against Netanyahu,” he said, deeply shocked Europe’s right-wing populist leaders “because Israel was their model.”

Turk, the former Slovenian minister, said liberals had exaggerated the menace posed by Europe’s nationalist tilt, but that the polarization is very real. “The hatred is even more extreme than in the United States,” he lamented. Eager to present an image of calm respectability for Europe’s cantankerous illiberal movement, Orban in April hosted a meeting in Budapest of like-minded leaders committed to creating a “European renaissance based on Christian values.”

Only two people showed up: Matteo Salvini, a fading far-right star in Italy who crashed out of government in 2019, and Poland’s beleaguered prime minister, Mateusz Morawiecki.

Intended to signal the strength of Europe’s right-wing populist insurgency, the Budapest conclave “was more a desperate step to hide that they are in decline,” said Peter Kreko, director of Political Capital, a Budapest research group.

Faced with the prospect of losing next year’s election, Orban has focused on revving up his base with issues like LGBTQ rights and migration, just as the Law and Justice party did in Poland last year during its successful presidential election campaign.

In Poland, the Law and Justice party has since taken another tack, apparently deciding that it needs more than divisive cultural and historical issues to win future elections.

In May it embraced measures traditionally associated with the left like higher taxes on the rich and lower levies on the less well-off, and support for homebuyers. That came after its popularity ratings fell from around 55% last summer to just over 30% in May, partly because of the pandemic but also because of anger, particularly in large towns, over the tightening of strict laws against abortion.

When it comes to alienating voters, however, nobody rivals Janša of Slovenia, who has made scant efforts to reach beyond his most loyal supporters, casting critics as communists and stirring up enmities that date back to World War II.

Damir Crncec, the former head of Slovenia’s intelligence agency and once a vocal supporter, said he was mystified by Janša’s penchant for unpopularity. “Everyone here is looking for a rationale: How can you win in politics if you are constantly fighting with everyone?” he asked.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Nature of Pseudo-Reality

Many of the greatest horrors of the history of humanity owe their occurrence solely to the establishment and social enforcement of a false reality. With gratitude to the Catholic philosopher Josef Pieper and his important 1970 essay “Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power” for the term and idea, we can refer to these alternative realities as ideological pseudo-realities.

Pseudo-realities, being false and unreal, will always generate tragedy and evil on a scale that is at least proportional to the reach of their grip on power—which is their chief interest—whether social, cultural, economic, political, or (particularly) a combination of several or all of these. So important to the development and tragedies of societies are these pseudo-realities when they arise and take root that it is worth outlining their basic properties and structure so that they can be identified and properly resisted before they result in sociopolitical calamities—up to and including war, genocide, and even civilizational collapse, all of which can take many millions of lives and can ruin many millions more in the vain pursuit of a fiction whose believers are, or are made, sufficiently intolerant.

The Nature of Pseudo-realities

Pseudo-realities are, simply put, false constructions of reality. It is hopefully obvious that among the features of pseudo-realities is that they must present a plausible but deliberately wrong understanding of reality. They are cult “realities” in the sense that they are the way that members of cults experience and interpret the world—both social and material—around them. We should immediately recognize that these deliberately incorrect interpretations of reality serve two related functions. First, they are meant to mold the world to accommodate small proportions of people who suffer pathological limitations on their abilities to cope with reality as it is. Second, they are designed to replace all other analyses and motivations with power, which these essentially or functionally psychopathic individuals will contort and deform to their permanent advantage so long as their pseudo-real regime can last.

Pseudo-realities are always social fictions, which, in light of the above, means political fictions. That is, they are maintained not because they are true, in the sense that they correspond to reality, either material or human, but because a sufficient quantity of people in the society they attack either believe them or refuse to challenge them. This implies that pseudo-realities are linguistic phenomena above all else, and where power-granting linguistic distortions are present, it is likely that they are there to create and prop up some pseudo-reality. This also means that they require power, coercion, manipulation, and eventually force to keep them in place. Thus, they are the natural playground of psychopaths, and they are enabled by cowards and rationalizers. Most importantly, pseudo-realities do not attempt to describe reality as it is but rather as it “should be,” as determined by the relatively small fraction of the population who cannot bear living in reality unless it is bent to enable their own psychopathologies, which will be projected upon their enemies, which means all normal people.

Normal people do not accept pseudo-reality and interpret reality more or less accurately, granting the usual biases and limitations of human perspective. Their common heuristic is called common sense, though much more refined forms exist in the uncorrupted sciences. In reality, both of these are handmaidens of power, but in pseudo-realities, this is inverted. In pseudo-reality, common sense is denigrated as bias or some kind of false consciousness, and science is replaced by a scientism that is a tool of power itself. For all his faults and the faults of his philosophy (which enable much ideological pseudo-reality), Michel Foucault warned us about this abuse quite cogently, especially under the labels “biopower” and “biopolitics.” These accusations of bias and false consciousness are, of course, projections of the ideological pseudo-realist, who, by sheer force of rhetoric, transforms limitations on power into applications of power and thus his own applications of power into liberation from it. Foucault, for any insight he provided, is also guilty of this charge.

It must be observed that people who accept pseudo-realities as though they are “real” are no longer normal people. They perceive pseudo-reality in place of reality, and the more thoroughly they take on this delusional position, the more functional psychopathy they necessarily exhibit and thus the less normal they become. Importantly, normal people consistently and consequentially fail to realize this about their reprogrammed neighbors. Perceiving them as normal people when they are not, normal people will reliably misunderstand the motivations of ideological pseudo-realists—power and the universal installation of their own ideology so that everyone lives in a pseudo-reality that enables their pathologies—usually until it is far too late.

As a result of this failure of perspective, many particularly epistemically and morally open normal people will reinterpret the claims of pseudo-reality into something that is plausible in reality under the usual logic and morals that guide our thinking, and this reinterpretation will work to the benefit of the pseudo-realists who have ensnared them. This sort of person, who stands between the real world and the pseudo-real are useful idiots to the ideology, and their role is to generate copious amounts of epistemic and ethical camouflage for the pseudo-realists. This phenomenon is key to the success, spread, and acceptance of pseudo-realities because without it very few people outside of small psychologically, emotionally, or spiritually unwell people would accept a pseudo-reality as if it is a superior characterization of the genuine article. Clearly, the more plausible the account of pseudo-reality on offer, the stronger this effect will be, and the more power the ideologues who believe in it will be able to accrue.

Pseudo-realities may have any degree of plausibility in their distorted descriptions of reality, and thus may recruit different numbers of adherents. They are often said to be accessible only by applying a “theoretical lens,” awakening a specialized “consciousness,” or by means of some pathological form of faith. Whether by “lens,” “consciousness,” or “faith,” these intellectual constructs exist to make the pseudo-reality seem more plausible, to drag people into participating in it against their will, and to distinguish those who “can see,” “are awake,” or “believe” from those who cannot or, as it always eventually goes, will not. That is, they are the pretext to tell people who inhabit reality instead of pseudo-reality that they’re not looking at “reality” correctly, which means as pseudo-reality. This will typically be characterized as a kind of willful ignorance of the pseudo-reality, which will subsequently be described paradoxically as unconsciously maintained. Notice that this puts the burden of epistemic and moral responsibility on the person inhabiting reality, not the person positing its replacement with an absurd pseudo-reality. This is a key functional manipulation of pseudo-realists that must be understood. The ability to recognize this phenomenon when it occurs and to resist it is, at scale, the life and death of civilizations.

Adoption of a pseudo-reality tends to hinge upon a lack of ability or will to question, doubt, and reject them and their fundamental presuppositions and premises of the pseudo-reality. Therefore, the “logical” and “moral” systems that operate within the pseudo-reality will always seek to manufacture this failure wherever they can, and successful pseudo-realist attacks will evolve these features like a social virus until their effectiveness is very high. This deficiency is often the direct result of mental illness, usually paranoia, schizoidia, anxiety, or psychopathy, however, so maintaining and manufacturing these states in themselves and normal people is strongly incentivized by the false “logic” and false “morality” of the ideological pseudo-reality. That is, the methods and means applied in service to a pseudo-reality will create and manipulate psychological weaknesses in people to get them to carry water for a destructive lie. The nicer, more tolerant, and more charitable a community is, supposing it lacks the capacity to spot these counterfeits early on, the more susceptible its members will tend to be to these manipulations.

Pseudo-realities and Power

The ultimate purpose of creating a pseudo-reality is power, which the constructed pseudo-reality grants in many ways. Though these means are many, we should name a few. First, the pseudo-reality is always constructed such that it structurally advantages those who accept it over those who do not, frequently by overt double standards and through moral-linguistic traps. Double standards in this regard will always favor those who accept pseudo-reality as reality and will always disfavor those who seek the truth. An ideological pseudo-reality must displace reality in a sufficient population to grant itself power to succeed in its goals. Linguistic traps will often employ strategic double meanings of words, often by strategic redefinition (creating a motte and bailey), will beg the question in ways that forces people to participate in the pseudo-reality to respond (often by Aufhebung-style, i.e., Hegelian, dialectical traps), or will begin with an assumption of guilt and demand proof of innocence such that denial or resistance is taken as proof of guilt of some moral crime against the moral system that serves the pseudo-reality (a kafkatrap). Demands will be made with sufficient vagueness such that they can never be said to have been met and such that responsibility for failure will always be the fault of the enemies of the ideology who “misunderstood” them and thus implemented them incorrectly.

Second, the very assertion of pseudo-reality demoralizes all who are pressed into engaging with it by the mere fact of being something false that must be treated as true. We should never underestimate how psychologically weakening and damaging it is to be forced to treat as true something that is not true, with the effect strengthening the more obviously false it is. Despite the fact that obviousness of the pseudo-real distortion concentrates its demoralizing power, pseudo-reality is only pseudo-real when the distortion is not immediately and wholly transparent and also when it is sufficiently widely socially accepted to become a socially constructed pseudo-truth. Whether or not the distortion is apparent, however, the situation it creates is most demoralizing for those who see through it because making the distortions of a pseudo-reality apparent to those who do not already see them is always exceptionally tedious and will be vigorously resisted not only by adherents but by useful idiots.

Thus, third, by trading off normal people’s assumptions that seemingly serious people care about what is true, they successfully force normal people to verify aspects of the pseudo-reality even in the act of denying it by getting the normal person to meet the ideologue part way. This is the relevance of pseudo-reality being pseudo-real, with greater plausibility strengthening the effect. That is, many normal people will fail to realize the pseudo-reality is false because they cannot see outside of the frame of normality that they charitably extend to all people, whether normal or not.

This dynamic bears a brief elaboration. Normal people do not tend to recognize that a broken logic and twisted morality is being used to prop up an ideological vision—a pseudo-reality—and that the mental states of the people within it (or held hostage by it) are not normal. Some among them, particularly the very but not exceptionally smart, thus skillfully reinterpret the absurd and dangerous claims of the pseudo-realist ideologues into something reasonable and sensible when, in fact, they are not reasonable or sensible. This, in turn, renders the pseudo-reality more palatable than it actually is and further disguises the distortions and underlying will to power presented by the ideological pseudo-realists. All of these features, and others, advantage the ideologue who, like some modern-day Zarathustra, speaks a pseudo-reality into existence, and all of these confer power upon that ideologue while stealing it from every participant in their social fiction, willing or not.

A Note on Ideology

As we are now speaking in terms of ideologues, we need to be clear before continuing that by “ideology” is meant here something closer to “cult ideology” than a more general meaning of the term. It is crucial to distinguish between these so that we do not confuse those sweeping approaches to contextualizing and understanding reality that are generative of comprehension of the real with those that exist in relationship with the pseudo-real.

Liberalism may, for example, be construed as an ideology, but it would not qualify as a cult ideology because, for any shortcomings it may have, it makes itself subordinate to the truth. (Indeed, this together with its incorrect general assumption of the normality of all people is why liberal systems are so susceptible to ideological pseudo-reality and thus so desperately need a vaccine against them.) That liberalism subordinates itself to an external, or objective, truth is obvious from the first principles of liberalism, which arises in the context of favoring rationalism and deferral to the greatest degree of objectivity in any circumstance it seeks to understand or dispute it aims to solve. It also explicitly sides with due processes in service to these objectives and explicitly denies any “ends justify the means” rationales. Accordingly, it exhibits none of the psychopathic tendencies that arise quite regularly in the context of ideologies that depend upon the production and maintenance of some useful but bogus pseudo-reality.

Cult Pseudo-realism and Utopianism

Though we are primarily interested in ideological pseudo-realities, perhaps the most atomic example of a pseudo-reality is not ideological in nature. It is the tragic world of the clinically deluded person, which only he accepts as the “true” state of affairs. “His reality,” “his truth,” is no one else’s because he is not a normal person, and no one is confused by this. The psychopathology involved is readily apparent to all normal people, and, if all goes well, he receives treatment, not enablement. Extending this example up by one rung on the social ladder, we can imagine that our delusional person is sufficiently charismatic and linguistically savvy to establish a cult following of fellow believers in his pseudo-reality. While a cult may not itself be ideological, it requires no effort to climb the ladder from a cult (say of personality, even) all the way up to global pseudo-real sociopolitical movements that endure over decades or even centuries (Hegel, for example, wrote The Phenomenology of Spirit in 1807).

Only two propositions are needed to understand this ladder exists from a single deluded person with a small cult around him to a massive and devastating political movement. The first is simpler: it is that otherwise psychically, emotionally, and intellectually healthy people can be manipulated into pathologies in these domains. That is, such a ladder exists because pseudo-realists are sometimes able to persuade people that the presumptions underlying their pseudo-real construction provide a better read on reality than others, which obviously happens all the time. Cults arise and can grow quite large.

The second is that cults can become ideological, and, more specifically, Utopian. This also happens with some documented frequency, especially in situations where some oversimplification of how to arrange the entire social order in which we all live takes on a glorious vision with a Utopian endpoint—literally, nowhere, in the original Greek (there are no Utopias, only dystopias). A reliable symptom that this is occurring is a vision over a very long time period (often a millennium), after which time all social ills will be cured, that nevertheless requires a revolution in the here and now to begin. These cults of pseudo-reality are very dangerous and threaten us and our civilizations even today.

The Utopian vision hiding at the heart of all (cult) ideologies provides the rationale beneath and means by which an ideological pseudo-reality is created. The pseudo-reality is a construction that misunderstands actual reality as compared against the imagined Utopia that resides at the end of the ideological rainbow. It is constructed to force as many people as possible to live within the Utopian daydream of the people who find reality less tolerable than a fictional alternative that cannot be believed without nearly universal compliance. That is, the pseudo-reality that is constructed in service to an ideology is a fantastic vision of society made perfect for certain intolerant misfits that is then turned backwards upon itself. In other words, as we shall see, Utopian ideologies are psychopathic and arise from an inability to inhabit reality (at least without treatment).

So the construction of an ideological pseudo-reality tends to be done in reverse by starting with an impossibly perfect society (in the view of particular psychopathological people) and then inventing an alternative vision of the world we actually inhabit as a kind of mythology that contains a pseudo-real explanation for why we have not yet arrived at Utopia and how we might get there yet. Details are light—specifically because no plan can replace reality with pseudo-reality—and it will be insinuated by the ideologues that they will be provided as we go. The pseudo-real Utopia will thereby be produced from reality through a process that’s rightly described as alchemical in nature—seeking to make something out of that which cannot produce it—which nearly always involves creating fundamental changes to society and the people who inhabit it. Here it bears mentioning that any injustice in the present and near future can be justified against a vision of perfection for fictitious people a thousand years hence.

Pseudo-realities as Language Games

As implied by Pieper, as can be seen even in the title of his essay from which we’re taking the term “pseudo-reality” (“Abuse of Language, Abuse of Power”) these constructions tend to arise out of abuses of language that enable abuses of power. These manipulations are therefore attractive to people with strong inclinations to control other people or to take power, particularly when they are of moderately high intelligence, relatively well-off, and linguistically savvy (while, perhaps, lacking in other more concretely valuable skills). That is, pseudo-realities are constructed by linguistically capable manipulators who wish to control other people, and it’s reasonable to assume that a sufficiently convincing (and convicting) pseudo-reality will then draw in more such people who are able to develop the pseudo-world and its fictions and then convince people it maps meaningfully onto reality in a way that it does not. The process by which they do this might most accurately be called discourse engineering, with the exact same connotation that we usually attach to the bigger project it facilitates, social engineering. Some specific types of these language games, to borrow a phrase from Wittgenstein, were mentioned briefly above.

These behaviors, even when done by the sincere person who has confused reality for a pseudo-reality, should all be seen as manipulations and abuses, though it’s always important to recognize that intention of each participating individual matters in the moral ramifications that follow from this fact. Pseudo-real world-builders tend to manipulate people upon their vulnerabilities, which is a well-known fact of cult recruitment. Thus, they are most effective on people who have an underlying baseline of psychological, emotional, or spiritual illness, particularly of the kinds that relate poorly to the real world and the rough-and-tumble social realities within it. As noted, these are also often manufactured to purpose and target the psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually susceptible, along with the naive, the angry, and the aggrieved. It is in such minds where pseudo-realist manipulations are most effective and can generate a sizable sympathizer base among otherwise normal people, some of whom will be induced into the psychopathologies that underlie the whole project. This is the real alchemy of the pseudo-realist ideological project: turning normal, mostly healthy people into psychologically, emotionally, and spiritually broken water-carriers who can no longer cope adequately with the features of reality and thus must prefer the pseudo-reality that was built to receive them—and, more importantly, to make strategic use of them.

Academic Pseudo-realities

Given the fact that they are the tool of manipulative people who exhibit high thirst for power and linguistic savvy, pseudo-realists tend to target the (bourgeois) upper-middle class whose livelihoods depend most upon their credentialing and acceptance by a group of peers, particularly the highly educated, though not most brilliant, among them. An abnormally high proportion of such individuals are employed in education, media, politics, and especially academia. (The most potent and dangerous ideological pseudo-realities are the kinds of absurdities only academics could truly believe.) Among its features, pseudo-reality, being a linguistic and social construction, enables a path to careerism and credentialing in these sorts of professions far more than in most others, which generates an incentive structure that favors the pseudo-realists’ ambitions.

Aside from base careerism among the otherwise underaccomplishing, these people are also particularly susceptible to rhetorical devices that arouse the possibility that they are insufficiently intelligent, sensitive, or spiritually enriched, and the pseudo-reality will then be presented as the proper “interpretive frame” that resolves these defects. Maybe it will be suggested, for example, that the pseudo-realist has a more complete or sophisticated understanding of reality that the intended target doesn’t or can’t understand (often by appealing to the infinitely complicated “systemic nature” of problems that are otherwise quite straightforward). Maybe a moral or spiritual attack will be made that renders them feeling unlikable by others or self (often through accusations of moral complicity and crimethink). The fact that the pseudo-reality does not conform correctly to actual reality will generate cognitive dissonance that, in the circumstances, will be usefully generative of more indoctrination into the basic premises of the pseudo-reality. This is, of course, a specific manifestation of the process of cult indoctrination and reprogramming.

This feature of pseudo-realist cultism strengthens as the mark accepts more of the premises of the pseudo-reality and thus divorces himself further and further from reality and normal people who live within it. This slowly traps adherents, who have almost no escape mechanism, even when ideological off-ramps are made plainly available. Without even mentioning that they know how their daily bread is buttered—and by, and in relation to, whom—because those who accepted pseudo-reality have distorted their understanding of the world (their epistemology) to the internal (bogus) “logic” of the pseudo-reality and have subverted their ethics (their morality) to the (evil) “moral” system employed by it, they are well and truly trapped by the ideology the pseudo-reality serves. With a distorted logic that can no longer perceive reality except as a counterfeit, they lack the necessary epistemic resources to challenge the ideology, even within themselves. With a subverted morality that perceives evil as good and good as evil in accordance with the slave morality of the pseudo-reality, their entire social environment is conditioned to keep them in a Hell whose gates are locked from the inside. Thus, to understand ideological pseudo-realities and to try to discover something we can do about them, it is necessary to examine their internal logic and moral systems in more detail.

Ideological Paralogic

Because the pseudo-reality is not real and does not correspond in any faithful way to objective reality, it cannot be described in terms that are logical. In the realm of how it thinks about the world, a pseudo-reality will employ an alternative logic—a paralogic, an illogical fake logic that operates beside logic—that has internally comprehensible rules and structure but that does not produce logical results. Indeed, it necessarily must correspond not to reality but to pseudo-reality, and it must also therefore violate the law of non-contradiction. That is, a pseudo-real paralogic will always be internally (and often unrepentantly) inconsistent and self-contradictory. This can be taken as a symptom that a paralogic is being presented in support of a pseudo-reality, as can be any sustained attack on principles of objectivity and reason.

In successful ideological pseudo-realities, the paralogic in play necessarily manipulates normal people outside of its purview into trusting their own (incorrect) assumption that the paralogic must somehow be logical (why wouldn’t it be?). Thus, normal people will (wrongly) assume that the given descriptions of the pseudo-reality must have some reasonable (real) interpretation that is intelligible by applying real logic (incorrectly) to the claims of the pseudo-realist. (Very) smart people will look for this “logical” reinpretpretation of nonsense by reflex and will thus render themselves (very smart) useful idiots.

The role paralogic plays in being parallel to logic but for a false reality is crucial to understand. It reliably leads (very) smart, thoughtful people who utterly reject the pseudo-reality—and yet who remain mostly ignorant of its paralogical structure—to carry water for the ideologues inhabiting it by normalizing it while portraying accurate critics as kooks and bad actors. In fact, these (very smart) people are generating the smokescreen to the broader normal public that makes the pseudo-reality look far more reasonable and tethered to reality than it actually is. This intellectual manipulation of (very smart) people is a crucial factor in the establishment of any successful large-scale pseudo-reality, which will only be able to maintain a relatively small proportion of true believers. Of note, nobody is better at this than an educated or credentialed liberal who stands to lose a lot by being branded a kook or bad actor by other useful idiots.

It must be recognized that the paralogical structure that serves the ideological pseudo-reality is ultimately alchemical—not chemical, not scientific, i.e., not logical—in nature. That is, it wants to make something out of nothing (and thus makes nothing out of something). More specifically, it seeks to change the substance of one “reality” into another effectively by means of a magic that does not exist. Indeed, its objective is to transmute the substance of reality as it is into what is envisioned in the pseudo-reality and the Utopia it is ultimately based upon. This means that there can be no legitimate form of disagreement with a pseudo-real paralogic, and there can be no disproof of the pseudo-reality it claims to make sense of. The paralogic, falsely appearing logical, dismisses all such contradictions. Real communism, as we have heard, for example, has apparently never been tried, and the problem was that the people who implemented it, say through the Leninist Soviet model in one design or another, didn’t properly understand it or its crucial elements. Thus, the paralogic of the ideology cannot produce philosophy but only sophistry. It cannot produce gold from lead, but it can get its sorcerers to drink mercury and drive themselves mad.

Ideological Paramorality

Alongside the paralogical structure used to trick useful idiots into defending the ideological pseudo-reality project is a powerful tool of social enforcement using an ostensibly moral dimension. A relativist might refer to this as a “moral framework” that is ethical “within the ideology,” but as it is a morality contingent not upon the facts of human existence as those exist in reality but instead as they are distorted in the constructed pseudo-reality, it would be more appropriate to refer to it as a paramorality, an immoral false morality which lies beside (and apart from) anything that deserves to be called “moral.” The goal of the paramorality is to socially enforce the belief that good people accept the paramorality and attendant pseudo-reality while everyone else is morally deficient and evil. That is, it is an inversion of morality, the slave morality as described by Nietzsche in his Genealogy of Morals.

Because the paramorality is, in fact, immoral, participants in the pseudo-reality will experience vigorous, usually totalitarian, enforcement of the ideological paramorality. It is in this way that the requisite social pressure is created to maintain the lie and its immoral system. In turn, following the cycle of abuse, they will then use the same tenets and tactics to (para)-moralize normal people outside of it, eventually far more vigorously. The trend toward puritan-style pietism, authoritarianism, and eventually totalitarianism in application of this paramorality is a virtual certainty of acceptance of an ideological pseudo-reality, and these abuses will be visited not only on every participant in the constructed fictional reality but also to everyone who can be found or placed within its shadow (which can come to include entire nations or peoples or, in fact, everyone, even those who reject it). Again, this is the true alchemy of the pseudo-realist program; it transforms normal, moral people into immoral agents who must perpetrate evil to feel good and perceive as evil those who do good.

An ideological paramorality is even less accessible to disagreement than the paralogic of an ideological pseudo-reality because it bets everything—including reality itself and the well-being of every individual who inhabits it—against Utopia, a daydream of absolute perfection. Thus, the paramorality sees only two types of people: those who accept the pseudo-reality and replace actual morality with its paramorality positioned as champions against those who must not want Utopia (and who therefore must want a world of suffering of the kind its architects are least capable of bearing). In this regard, there is no neutrality in a paramoral system, and all shades of gray are alchemically transformed into real black and pseudo-real white. Thus, in a pseudo-realist’s paramorality, there is either fully convicted support or incomprehensible (in the paralogical system) and depraved (in the paramorality) desire to see the indefinite continuation of the evils that will no longer exist when the Utopia is (technically never) realized. Vicious moralizing that will eventually justify violence, including on wide scales, is an eventual guarantee of such demands, if they are enabled sufficiently to shift that power to the ideologues.

This guarantees the paramorality of an ideological pseudo-reality will always be repressive and totalitarian. Dissent and doubt cannot be tolerated, and disagreement must be cordoned off into a moral pit that adherents dare not approach. Further, the paramorality will mandate deceptively bifurcated concepts of concepts like tolerance (which must be repressive), acceptance, compassion, empathy, fairness (all of which must be conditional and selective), merit (in regurgitating the doctrines of the pseudo-reality), and compromise (to always favor pseudo-real claims) that preposterously support the pseudo-reality, all propped up by the linguistic games at the heart of the pseudo-real ideological project. That is, specifically, the bifurcation makes these concepts completely relevant in ways that bias for its ideas, but strictly prohibited for any others. These bogus constructions are meant to unilaterally shift power to the ideologues so that their pseudo-reality can remain propped up.

It must be stressed that the paramorality in play is always an inversion of the prevailing morality that is also parasitic upon it—namely, Nietzsche’s slave morality. In other words, it is a particular type of perversion of morality that can feel more moral than moral but is, in fact, evil. This is because the paramorality acts in service to a pseudo-reality, not reality, and is thus the domain of psychopathy, which, when inflicted on the normal masses, is evil. The goal of the paramorality will always arise from and exist to favor people with particular psychopathologies who cannot otherwise cope with the discomforts of reality. This implies that an ideological pseudo-reality’s most successful means of gaining strength is through appealing to the perceived victimhood of those people and whipping up the grievances of those who have suffered similar injustices with more dignity. When widely empowered, this should be treated as another symptom of impending civilizational calamity and a need to identify and reject the pseudo-reality manipulating these feelings.

The Threads Upholding Pseudo-realities

It cannot be overstated that the pseudo-reality cannot be maintained without strenuous application and enforcement of the relevant paralogic and paramorality that have just been described. Put classically, paralogic is pathos subverting logos, and paramorality is pathos dominating ethos. No society can be healthy—or long survive—in such a state. The threads of paralogic and paramorality have to be identified and severed if we are to escape the calamities of ideological pseudo-realities. Non-contradiction and genuine moral authority are therefore fatal to ideological pseudo-realities.

These two elements—a false paralogic and an evil paramorality—are crucial to the creation, maintenance, and spread of all pseudo-realities that go beyond an unfortunate delusional individual. They are the threads holding up the entire distortion and its increasingly criminal enterprise. If these are cut in any meaningful way, so falls the entire pseudo-reality, which cannot support itself (being unreal) and will necessarily collapse under its own weight. This maneuver will have consequences, of course. It will take with it much of the society it has infected, but it will also liberate those people it has ensnared or holds hostage, both paralogically and paramorally. Learning and teaching others to identify these two threads, the paralogic and paramorality that uphold the pseudo-reality—and thus to see them as fundamentally illogical and immoral—is the key and only possible way to resist and eventually destroy a movement predicated on the social construction and enforcement of an ideological pseudo-reality.

The Caprice of the Party

Because pseudo-reality is not real, it is not possible for people it has ensnared to check any claim within it for themselves, even if they have the courage to feel inclined to do so (as it will induce a paramoralizing beating commensurate with the quantity of power that the pseudo-realists have managed to obtain). This necessitates the elevation and appointment of specialists in one or both of the paralogic and paramorality of the ideological pseudo-reality to make these determinations for everybody (in the aforementioned bifurcated way). The traditional modern name given to this cabal of corrupt “experts” is “the Party” (“Pharisees” is, probably, one more historical name). These are the people who the pseudo-reality is designed to benefit through grift and extortion, and so the paralogic twists to support their views, even when these change, and the paramorality bends to ensure they are always righteous. Professed acceptance of the pseudo-reality, skill in its paralogic, and application of its paramorality to self and others become the political test of Party commitment and access to Party spoils, and in all but the highest echelons of Party activity, these will all be routinely and viciously tested.

Again, it cannot be lost in this analysis just how crucial is the basic fact that pseudo-realities do not describe reality. This carries a number of consequences. For one thing, it commits the Party to being illogical and immoral, as it commits itself to relying upon paralogic and paramorality in place of logic and morality. As should be clear, it is to the greatest advantage of the pseudo-realists (the Party) for their paralogic to be the most illogical that it can while still passing a generic sympathizer’s sniff-test as “logical,” and it is likewise most advantageous for their paramorality to be maximally immoral in the same way.

This state of affairs is a potent weapon of demoralization in and of itself, and it lends itself to a particular caprice quite naturally—even necessarily. The Utopia will not realize (this being another thing), being that it is an object of pseudo-reality and thus not real, and in its place, there will be only the Party’s iron grip on power, maintained at any cost and by any means (and the more desperately and brutally in failure). Lacking an objective standard of reference and being without a universally accessible (in principle) appeal to reason, the discourse of the powerful (and of power itself) becomes ever more determinative. A capricious paralogic that defines as correct today but not necessarily tomorrow that which the Party says is right today but not necessarily tomorrow and a parallel paramorality that does the same trick upon what is right are superior as paralogic and paramorality, and thus they will be favored by the Party. The unfailing result is caprice from the Party, ever the favored tool of dominance and totalitarianism.

Of note, while the Party will always identify and punish scapegoats to enable its abuses and cover up its mounting failures—which are assured due to the break from reality at the heart of its project—the Party itself is the ultimate scapegoat of the pseudo-realist project. This seemingly unlikely fact is comprehensible in the paralogic (notice how it seems illogical) and demanded by the alchemical heart of the paramorality it employs. In the end, and the end will always arrive for every specific pseudo-real project, the pseudo-reality will collapse and the Party will be blamed. Just as when alchemical experiments failed, the alchemist’s spiritual purity is always called (unfalsifiably) into question, so too will the corruption of the Party by paramoral “evils” be blamed (like, having a bourgeois mentality). The “real” pseudo-real ideology will remain “unattempted” (in a sufficiently uncorrupted form), and more importantly, the general thrust of the paralogic and paramorality will therefore survive their own death (again, it can’t be logical). Christian readers will immediately recognize this as an inversion of Christianity (the inverted Cross), for God puts no one but Himself on the Cross and willingly bears in innocence the responsibility of sin for all others, thus to enable Grace, whereas this approach eschews in guilt all responsibility entirely so as to continue in the world unhindered by its own deviance.

Later, upon finding the right societal alchemical ingredients for the time, the surviving paralogical and paramoral modes will generate a new, generally identical pseudo-reality that threatens (liberal) civilization yet again. This is why it is the twin threads of the paralogic and the paramorality have to be severed to defeat pseudo-realist ideologies and vaccinate otherwise healthy societies (especially liberal ones) from their abuses. If this is done in specific to a particular pseudo-reality, then that manifestation will collapse, hopefully before it can do much damage. If this can be done in general by learning to identify and reject ideological paralogics and paramoralities as a genus of bogus intellectual and ethical activity, that is much better. This happens more or less solely through recognition: learning to spot pseudo-realities, paralogic, and paramorality, and subsequently recognizing that they are the province of psychopathies that should never be given unchecked power over normal people.

Psychopathy and Pseudo-reality

Now that we have established that an ideological pseudo-reality is all but destined, once it starts gaining sway and power, to head toward caprice, abuse, and totalitarianism of the most pernicious, dangerous, and evil forms—and to the death of civilizations and massive numbers of their inhabitants if unchecked early enough in their progression—we need to pause to understand another fine point that bears on the entire analysis. If we take a step back to consider our delusional cultist upon which the entire analysis began, we can glean another important point about the nature of ideological pseudo-realities that has been repeatedly intimated so far. That is this: it is easy to perceive that this hypothetical person not only might be but probably is psychopathic to a certain degree if he is creating a cult ideology and attendant pseudo-reality. Pseudo-reality is not the domain of the sane, by definition, and wishing to enforce one’s pathologies upon others for one’s own benefit, especially through manipulation of their vulnerabilities, is as near to a simple, general definition of psychopathy as one could hope to read.

Psychopathic ideologies will engender a number of predictable self-concentrating consequences. For one thing, they will by their nature attract and channel the vision of like-minded psychopathic opportunists (“grifters”), who will form the core of the developing Party. They will also degrade the psychological capacity of anyone who comes in contact with the ideology—for or against it. This is done through demoralization of a variety of forms, including (para)-moralizing, ostracization, dialectical trapping, and the highly useful tactic of employing “reversive blockades,” which obliterate anyone’s ability to know the truth about reality by forcing distortions from pseudo-reality upon them (which prevents their reversion toward sanity and out of the clutches of the pseudo-reality and its paralogic and paramorality). These tend to result in people not being able to discern what is true any longer and to assume the truth—whether material or moral—must be somewhere in between where they were before and the pseudo-real assertion being forced upon them. One will immediately notice that this necessarily moves the target further away from reality, as the new position will be some blend of the person’s former belief and an assertion out of pseudo-reality. One will also notice that it is a manipulation, and when paramoralizing is involved, a coercive one (to the benefit of the psychopathic ideology).

Most concerningly, psychopathic ideologies reliably generate (temporary but) functional psychopathy in otherwise normal people who, by means of these manipulations, become sufficiently convicted fellow travelers with and sympathizers to the ideology. Quite literally, aside from the direct effects of demoralization and the destabilization caused by the growing drift of their beliefs away from reality and toward unreality (pseudo-reality), a psychopathic ideology makes its sympathizers believe and act in psychopathic ways themselves, at least in a functional sense. These are the demands and costs of upholding the paralogic (so as not to be a “fool” in pseudo-reality) and paramorality (so as not to be the wrong kind of person in pseudo-reality), and slowly these victims of the ideology become the monsters they were too weak to fight. As noted previously, virtues like tolerance and empathy are intentionally perverted until they begin to bifurcate so that they carry a political valence (paramorality good, morality bad) that increasingly favors the pseudo-real ideology and becomes legitimately psychopathic as the effect strengthens.

Eventually, a normal person subjected to these circumstances ceases to be normal. This occurs when they “awaken” to a “full consciousness” in the pseudo-reality. At that point, they will have reached a place where, from their perspective, pseudo-reality is reality and reality is the pseudo-reality. That is, they will be psychopathic themselves, in thrall to the paralogic of the pseudo-real delusion and with bifurcated and narrowed ethics and moral virtues under its paramoral system. Presumably, in the majority of such previously normal people, this effect is temporary and contingent upon participation in the cult, though it is likely that some of the relevant psychological damage will be long-lasting, if not permanent. Nevertheless, in the short term, the result of this dynamic is a growing body of functionally and legitimately psychopathic people accruing more and more power for themselves, which they use (in psychopathic ways) to enforce their ideological pseudo-reality on everyone, most notably everyone else.

This process is quite exquisite. The deficiencies of the paralogic, caprice of the paramorality, and dissonance around the pseudo-reality itself will all tend to engender in the susceptible normal person a similar sense of distress about inhabiting reality as the pseudo-reality exists to enable. Obviously, this is convenient for recruitment, indoctrination, and eventual (psychopathic) reprogramming because the pseudo-reality is constructed in such a way as to enable those specific psychopathologies to flourish and avoid detection and treatment. In this regard, one might refer to the spread of a psychopathic ideology and its pseudo-reality by now-familiar phrases like “the madness of crowds,” which is more apt than one might realize at first blush, and even sociopolitical “zombification.”

Importantly, this circumstance implies that the average “fellow traveler” in a cult ideology not only does not realize they’re a cultist who is using tools and tactics of manipulation (paralogic and paramorality) on people in their lives, both normal and ideologically “awakened” fellow cultists; they cannot realize this without first abandoning the paralogic and paramorality that has captured them and rejecting the ideological pseudo-reality in a fundamental way. They find themselves in the broken position not only of being functionally psychopathic but also of being reality-inverted such that they believe all normal people who are not (yet) cultists are the cultists while they, themselves, are not. This represents a complete reversal of sanity, and the conversion of normal to ideologically psychopathic is, by that point, complete. These people, as many have learned the hard way throughout history, are the otherwise good people who are capable of perpetrating genocides.

Cutting the Threads

What, then, could possibly be the answer to this perilous and perennial tangle? Fortunately, the first step, at the least, is very simple. It’s mere awareness. It is learning to recognize the constructed pseudo-reality for what it is—a fabricated simulation of reality that is unfit for human societies—and beginning to reject unapologetically any demand to participate in it. This means refusing the analysis of the paralogic (by seeing its contradictions) and being held to account by the paramorality (by recognizing its caprice, malice, and evil) that sustain the lie. (An old word for this is “secularism,” in the non-specific sense.) In the exact instant one becomes competent at spotting the lie—or, the network of lies—held in service of a constructed pseudo-reality and its social enforcement, one already possesses the necessary perspective to break the spell of the pseudo-reality in its entirety. This, knowing the cheat for what it is, more than any other thing, is how the strings of paralogic and paramorality are cut, and with them cut pseudo-reality will come crashing down.

This can only be done by learning enough to see the games, telling the truth, and refusing to be coerced or forced to participate in the increasingly hegemonic pseudo-reality before it claims totalitarian power. Speaking practically, there are two straightforward ways this can be done. One is to refute the pseudo-reality, and the other is to reject it.

For most people, the latter of these is easier than the former, and it requires less of someone. Strength of will and character will suffice. Simply refusing to participate in the pseudo-reality, utilize its paralogic, or bow to its paramorality—and to live one’s life as though it is utterly irrelevant to yours—is a powerful act of defiance against an ideological pseudo-reality. It requires nothing more of a person than a convicted statement that says, “This does not apply to me because it is not me” (or, “not even real”), a refusal to make decisions based in socially constructed fear and intimidation, and a willingness to live one’s life on the most normal terms possible. This is a powerful and peaceful act of defiance that many other normal people (those outside the pseudo-reality) will recognize for strength, and while it may cost you in the short term and in some ways, it will reap rewards in the long term and in others, at least up until the point that the paramoral totalitarian trap is fully sprung on a sufficiently broken and demoralized society. Just keep your head up and refuse to live your life on someone else’s (psychopathic) terms, and you will do much against such budding regimes.

Refuting pseudo-reality is harder, as it requires much more specific knowledge along with skill, strength of character, and courage. It also must be done, at least by someone, if an ideological pseudo-reality has already taken root. Such a pseudo-reality has to be shown to be a false reality, which is to say a pernicious fiction, to as many people as possible. To do it, its distortions of reality, the contradictions of its paralogic, and the evils and harms of its paramorality must all be exposed and explained as a first step. These objectives require devoting, which is in some sense wasting, a great deal of time and expending a great deal of effort intentionally learning something one knows is false and therefore (if one is successful) useless. It is also demoralizing to learn, given the psychopathic nature of the material. It’s not for the faint of heart, even if all goes well.

Commonly, also, this process will not be comfortable and requires tremendous courage of precisely the kind that ideological demoralization is very effective at eroding and containing. The paralogic will interpret direct dissent as stupid or crazy, and the paramorality will characterize it as evil (or motivated by evil intentions, even if unconscious ones outside of the dissenter’s awareness). The courage to bear these outrageous insults and slander, and to bear its unjust social consequences, is therefore a necessary precondition to putting a halt to totalitarianism. It is understandable why most will not choose this path, but be warned: the longer one waits, the worse this gets.

For those who will take up the task, the approach is a combination of being informed, being courageous, being forthright, and being subversively funny. Being informed is necessary to identify, expose, and explain the distortions of the pseudo-reality and juxtapose them with reality. It is also necessary to make use of the most decisive tool that exists against ideological pseudo-realities, which is the law of non-contradiction. Pseudo-realities and their paralogical structures always contradict reality and themselves, and exposing these contradictions exposes their lies. Being courageous and forthright is necessary to believe in oneself and one’s (real) values and thus to withstand the paramoralizing attacks and social pressure they will generate, but they inspire more of the same and restore moral authority to those who are drained of it by these distortions. Being subversive and funny undermines the psychopathy and will to power that characterize the entire ideological pseudo-realist enterprise.

Resisting effectively and with sufficient knowledge (refuting) is, of course, best, but resisting at all, even by mere refusal to participate in any obvious lie (rejecting), is also effective. This is because revealing the ideological pseudo-reality for what it is—false and irrelevant to actual reality—undermines the pseudo-reality and encourages more people to refute and reject it. Even more powerful, however, is that revealing the underlying nature of the ideological pseudo-reality—that it is psychopathic—to normal people (including those partially ensnared) ranks highly among the ways the paralogical and paramoral threads can be severed. And, a psychopathic reaction is precisely what will result from effectively resisting a psychopathic ideology. The challenging part is that you, who dares resist their games and who eludes their trap, becomes the target of their psychopathic ire, and many sympathizers who you would usually count as friends will take sides against you (there is no neutral in the paramorality). The earlier one enters this fight, the more courage it takes and yet the more valuable it is.

Some of the requisite courage to resist can be found by remembering that the pseudo-reality is not real, its paralogic is not logical, and its paramorality is not moral. That is, it’s not you; it’s them. Some more backbone can be dredged up by realizing that once the pseudo-real begins displacing the real for even a few percent of the population, the question is no longer whether things will go bad but how bad they will go before the bubble bursts. Reality will always win, and calamity comes in proportion to the size of the lie between us and it, so it is better to act sooner than later. Still more heart resides in grasping that it gets worse right up until a real resistance mounts, and then, after a rocky transition, it starts getting better. The time to act is therefore now.

The way resistance—just plain resistance—works is by restoring to the normal person the epistemic and moral authority necessary to resist the ideologue’s illegitimate demands to participate in a pseudo-real fraud. That is, it restores confidence in normality to the normal. No one feels ashamed of resisting a con, whatever form it takes, and this is the real phenomenon we face with any growing ideological pseudo-reality. Its paralogic and paramorality work to drain us of our sense of authority to know what is and is not true and what is and is not right. One’s authority only lacks under the assumptions of the paralogical and paramoral systems, however—that is, inside pseudo-reality—and it can be reclaimed by anyone who simply refuses to participate in the lie. Step outside of the pseudo-reality (take the “red pill,” as depicted in The Matrix), and you’ll see.