Wednesday, August 16, 2017

The Bullshit Vaccine, or How the Dumb Inherited the Earth

Hello, idiots! Let's talk about intelligence today. 

Yes, I just called you all idiots. Since it's impossible for any one person to know everything, we're all idiots at something. A great musician might be an idiot in the kitchen, and a great cook might be an idiot on a football field. By that logic, there's no escape to idiocy, and everyone in the world is a de-facto idiot. 

Except me, of course. I know everything. 

More specifically, let's talk about the conceits surrounding intelligence, and the hangups surrounding the pursuit of knowledge and truth in today's world. Let's talk about how, even though illuminating oneself is among the noblest (and most necessary) of goals, we humans have ruined it. 

Yep. We've ruined it up the point that the true purpose of this goal has become practically unrecognizable. We've thoroughly neglected the joy of the truth, prioritizing feelings and arbitrary moral guidelines over facts. One could say that knowledge has endured the same treatment that the female body has endured throughout history: policed on how it chooses to express itself, subjected to unfair judgment, and never accepted for what it truly is. 

So a few days ago, I watched God Bless America on Netflix - a biting, satirical film about rampant anti-intellectualism and lack of empathy in America. The story follows Frank, a man who suffers from migraines and misanthropy (both conditions equally severe). In the beginning, he is seen sitting on the sofa and flipping through channels late at night, idly fantasizing about murdering his callous, noisy neighbors and their shrieking gargoyle of a baby, who regularly deprives him of quietude and sleep. The TV flashes in front of him, displaying a smorgasbord of stupidity, including judges on a reality singing competition bullying a nutty, naïve contestant, a smug, self-righteous political talk show host shaming a grieving mother who had lost a son in the war, and a show featuring two girls engaged in a heated screaming match, which at a point reached such a fever pitch that one of the girls removed her bloody tampon on the spot and flung it at the other in a fit of rage. 

Incensed by all these proceedings, Frank decides that the only way to bring society out of its awful state is to shoot all the scumbags in it. He befriends Roxy, who could be described as a female Holden Caulfield, and together they embark on a quest of murdering sorry lowlife after sorry lowlife to make the world a better place. 

The movie, as you might expect, is satisfyingly brutal. Even though I'm a total tree-hugging pacifist who believes violence is never the answer (except in cases of self-defense), I would be lying if I didn't admit it was thrilling to see all those discompassionate, vapid mouth-breathers getting their heads blown off. Additionally, the fact that people of this sort exist in real life, and that their inane exploits are foisted upon us every day by supposedly respectable media outlets made the gratuitous gore all the more welcome. 

I sighed with contempt when I realized that the world of God Bless America is more fact than fiction. Yes, we all may be idiots, but let's face it - most people on this planet have become a little more idiotic than they should be. Why does nobody care about knowledge anymore? Why are so many of us unable to see through hypocrisy and lies? Why is everyone constantly seeking instant gratification? 

It seems to be that most of us have been given the bullshit vaccine, and as a result, have become entirely immune to bullshit. We take bullshit from our families, friends, teachers, religious leaders, bosses, politicians, the media, and countless other sources, often without batting an eyelid. We are fast to drink the Kool-Aid but slow to think for ourselves, prioritizing a false sense of safety, security, and comfort over truth and freedom. Our immunity to bullshit has robbed our thirst for knowledge and killed our sense of compassion. 

But where exactly did this "bullshit vaccine" come from? There are several evolutionary reasons behind its cultivation - a major one being collectivism. Since time immemorial, humans have always been afraid of change, not realizing the fact that change is the only permanent thing in the universe. This will for constancy led to the formation of tribes with strong group mentalities. The people at the tops of these groups dominated the masses by using - you guessed it - bullshit

But it's never enough just to spew bullshit. Nobody can just run around spreading lies right away and expect people to believe them at word. No, the key is to brainwash the masses into believing them. This is where the "vaccine" part comes in. In order for people to become receptive to bullshit, they either need to be satisfied or afraid. Therefore, the bullshit vaccine comes in two main forms to manipulate the gullible: 1. Bread and circuses, which satisfy immediate needs of people and desensitizes them, and 2. Direct threats which inspire fear to blackmail people.  

"Bread and circuses" is a steady diet of entertainment and pacifying political policies that slowly numb people and make it easier for leaders to take away their rights. In Ancient Rome, gladiator fights at the Coliseum and good food kept the general public occupied and desensitized them to the regimes of dictatorial emperors such as Nero. Some people argue that the same effect can be seen in the modern day with the influence of reality TV and sensationalized news, which keep people blissfully distracted and renders them senseless enough to put a guy like Donald Trump in the White House. Bread and circuses could be described as rape drugs, mollifying dissent and allowing those in power to take advantage of the incapacitated. However, there's always some individuals who are too smart to get roofied, and start fighting back hard. This is when the rulers in the situation resort to the second form of the bullshit vaccine - dishing out bribes, threats, and sometimes violence to get their victims to submit to them. 

This weaponization of bullshit can be seen from the micro to the macro level - in the smallest of family structures to the largest of governing bodies. First, power-hungry manipulators attempt to drug the masses with bullshit, and if that fails, they attempt to force-feed it to them. 

But why are the masses so blind to these tactics and games? As our society currently stands, it can be divided into two equally impressionable collectives: lie-screamers and truth-whisperers. The lie-screamers are loud, obnoxious control freaks, weaseling their way into the forefront and backing up their claims with a veneer of charisma and likability instead of hard evidence. Lie-screamers openly eschew knowledge and embrace dogma, acting like herdsmen and coercing the majority to follow them. When confronted with facts, they double down on their positions, because they know Brandolini's Law all too well: The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it. 

Truth-whisperers, on the other hand, are sanctimonious, ignominious scaredy-cats, and in some ways anger me even more than lie-screamers do. While the lie-screamers at least have the grit and courage to shout their delusional beliefs from the rooftops, the truth-whisperers consider this very fearlessness to be a sin, and therefore think it a type of virtue to show no conviction at all. They understand that the lie-screamers are full of shit, but never harshly criticize them out of fear of being rude, instead preaching blasé aphorisms such as, "Never fight fire with fire", or "When they go low, we go high" (I love you, Mrs. Obama, but let's get real for once, shall we?) They adhere to a dogmatic form of politeness, shushing all of those who dare to speak the truth in a tone louder than a whisper.

Both of these groups are cancer. The chemo, however, lies in being a truth-screamer: someone who is willing to aggressively speak their mind without fear of becoming a pariah. Truth-screamers do have to acknowledge the fact that it's impossible to know everything in the world, but at the same time have the sheer conviction to stand up for the right causes and what is known to be true. 

Of course, truth-screamers are rare for a multitude of reasons, one of which being the Dunning-Kruger effect. Rousseau said, "People who know little are usually great talkers, while men who know much say little", which is quite the hypocritical nugget of wisdom, coming from a man who fooled an entire town into believing he was a renowned composer despite the fact that he couldn't read a single note of music, and mooned random women in the streets hoping they would spank him. I sometimes wonder why Mr. Rousseau didn't try his hand at BDSM fanfiction to rake in all the cash à la E.L. James. But I guess he was just too...tied up...with other things.

Sorry, I had to. 

I digress. My point is, in order to rid the world of the bullshit vaccine, the truth needs to be screamed. It needs to be unapologetically yelled through art, literature, music, comedy, and science. It needs to be empowered, uplifted, and guarded - no matter how unsettling it may be. The Bible says that the meek shall inherit the earth, but guess what - the dumb have inherited the earth, and they ain't planning on giving it up anytime soon. If us truth-screamers don't come out of the closet and stop being meek, the world would continue to be run by two equally dangerous groups: 1. Ignorant attention whores who lie through their teeth for money and fame, and 2. Lily-livered asswagons who don't have the fortitude to put their money where their mouth is. 

So how exactly does one become a truth-screamer? And what does the role entail? I've found that in order to be a truth-screamer, one has to embrace radical freedom. Freedom is a crucial component to seeing the truth. Only with an open, unfiltered, receptive mind will you be able to determine where your conviction should lie, and only by discarding meaningless rules and conventions will you be able to uninhibitedly express that conviction. Here are several ways to attain radical freedom which I have observed from personal experience...

1. Get addicted to knowledge. Knowledge is a direct gateway to freedom, and contrary to what your teachers/parents/village idiots may have conditioned you to believe, knowledge is not a chore. If it feels like a chore, you're doing it wrong.

I was raised with the principle that knowledge - whatever kind it may be - is always power. It's a fundamentally belief in my house that the more you know about something, the less likely it is to bite you in the ass at some point. Whether it be rocket science or TMZ gossip, all information can come in handy to some degree. As a result, I've always tried to quell my ignorance with curiosity.

True radical freedomists never pit different types of knowledge against each other, or make judgments about who deserves the hallowed title of "intellectual" and who does not. Those well-versed in esoterica shouldn't feel like they abdicated their "holy posts" by dabbling in pop culture, and those who enjoy current music and modern literature shouldn't feel like dullards and plebeians, either.

I'm trying my best to embrace the multiplicity of knowledge. I have many a time devoured an issue of Cosmo with gusto at the hair salon, and have also pondered the philosophical insights contained within Beyond Good and Evil. Rachmaninov and Liszt are my homeboys, and Rihanna is my homegirl. I have talked at length about the influence of the golden ratio in the Hammerklavier sonata with a professor, and have acknowledged the sexiness of Ryan Gosling among girlfriends. And guess what, all you Judgy McJudgersons reading this - I commit the gravest of sins that any "intellectual" could ever commit every week - I watch reality TV. Yeah, you read that right. In fact, I've religiously watched every season of American Idol and America's Got Talent since they premiered. You mad, bro? 

Sometimes people try to distance themselves from certain types of information because they consider them to be bread and circuses, and fear being brainwashed. But bread and circuses, as insidious as their uses can be, are not dangerous in and of themselves. The poet Cicero had once remarked, "The evil was not in bread and circuses per se, but in the willingness of people to sell their rights as free men for full bellies and the excitement of the games which would serve to distract them from the other human hungers that bread and circuses can never appease." In other words, Kim Kardashian's impressive derrière is not at all to blame for the rise of the dumb. It's the people who use such entertainment to control the masses that carry the culpability. A lot of people try to find convenient answers to problems by blaming the tools instead of those who use them. Remember, guns don't kill people - people kill people. 

Consuming bread and circuses is totally okay, only if one is aware that they are bread and circuses before consumption. Resisting these entities will only lead to the creation of more sacred cows. Knowledge should never be labeled as good or bad, and suppressing information about bread and circuses only serves to increase bullshit immunity.

Knowledge is the most effective bullshit repellent. And in this day and age, when we have the totality of human information at our fingertips, there is no absolutely no excuse for not taking initiative to learn as much as we can. 

2. Transcend the herd. This is perhaps the most obvious step towards pursuing radical freedom. In order to see the truth, one must escape the collective mindset. 

Many TV shows and books have plots centered around herds, like the trope of a high school girl doing just about anything to be accepted by her peers and considered "popular". When I was younger, I remember scoffing indignantly at these hackneyed plots and wondering - what exactly was so alluring about the herd? Who on earth would want to relinquish their rights just to "fit in"? Later, I grew to understand it better. Herds attract people by presenting as bastions of order and peace. They advertise false senses of companionship, often at the cost of personal freedoms. Hierarchical structures give the impression of reason and order with powerful, seemingly reliable leaders at the top, but in fact, these leaders are just deeply frightened, insecure herdsmen. Examine the leaders behind any ideology from the past to the present and you will find that their actions are driven by crippling fear - fear of conflicting ideas, fear of the opposite sex, fear of those who look different than the majority of those in that group, etc. Most deep of all is the fear of loss of control over others. These fears actually make these self-proclaimed "top dogs" entirely dependent on their brainwashed followers, as they know that they have no true skills of their own and would be nothing without mobs to back them up. The moment their flocks of sheep leave them in search of greener grass to graze on, these "leaders" would be seen for what they truly are - unintelligent, untalented, glorified nobodies. 

It was these nobodies who invented the bullshit vaccine to subdue the truly worthy, talented and powerful individuals with fear. They arm themselves with hordes of zombies, because that is the only way they are able to accumulate power. And since the lives of insightful, free, creative individuals are often lonely uphill battles, these herdsmen sometimes manage to gaslight them into becoming eternally frightened of challenging the status quo. These individuals reluctantly come to the conclusion that conformity is better for their mental peace, and eventually lose their allergy to bullshit, which is downright dangerous. 

All this calls to mind a chapter of Thus Spake Zarathustra, in which Zarathustra carries a corpse in search of a suitable place to bury it. He then has the profound insight that true "creators" (enlightened individuals) do not desire to accumulate "corpses", or followers who mindlessly worship them, nor desire to have herdsmen ruling over them. Rather, creators desire companions, who treat each other as equals and increase each other's knowledge without unfair comparison, animosity, or jealousy. In order to transcend the herd and own one's individuality, knowing one's intentions and keeping the right company is paramount. Fear nothing, and laugh in the face of both flattery and degradation.

3. Don't sweat the small stuff. Another reason why intelligence and creativity have gone to hell in a handbasket is that everyone is constantly offended about everything. Political correctness has commandeered so much of the world, watering down individualism and aiding in the formation of angry mobs. In America, for instance, PC culture can be seen across the sociopolitical spectrum. When Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem before a football game as a genuine, peaceful protest against police brutality, conservative neanderthals lost the last couple of marbles that were rolling around in their tiny heads and showed just how many red, white, and blue sticks were stuck up their asses. On the other hand, when Milo Yiannopoulos emphatically proclaimed that feminism is cancer at UMass Amherst last year, his incendiary statement provoked what could only be described as a mass triggering in the audience of illiberal leftist students, complete with shrieking, yelling, and perhaps most memorably - a whale violently echolocating

Alright, alright that went way too far. I sincerely apologize to all whales worldwide for making such a terrible comparison. 

Time and time again, I have observed that outrage culture and idiot culture go hand-in-hand. By constantly sweating the small stuff, narrow-minded ideologues are derailing progress by attempting to curb people's artistic and political freedoms. And as if all this weren't enough, they actually demand special treatment for sweating the small stuff - believing that people don't have the right to offend, but that they somehow have the right not to be offended. They either resort to authoritarian silencing tactics and threats, or throw tantrums as an effort to swindle others into believing they are the victims. Clearly, they didn't learn the significance of the old adage, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me", and ended up becoming a bunch of crybabies.

People often forget that all ideas - cultures, religions, philosophies, and movements - are fair game for modification, disdain, critique, and even ruthless mockery. They do not deserve respect or protection because they are all flawed human constructs. Sadly, a dangerously strong sense of identity blurs this simple concept beyond comprehension and leads many into internalizing their ideas, which deludes them into equating conflicting thoughts with acts of violence. Perhaps the most dangerous side effect of political correctness is the fact that it leads to serious issues being ignored. An effective fire alarm would go off when smoke is detected, but not every single time you try to deep-fry something. When sanctimonious, perpetually incensed narcissists "cry wolf" over mere words, they draw attention from the real, sinister cases of systemic inequality, discriminatory violence, and infringements of human rights taking place around the world. 

Of course, freedom of thought inevitably leads to disagreement, and that's great. Disagreement is a healthy tool for furthering knowledge and stopping the creation of echo chambers. However, calling for censorship is not. Yes, there are really bad views and bad speech, but the only solution to bad views are good views and the only solution to bad speech is good speech. If you can't be fucked to make a valid argument that prioritizes veracity and doesn't resort to demonization, guilt-tripping, and identity politics, calm your tits and seek dialogue that appeals to you elsewhere. Twisted panties might be your kink, but they're just a pain in the ass for the rest of us. 

4. Do no harm, but take no shit. Everyone always carps about life not being fair, and it's true - life is just about as fair and balanced as Fox News. One of the major teachings of the Buddha was on the Four Noble Truths that govern life, and the first of these truths was the existence of suffering in life. However, the Third Noble Truth teaches that suffering is not permanent, and neither should it be considered the natural state of life. There is always a way out of suffering and into happiness, and this way should definitely be pursued. In other words, just because life may not always be fair, it doesn't mean we shouldn't try to make it as fair as possible. 

What many of us don't realize that in addition to becoming numb to bullshit, many of us knowingly put up with it, too. We don't speak up when we are discriminated against or take control of tough situations out of fear of being an outcast, or "rocking the boat" in some way. It might seem as if I'm contradicting myself right now, having just ranted about how overly sensitive society has become a couple paragraphs ago, but the point I'm trying to make here is quite different. Ayaan Hirsi Ali said, "Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice". If unfair situations arise, swift words and actions are required. Don't get emotional and don't lose your head, but bite back with logic and reason. Passivity has gotten us nowhere thus far and will get us nowhere now. 

One should never hesitate to call a spade a spade. Enough of filtering reality through the lenses of perception and watering it down in the name of preserving the delicate sensibilities of people. The only critical thing is for the crux of your argument to be based on the truth. In this sense, how you say something should never be as important as what you're trying to say. 

Diogenes the Cynic was the quintessential radical freedomist who never took shit from anyone. He spent his days striding through the streets of Athens without a care in the world. He decried the artificiality of human conduct, and believed that most social conventions of modesty and politeness were useless vehicles for self-aggrandizement. To prove his point and live by his principles, he slept in a barrel, argued loudly with passers-by, urinated on those who insulted him, and masturbated in the marketplace. He also believed firmly in human equality and had no respect for arbitrary, manmade power divides. Nearly everyone knows the famous anecdote of King Alexander the Great paying him a visit:

Alexander: Diogenes, my man! You're the bee's knees and your insights are fire. I'm more than willing to kiss your enlightened, cynical ass. What do you wish for more than anything in the world? Remember, I'm the king, so I can get you any bling you want.
Diogenes: I want you to get the hell out of my cave, you pompous fuckwhistle. You're blocking the sunlight!
Alexander: Ah, such rugged intellectualism! I may be rich and powerful, but I'm dying to take off my skin and envelop myself in your likeness! 
Diogenes: ...
Alexander: No homo. 

Obviously, I'm not advocating jerking off in the streets or peeing on people you don't like (unless it's Donald Trump, in which case, go ahead - he'll thank you for saving him money that he would've paid Russian hookers to do the deed), but I do believe that we care way too much about keeping the majority happy and maintaining a fictitious idea of peace. Not only is it impossible to please everyone, but it's especially dangerous to attempt such a thing, as the truth almost inexorably ends up in the back seat. Speak your mind and stand up for what you believe in without fear - those who matter won't mind, and those who mind won't matter. 

5. Live and let live. This final principle pretty much speaks for itself. It would be useless for me to explain it any further. As long as you're not physically taking away another living being's freedom, you can think, do, and say whatever you desire, and vice-versa. 

That's all, folks. Live and let live. It's that easy. 

Of course, there is much more to being a truth-screamer, but the points I outlined certainly make for a good start. Everything else just branches off from these critical principles. Once fear is overcome, the bullshit vaccine can be eradicated. Get out of your echo chamber. Listen more, and when you speak, speak loudly and brashly. Be an asshole, but be a truthful and compassionate one. And most importantly, you're all individuals. Remember that. 

Now if you would excuse me, I need to stop writing now. America's Got Talent is on and I don't want to miss it. 

1 comment:

  1. Brilliant article, Tussah! I loved it! You are so right. Your writing is really clever, funny, interesting and fun to read. Can I borrow the article for HCH? Many kisses from Madrid! / Antonia

    ReplyDelete