Forbidden feelings

Raging against hate is all the rage these days. When exactly did this happen? When did humanity become obsessed with fighting and defeating hatred? And why is love always the weapon of choice in this battle? Of all our  enemies over the course of an epic, blood soaked history, none have loomed larger than this fundamental emotion.

The kind of love put forward as the opponent of hate isn’t a strong love of the particular, the familiar, or the known. It’s rather a flabby armed embrace of the featureless, the disfigured, and the foreign. Because there’s less durable passion in love for the unfamiliar and distant, the leftover affective intensity is rerouted towards vicious condemnation of the hateful bigots nearby.

But the critical contempt of the international egalitarian is still weaker than the love he would otherwise naturally feel for kith and kin. The histrionic, shrill reactions to local ignorance and rejection of diversity are suggestive of diminished attachments and reduced fellowship. Theatrical, exaggerated outrage and condescension signal a lack of stable emotional investment in enduring social bonds and shared ways of life.

It’s not that a modern day sophisticate only pretends to care about remote third worlders and oppressed minorities, it’s that his capacity for care is so degraded that he genuinely feels more attuned to people he’s never met than those with his own flesh and blood. He finds it easier to love outsiders because they don’t constrain his undisciplined appetites and unfocused hedonism.

Excess often hides a lack. When someone makes a show of their sensitivity, look for what leaves them cold and unresponsive. Something is missing. An overstimulated organism requires high doses of extremity to achieve equilibrium. If it’s not over the top, then it fails to register or provide balance.

Atomized individuals drained of natural affinity have to shock themselves into fits of feeling. They flail, wail, jerk and heave at the slightest provocation. It’s an unconscious strategy to stir a sluggish amygdala. Emotion and reward centers in the brain are in disarray and people resort to radical methods to cope with confusion and disorientation.

But explanations for disorder that revolve around personal failings are inadequate. There is always a moral dimension to behavior, but there are impersonal forces at work as well. It’s not just that people are soft, weak or perverse because they make bad choices.

We are a species adapted to thrive in environments and relationships wildly different from those that we find ourselves in today. The alien pressures of technological society, especially in densely populated urban areas, have far reaching physical and psychic effects that bypass circuits of morality and executive decision.

Mechanical, modern rhythms break down the body and sap the soul. Industrialization manufactures man as a disposable unit with an assembly line attitude. The organic body collapses as it tries to keep up with the punishing pace of efficient, mechanized production.

Then digitization and electronic interfacing rewire the brain to prefer masturbatory, voyeuristic stimulation to sincere social engagement. Automation and artificial intelligence introduce an inhuman aspect to thought, causing confusion over the source and aims of our reasonings.

Doubt and despair well up. People begin to think of themselves as machines, robots, and computers. They see themselves as simulations and life loses its seriousness, solidity and dignity. Proportion is rejected and moderation become impossible.

Wayward religion impulses craft makeshift belief systems. People become more scattered and fragmented as they call for more inclusion and acceptance. A watered down love is then promoted as a bland, substitute ideal for a dehumanized, redundant population.

This disordered, drained humanity is numb to beauty. Dismissive towards truth. Everything is pushed to its breaking point at the margins. It’s why art is so often ugly and words are so often scathing. Music, painting, sculpture, and literature monotonously glorify naked self assertion and absorption. High culture productions harden into sterile critique and spiritless obscenity. The lower classes take the values preached by their social superiors seriously and fall into dysfunctional behavior patterns.

Mass society makes people uncomfortable with averages. The weight of being merely in the middle of a mass is crushing. Technological and economic changes disrupt meaningful social roles and send people in search of fulfillment on the fringes.

We are moving towards a future without strong, lasting emotions. We are replacing evolution with social engineering. The emerging, scientifically managed caste system will have no place for the hateful, except at the bottom as a reminder of how far it’s possible to fall. Those who hate will become untouchable.

Author: The Empty Subject

Born curmudgeon

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