Imagine there’s no heaven

Weak and fearful people suppose that everyone else must also act out of weakness and fear. People without healthy senses of humor can’t tolerate joking and levity; they are incapable of understanding why someone would say or do something funny if it made someone else feel bad. For a certain diseased, depraved batch of humanity, everything is a struggle for power, a moral drama, and material for psychological analysis.

Take, for instance, the bully. What is the standard explanation for his cruel behavior ? It runs along these lines: the bully, though physically strong, is emotionally insecure. He is compensating for an obscure lack within, and rather than come to terms with his own inadequacy, he lashes out and inflicts pain and suffering on others. His mockery, intimidation, and violence are masks of his own impotence. The bully’s greatest fear is that he will be exposed as powerless, that others will see through his threats and force him to confront his own internal frailties.

How reassuring, how comforting and equalizing. The bully is just like us, weak and afraid, only he is psychologically blind to this reality. We, who are bullied, though we live in fear of the bully, are really superior, because we see through his defenses and know the truth about what he can’t admit to himself. We are all insecure, but we have the high ground since we don’t oppress others to make up for it.

This might very well be true. But it might be completely wrong. What people who reason like this can’t comprehend or accept is a far tidier, cleaner possibility, which is that the bully acts the way he does because it’s fun. He’s not compensating for a lack, acting out a childhood drama, seeking roundabout revenge against his parents or rebelling against an absent god. He’s simply strong in a brutal, unreflective fashion, and that strength seeks to discharge itself whenever and wherever it’s convenient.

People turn their heads from this unsavory fact. Nietzsche, that delirious, joyful asshole, never shied away from reminding us of the ancient, long practiced and still strong human enjoyment in cruelty. He reestablished the disavowed link between festive happiness and violent, wanton behavior. We want to believe that people who hurt others are also hurting inside. What if they aren’t? What if it plainly feels good to feel one’s strength in crushing weakness? Does this possibility remove the last bastion of consolation for the oppressed?

When a person is consumed with contempt for themselves, they think that contempt must be driving the behavior of others. If you criticize them, it’s because you hate them. If you don’t wish to celebrate their identity or way of life, you are hateful and bigoted. There are no disagreements or differences that don’t involve intense, bilious emotions. There is no disproval that isn’t damnation. Such a fragile, volatile person is constantly on edge, always on the verge of a histrionic reaction to a perceived slight, which for said person would be anything less than blithering encouragement and praise.

People also console themselves for not having wealth, power, and fame by suspected that those who do are really, secretly unhappy or unfulfilled. Once again, it’s an imaginary equalizing gesture, without which the poor, stupid, and ugly throngs of humanity would be even less comfortable with their wretched lot. Those beautiful, clever, mercilessly ambitious monsters are even worse off than we are, they are empty inside, and they¬†suppress their sadness with sex, money, and dazzling achievements.¬†

Maybe it’s true. But maybe it isn’t. Maybe some of those talented, gifted, privileged people are having a fucking blast, and there’s not a damn thing anyone can do about it. If only the marginal, disfigured, bland, brown paper bag people had this guarantee, that behind the glamorous excesses of the creative and beautiful there roiled and raged a commonplace self loathing and inadequacy. If only they could be so lucky.

When God dies and his corpse starts to stink like a Calcutta Indian’s unwashed taint, people catch wind of it. And when they realize that no omnipresent force will be getting revenge for them, they become restless. The psychological tricks they play on themselves will work for a while. What happens when those tricks are played out? Just imagine the stark, naked resentment, the blind, revolutionary violence.

Author: The Empty Subject

Born curmudgeon

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