The path to oblivion lurks behind every step we take and each moment of any day.

As in life itself, we can choose at any time to make an act of self-destruction: throw ourselves in front of the oncoming train, drink the turpentine, or pull that convenient plastic bag over our faces. Each moment can be our destruction if we choose it to be so.

A different kind of oblivion also exists in each and every moment. We can choose to turn away from what we know is real, objective and external and instead hide within our own minds in notions that are subjective and internal.

When a society is formed of laws and economics, there is no actual shared goal, and so people are accustomed to two modes. In the first, they defer to the external, which is either authority or social pressures. In the second, they pursue their own desires, feelings and judgments in defiance of the external. In other words, like miscreants they obey the letter of the law and twist everything else to serve their own wants.

This deference to the external makes it easy for people to ignore the consequences of their own behavior. If the law designed to prevent criminality makes it illegal to steal, they will invent ways to steal by coercing or deceiving others. Other than what the law says is bad, everything is OK.

But they feel justified in what they do because they are obeying the laws, and the laws are forced on them by their fellow citizens, and obeying the law — nevermind the “spirit” of the law, that’s not scientific — is the only requirement.

A milder form of this is found in everyday oblivion. On her way to work, the average person passes at a least a dozen obviously bad behaviors. It’s not our job to fix them; that’s for the cops and stuff, even if this means nothing is ever done. It’s a carte blanche to ignore the world and focus on the self.

They tend to view this dichotomy of modes such that the second mode is entirely “pleasure” and the first mode is entirely “obligation.” This makes them feel like victims of obligation imposed on them by society at large, and thus take great sneering delight in cheating it to support pleasure.

In fact, our tendency toward external authority and social pressures makes it easy for people to ignore the consequences of their own behavior entirely. That in turn means they stop observing consequences at all. When we have elections, the campaign promises are considered to be the event. Those happened. The results of those promises? No one is counting — we have separated consequence from cause.

Instead, they do what they are told and the society becomes one of social image and not actions which are calculated to produce results. The more they externalize, the more oblivious and the more helpless the citizens become. They take image at face value and consider it more real than reality itself.

While they wander down this pleasant-feeling path to oblivion, the myriad details which are the consequences of not-quite-right-but-legal oblivious actions tend to pile up and drag the civilization under, unnoticed by those who are too busy focusing on their own pleasures.

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15 Responses to “Oblivion”

  1. Esotericist says:

    Rules are popular for this reason. They’re easy to evade.

    When we had a substitute teacher day in grade school, the first thing we did was get her to set up rules like no shooting rubberbands.

    Then we threw spitwads.

    It always took half the class period at least for her to catch up.

    • A. Realist says:

      Did you also try to evade the rule against rape? I imagine that would be a fun discussion. Some rules are necessary and it’s a natural human tendency to make rules like “don’t sexor the wimminz if they neg the cock.”

      • Sun says:

        Well from an evolutionary and biological standpoint some men do try to evade the rule against rape to pass on their genes. Forceful behavior is one sexual strategy in doing so.

        Humans are uncomfortable with the idea that all animals rape.

        But you did make me laugh, sir.

        • Sun says:

          Yes I realize that humans are more advanced animals, but we’re still animals.

          “Welcome to the jungle we take it day by day
          If you want it you’re gonna bleed but it’s the price to pay
          And you’re a very sexy girl that’s very hard to please
          You can taste the bright lights but you won’t get there for free
          In the jungle welcome to the jungle
          Feel my, my, my serpentine
          Ooh, I want to hear you scream”

        • A. Realist says:

          If we can’t laugh about rape, what can we laugh about? I am uncertain whether rape would be a successful biological strategy. The rapist would have no input in the raising of the children, who would be under stress as children of rape, and so it’s possible that the following generation would not pass on his genes. Natural selection is not just one generation considered, but thousands. But it’s true that “surprise sex” does occur in the animal kingdom, or even if you let a dog near a table leg.

        • EvilBuzzard says:

          In order to keep “Game” civilized, you have to have a penalty against unnecessary roughness. Chop enough rapist willies off and gentlemen remember to behave like gentlemen.

          • This seems to be the idea behind deterrence in general. As someone is considering crime, he looks up to see the head (or willy) severed on a pole and re-thinks. If he cannot re-think, he’s insane and needs to exit society via another passage.

            • EvilBuzzard says:

              Unfortunately, that’s the only way to really get a large mass of people into line. All societies start out as managerial ones. If you ever sit down and read Exodus, Numbers and Dueteronomy, it took a heck of a lot of management by Moses to turn twelve tribes of barbarians into the Jewish Culture. The way in which the 10 Commandments were brought down from the mountain is a case study in using dominance and intimidation to cow an unruly mass into obedience.

              • A. Realist says:

                I’m not sure I agree here. I think at least some societies were born from other societies, when the people who did not need to be told not to rape got together and said, “Hey, if we lose all these rapists, we can have a pretty nice society.” Just sayin’

            • A. Realist says:

              I am skeptical of deterrence. People who commit crimes like rape are not long-term thinkers. You commit rape to achieve sexual dominance over another being. This is a crime of excess passions not for sex but for power, which in that case is probably a need to bolster self-esteem. This is why many rapists were themselves raped as children. They grow up to act out that original trauma again and again, but this time, they’re on top. When people commit rapes, murders, burglaries, and so on it is because they lack the long-term thinking ability to see a way around whatever their immediate problem or desire is. Deterrence as a result is totally useless except for wimpy nerds who would probably not commit these crimes anyway. Our society maintains the public fiction of deterrence to avoid the grim truth, which is that some people are born bad and some born just OK and some born good, and if you chuck out the bad and or “just OKs,” you end up with almost zero crime. In the USA we are afraid of this idea because it would end up with us chucking out most of the white lower classes, and those and the people who profit from their purchases are united in making sure we can’t do that. The symbol they generally use is race but I think the real target is protecting white urban working classes from getting exiled to Africa when the suburban middle classes note that such people rut like pigs, steal, drink, lie, cheat and defraud on a regular basis. The tension in America is not really between executive power and laws, but between a suburban middle class and its servant caste of working classes.

  2. Colleen says:

    Hi, I’ve been following this blog for a couple of weeks with great interest. Forgive me if my question seems naive or you’ve all had this conversation already, but I was wondering, Brett (or anybody else), if you had any thoughts on what we can do right now in our own lives to move towards a society that is ruled less by law than by consensus about how people should act. In particular, I’ve been wondering to what extent it might be possible to resurrect older codes of honor, and what strategies such an undertaking would require from us as individuals who are operating within a society that has little concept of honor.

    • This is a great question, and deserves a longer answer in the future.

      However, the short answer is:

      (1) Start acting according to your values.
      (2) Drop out of destructive behaviors.
      (3) Agitate and proselytize for your values.
      (4) Join with others to form intentional communities.
      (5) Subvert, undermine and make paradoxical all countervailing values.

      These summaries don’t tell you much, but the first step for me at least was a combination of the first and second, namely starting to act as I feel people should and removing myself from behaviors and situations that contradicted my values system.

      • A. Realist says:

        I know you’re writing in summary form, but how do you “start acting according to your values” in a time that makes those values all but taboo?

        • crow says:

          You need only convince yourself that what others may think of you, and your behaviour, is neither here nor there.
          Many people say this, but very few achieve it.
          It’s called ‘freedom’.
          I suppose it takes a degree of courage, to stop being the nominally social creature you naturally are, and to start being truly selective about socializing.
          Having honor, for example, is extraordinarily powerful. It can actually scare people off. Honesty is strength, contrary to what most people would assume. You get respect, most of all, from yourself.
          And, finally, ‘acting’ any particular way is not going to cut it.
          That’s where all our problems originated.
          Stop ‘acting’, start ‘being’.
          Discovering the difference between the two, is the challenge (:>

    • A. Realist says:

      All groups make change the same way. A few people get together and agree on what their demands are. They then present a unified front with those demands. “If you don’t agree to this list here, you lose 5% of the vote.” This makes those demands become politically legitimate. That allows you to talk about those demands in public and make them sound sexy. Then out of the great masses some will start to follow along. That means you have a special interest group. Now you can either lobby your politicians, or get together enough people to make direct change or seize some territory and rule it as you see fit. I would really like to live in a state or nation-state put together in the Amerika.org way, because I think it would be a more do-it-yourself place but one without so many encumberances and internal sabotages.

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