Saturday, July 12, 2008

Are you afraid of the dark?

I think most of us are in some form or another, though usually it take the form of a fun sort of scared. Sort of like a roller coaster minus the motion sickness, and well, lacking the use of the sense most humans rely on the most obviously.

Speaking of obvious, how this paragraph is related to the previous isn't. Ideablob is a site i tripped over a while back. it is an ongoing contest sponsored by a bank. Contestants post an idea for a business, and users of the site vote on the ideas, winner for any given month gets $10k to try to develop that business, doubled if the winner hold a corporate card from that bank. It is sort of an experiment in democracy, hope, and the idiocy of crowds. One thing i have noticed is that most of the people who have ideas posted don't seem to be big on posting helpful advice or comments to the ideas of others. And a lot of those who DO post advice etc, have no ideas posted. I am sure you can guess which users i am more likely to see as worthwhile human beings. (hint: This is not worthwhile.)

When i was younger, myself and a few reprobate friends used to play a macabre variant of hide and seek. We called it "Murder in the Dark." We would kill every light source in the house and all but one would scatter. The last player, the hunter, would wait a bit while charging up a glow in the dark hockey mask to max brightness using a blacklight, and then systematically hunt down the rest as the glow from the mask grew dimmer and his (or occasionally her) night vision improved. Last one "killed" donned the mask for the next round. There were sometimes freakouts on the part of folks new to this game especially when i played as the hunter, as most would make noise, mimicking bits from horror flicks... i was generally as silent as i could manage. One variation we never got around to trying was adding things like photo strobes in the hands of the "victims" to use in disorienting the hunter and aiding in escape.

Which brings us to this (hey it isn't spam if it is my own damn blog right?) You need to register for the site to comment or post advice to it... let alone to vote. And hell, i am not going to ask you to, though i would appreciate it.

The idea i posted is just something i want to see happen, a way to return to a past time i bloody well should have grown out of by now. So i hereby promise not to sue anyone who manages to implement the idea, all i demand is a reciprocal promise not to sue may ass if i manage to implement it after you do. Finding a way to bring me out to wherever this is built would definitely be a bonus.

Please someone, make this happen, because we are all a bit scared of the dark, and i love being scared... especially if i also get the chance to freak someone else right the fuck out.

Hi, My name is Michael, and i am an asshole... but then again so are you.

Yes, I know, that title is a bit inflammatory... but before you (the likely imaginary at this point) reader gets all pissed off, read the rest of of the post...

I'm an asshole, and without ever meeting you, i am convinced that you are too... same with every person on this benighted planet, and if there is other sentient life in the universe THEY are likely assholes too.

Believe it or not, this is not pessimism, or even cynicism. It is optimism. We are all at the base, at the same level. And once someone recognizes their own assholatry, actually ACTING like one becomes optional.

See, by my reckoning, being an asshole is a bit like the Roman Catholic view on sin, having the impulse is nearly as bad as acting on them. But unlike the Christian version of sin, no poor asshole nailed to a tree can wash the stain away.

There are no exceptions. If my imaginary readers turn into actual commenters and try to tell me of any, on the off chance that i can't prove them wrong to my own satisfaction, it will likely be because i don't know enough about the person they propose.

Though i admit, that my naming every putatively sentient being in the universe an asshole depends rather heavily on my own definition of what makes someone an asshole, and my idea that it is the impulses as much as the actions that count.

Asshole impulses include and are not limited to: Prejudice, hypocrisy, excessive anger, insufficient empathy, excessive empathy, apathy, irrational fear, magical thinking, selfishness, deception, self deception,willful ignorance and sometimes unthinking altruism.

I can imagine it now, "Michael you asshole, how can you say empathy and altruism are bad things? They are two of the best concepts our species has come up with!"

And i won't disagree, but will point out the adjectives i used. Excessive empathy is worrying more about the feelings of a monster, than paying attention to the result of that monster's actions. Yes, people who become monsters often have some extreme trauma that helped to cause them to become monsters... But this is at best a partial explanation NOT an excuse, and treating what is learned through such empathy as more than a partial explanation is a fucking insult to the thousands or millions of people who survived trauma without becoming monsters themselves.

Altruism - thought = even worse. It is giving a hungry man a fish instead of a fishing net. It is a man who can't swim jumping into the water to save someone who isn't drowning. It is sending rice to countries where the government is intentionally starving out a part of the population... and trusting the government to fairly distribute that rice. It is sending money to the char^h^h^h^ spammer who actually just infected your PC with the Storm worm. Thoughtless altruism can be worse than none at all.

And we are all guilty from time to time of having, and sometimes ACTING on those impulses.

There may be some saints in this universe who have never acted on their assholish impulses. I have never heard of any though, and doubt that i ever will, because even the gods we humans believe in are assholes.

In the Greek mythos: Zeus, a serial adulterer, who didn't much care whether his "mistresses" consented, so he was also a serial rapist, ya can't get much more assholish than that. Though Hera, his long suffering wife comes close, she didn't kick that asshole to the curb, she punished the mortal women her husband raped, and often as not the children who resulted as well.

Feh... this type of stuff is the reason that when i am having religious moments, i tend to follow the Trickster types, at least they are up front about the fact they will likely fuck you over.

The Judeo-Christian Mythos isn't any better, sure there is less fratricide, matricide and patricide in the Genesis account than in most creation myths but the Judeo Christian creator is feeding his creations a line of bullshit pretty much from the time they were created.
Creator: Don't eat that fruit, it'll kill ya. (wanders off, not paying attention, so much for omniscience)
snaky dude: Hey girlie, try this apple, it is tasty and will confer on you the ability to form moral judgements.
First (or maybe second, depending on which chapter of genesis you believe is literally true) Girlie: I dunno, that other dude said it was poisonous..
SD: No really, it is might tasty, and good for you, it will set you free.
FG: OK... **Crunch**

You probably know the rest of the story, presented in more conventional terms... The lesson Judeo Christian types took from this, is about "Original Sin" and blame it on the girl and the snake... The way *I* see it the asshole who created them got caught in a lie and punished them for it.

So yeah, in case you haven't caught on, i don't follow any of the Abrahamic faiths. But having been raised in the midwestern US my parents would have had a hard time avoiding my exposure to its mythos had they tried.

Yeah, so i'm an asshole and so are you, what do we do next?

Me, i simply recognise the fact, and try to avoid ACTING like an asshole, with varying levels of success of course.

Other folks: Some if they had read this would simply consider me full of shit. The may agree that *I* am an asshole, and maybe everybody else is an asshole, but they themselves are an exception. This in their minds may justify acting like as asshole, since everybody else is, and they are not... I am guessing we all have met this sort of asshole.

An then there is the sort of asshole who might agree with me fully, except for my conclusions on how to deal with it. They may take the idea that everybody including them being assholes as permission be act like an even bigger asshole. This type is nearly indistinguishable from the previous type.

And then there is the poor asshole whose only sure point of agreement with my rant is that they themselves are assholes... and they feel real bad about it.

**sigh** That last type is on some ways the most annoying to me... especially when they get so tied up in guilt over something they don't have full control over that they do nothing to try to help fix whatever damage they cause. Though i will note that if there IS someone who isn't a obvious asshole, and generally doesn't act like one, it is likely this type.

So, imaginary readers, what sort of assholes are you? Or do you just want to call me a shit head and tell me of exceptions to my rules?

BTW, just because i am not the sort of asshole who intentionally commits plagiarism, the seeds of this rant were planted by half remembered dialog in a book, but damned if i can remember which book. I am about 70% certain the author was Spider Robinson, but i can't, for the life of me, find the bit of dialog in any copies of any of his books i own. **sigh** I think that the book also included the "God is an Iron" pun, but i have seen that one in a few of his works.

So if anyone with similar tastes and better memory finds this, feel free to post likely sources.