I have an IRL and FB friend who asked me a question. I responded, he asked for clarification, and I was too busy to offer a good response because I was barbelling on the lunch break of my seventeen hour day. I think I’ll type that out, since this is a better way to show up anyhow.
So, the post was something about the political Left having lost its mind, according to the Rolling Stone magazine editor. I posted it, because it mirrored my own thoughts in recent weeks. My friend R was like, “I’m left and don’t really relate to this,” type thing. I said I used to be Left, for sure — I mean, what was the alternative, these Bible thumping wing nuts disproportionately obsessed with abortion when apparently it’s open season on every other form of life, like, all the time? I’ve always had big issues with the political Right as I’ve interpreted it.
And, caveat — I wrote an entire prior blog about how I’m the least qualified person, by education and temperament, to be commenting on anything political. I remember a flyer on the School of Performing Arts cork board, when I was a student at NAU, for an indie film called “The Political is Personal” and I guess it is, to the extent I’m wiling to wade in, anyway.
So anyway, I told this friend, “Yeah I used to be Left but I can’t hang anymore” basically. He goes “why” and I essentially said “because victim narrative feels like a dead end to me” and he goes “huh?” and I said “hang on I’m working out, will respond later” lol. I don’t want to check the conversation for accuracy because I don’t want to melt my brain yet looking at social media. So here’s that response. I will probably be interrupted a billion times in typing it, so I ask your indulgence in what will likely be a scattered offering.
I wouldn’t work a job where there was a lot of built-in emotionality connected to my pay. Not because I’m an un-emotional person, but because work is a transaction where a demand for emotionality, or to field anyone else’s emotions beyond a certain point, is a dangerous imposition. I want remuneration that makes sense, responsibilities I can manage, a chain of command that works, discussion and troubleshooting that’s direct and straightforward, etc. I don’t want there to be any feeling of walking on eggshells, let alone landmines, when it comes to my job. Why? Because I need money. Whether I’m in the mood to be social or not, emotional or not, expressive or not; I need money, 365 days a year.
Similarly, I actively distrust political rhetoric with a high degree of emotionality, and particularly the conflation of emotionality with recognition of importance (i.e., ‘if you’re not upset, you’re not paying attention!’ type thing). Again, not because emotionality doesn’t have its place in my life — it does — but I don’t want that place to overlap with those transactions and contracts I need upheld on both ends, in order to physically operate in the world.
Needless to say, it’s with this healthy skepticism I observe the increasingly loaded pathos appeals of the Left. The Right does it too — I mean, it’s everywhere, because it’s an effective way to manipulate people — and sure, I get upset or concerned or emotional about things going on in the world on my own time, with my own people, in my own way. But essentially the fastest way to alienate me is to construct a politics that’s performatively and chronically clutching its pearls, a’froth with moral indignation. ‘If you’re not upset, you’re not paying attention!’ I am upset — I’m upset that, instead of the digital information choose-your-own-adventure which ought to be the natural byproduct of a society organized around free speech, free thought, and freedom from ideological tyranny, we’re EMOTIONALLY manipulated like cats with laser pointers — and then we’re stupid enough to chase the lasers around!
I’m skeptical of these accusations, coming it seems exclusively from my Left-leaning social media friends, that I’m not upset enough, I’m not taking [whatever] seriously enough, I’m not adopting enough vicarious affront, I’m not performing enough righteous indignation, I’m not obeising myself to the right bleeding heart cause du jour. My Right-leaning friends — and I realize this is a highly anecdotal and subjective assessment — seem to just get that you can think things and feel things and discuss things, like a human being, without blowing your rape whistle about it.
It could just be that I have an odd sample group influencing my perceptions unduly. Or that I’m onto something. Or it’s another thing entirely. All I know — which is all I can speak to, right now — is that I absolutely refuse to shit my pants on command just because the news media, largely Left of center, insists we must all shit our pants, immediately and unceasingly, about every new thing, at all times. I just don’t own enough pants for this kind of political rhetoric.
Obviously we need a spectrum between a Left and a Right that evolves over time because constant challenge to political ideology is important. I’m never like “oh I wish this whole side would go away”. Just like science and religion — they both address crucial questions about our existence. Which is why I *love* spiritual metaphysics — finally, a baby with very little bathwater. Anyway, I don’t think the political Left is actually about victim narrative, anymore than I think the political Right is actually about drone-bombing dark skinned people while protesting abortion clinics — we just have these frictions along the spectrum that are, you know, appropriated strategically by the nearest HQ.
And when those appropriations get really out of control, even then I don’t think things are going “wrong”, at least metaphysically — we’re always experimenting, as individuals, communities, nations, and internationally: what happens if we run this thought program? Turns out some thought programs have a better outcome than others. I mean, look at the German Aryan purity experiment – even aside from the catastrophic damage to the “out-group”, German communities themselves become absolutely retarded, within just a couple generations, when they stop enriching their own genetic pool through normally random intermarriage.
I mean, this is a really great physical example of what we always try, but ought not to try, ideologically — “purity” of lineage, or thought, or purpose, is not only impossible but self-sabotaging. We’re supposed to have a lot of physical and ideological variety, most of which we won’t agree with. We’re fractal, exhibiting infinite variety at infinitely deeper levels. Sameness-worship is a dead end.
So the Left politics I’m responding to are really just the currently approved talking points being advanced by a media machine I don’t trust to represent politicians, politicians I don’t trust to represent their constituents, and constituents I don’t trust to have even their own best interests in mind BECAUSE absolutely nothing is more seductive than victim narrative, especially in an election year. It’s like someone offering you the psychological version of a free five-star meal — why would you not take take them up on that?
I’ve done it many times. I was just minding my own business, assuming that my problems were random happenstance at best, my own fault at worst, and then someone comes along and says “yeah but it’s so hard for women/vegans/people who grew up poor/artists/people with scoliosis/women dating these days/disappearing middle class/whatever” and man, this huge light bulb goes on. Yeah! It is hard! I am misunderstood! I am oppressed! That can be my story! And fuck, it’s probably even true! In fact, let me spend some time thinking of all the ways that’s true. Next thing you know, you’re reorganizing every interaction and experience along the lines of this new thought, retroactively.
Every narrative posture we assume has consequences and repercussions, and so pick your damn sacrifice, as Jordan Peterson likes to say.
Now, when Byron Katie said “victims are violent people”, everyone got offended, because it sounded like victim-blaming. People and groups of people are legitimately victimized (in other words, treated cruelly or unjustly) all the time — by other people, by policies, by institutions, by governments. Physically-embodied reality is kind of a big victim/perpetrator orgy at every possible level, from the micro to the macro.
Or to quote Abraham Hicks, abuse is always a chain of pain, because no one abuses except from a dis-aligned, disempowered state. We’re all middle links in the chain of pain. The Stanford prison experiments proved that basically anyone will abuse basically anyone else, under the right (wrong) circumstances, unfortunately, but this is important because, in our quest for a fix, it refers us right back to the root problem: we all carry within us the seeds of victimhood and the seeds of violence.
Now let’s talk about disempowerment, which politically means literally the opposite of my above spiritual interpretation. This is important, because it’s in our inability to distinguish between the two that we get fucked up.
Let’s take radical, tyrannical, patriarchal Islam for instance (one of my best friends is devout Muslim, and we’ve discussed all this at length) and its propensity to keep women like animals. Who is politically disempowered in this arrangement: men or women? Obviously women. Who is spiritually disempowered in this arrangement, men or women? Obviously both. I mean, to the extent that anyone’s disempowered, we’re all disempowered, in humanity’s household. But who more so? Men!
To the extent that that’s a challenging statement, you’re politically brainwashed. To the extent that you think anyone crusading around hurting others represents “empowerment”, you’re politically brainwashed. You wouldn’t meet a dog that attacks your hand when you try to pet it and say, “oh, what a marvelously empowered dog”. You also wouldn’t say that of a dog that cowers in a corner, but we know which dog is more likely salvageable — whose spirit is less bent out of true.
We know that dogs are creatures who inherently want to love and be loved, and any deviation from that represents their trauma and disempowerment. It’s hard for us to understand the same of our fellow humans, but no less true. The most violent and aggressive of us are, in fact, the most spiritually disempowered.
Now, what I’m not saying is that politically disempowered people are spiritually empowered, although they might be. The great thing about spiritual metaphysics is that anyone can learn about it (even rich, powerful people!), for any reason, at any time, even by a different name (like ‘cognitive behavioral therapy’) but it’s a path full on uncomfortable realizations, such as animal sentience. The bad thing about spiritual metaphysics is that almost no one’s interested in learning about it, for any reason, at any time, probably because of the discomfort involved. We keep approaching our problems as if they’re as simple as sticking a long hat pin into a voodoo doll that represents our enemy, and we keep being surprised that the voodoo doll actually represents — oops — us.
Spiritual physics are relevant, and if they weren’t, then human history would be something better than endless iterations of tribal warfare, oppressors and oppressed violently changing places like sodium and potassium ions with every heartbeat. And like a heartbeat, this tag-team, ionic violence keeps society going…forward…ish…but I guess the question for me is: we don’t always need to resort to the lowest, most violent, common denominator to galvanize things along, do we?
The pursuit of political empowerment demands we screw ourselves in tighter to the construct, and we can definitely accomplish good work there. It’s a shame it tends to be so mindless of a parallel pursuit of spiritual empowerment, which demands we at least entertain that notion of exiting the construct, in our own minds at least — abandon our ferociously protected link in the chain of pain. Not to “get over it” — to get above it, and connected to a larger, more inclusive ideal.
One thing you can’t do is ask others to walk away from their trauma. How long is too long, though, to grieve the loss of the experiences we deserved? I don’t know. No one but me can walk away from my trauma. No one but you can walk away from your trauma. No one but the victim can relinquish the victimhood. Nobody else gets to say when that is. We don’t want to walk away from our traumas until we’ve received apologies and reparations, which is a little like refusing to walk away from a barren tree until it produces fruit.
Here’s a problem: how do you stop living a victim narrative when the victimization is still occurring? That’s the million dollar question, right? Instead of trying to answer it, let me turn it into a statement: victimization will continue to occur until the narrative of victimhood is relinquished, and someone’s got to drop their end of that tug-of-war first. And it’s unlikely to be a career oppressor. Yikes: that makes it a lot more real.
I’m sorry to use dogs again, but they’re just so malleable — Cesar Millan brilliantly demonstrated that reality is not so simple and fixed, in terms of how any given dog “is”. He could evoke — key word, there, evoke — different behaviors from dogs than the owners, or even the dogs themselves, expected. I often, somewhat jokingly, use the phrase “christ-like state” — as in, “maybe if I can evolve to a christ-like state, Buffy will stop barking at stupid shit”. But in all seriousness, Cesar Millan demonstrated a christ-like state, within his area of expertise.
We have within us the seeds of a christ-like superpower, mostly dormant — the power of evoking differently from those around us. Do we meet apparently bad, mean people in the course of our lives? Yes. Did Cesar Millan meet apparently bad, mean dogs in the course of his work? He didn’t subscribe to that narrative in the first place, so that’s not even the question he’d consider worth asking. And that’s power.
So the question above, about victim narrative: how do we exit? Well, first by entertaining the notion that we might experience something even better without it. And second, by being willing to exit those constructs that hold us there. That construct might be our relationship to another entity, our relationship to some aspect of ourselves, or most likely, both.
What if the construct binding us to the victim narrative is un-abandon-able, and represents an essential part of our identity? Well, how would we even know? I’m actually asking. We’re incredibly shitty at investigating our own essence, minus affectation, so we default to just being reverse-constructed by those around us, usually along lowest-common-denominator lines, such as race, class, gender, or color. Most of what we mistake for “essential identity” might as well be, idk, a panel of lights that blink in response to loud noises. Or, like, a racing stripe decal. Or a sideways ball cap. Really dumb stuff.
It’s worth asking if our identity constructs, whether consciously chosen or just inherited, are worth having a series of knife fights with life, over.
Victims are violent people. It’s a shocking statement, but one of the most spiritually savvy women on earth said it, Byron Katie. What does it mean? It means that, if we seek to eradicate violence, we can’t throw it violently away from ourselves. We have to put it down gently. Not because our oppressors don’t deserve to have their tables flipped — no doubt they do — but because violence is a boomerang. Eventually, in this chain of pain that is human history, someone’s got to be intelligent enough to stop picking it up and throwing it.
I’m sorry this is such a scattered mishmash of thoughts — I’m constantly interrupted by the necessity of doing the actual job they’re actually paying me for, here, so that’s kind of a big deal, but I did want to at least put some ideas on a page. Since this awareness of having departed from some loose assemblage of values and beliefs that currently seem to represent “the Left”, and which I previously felt more commonality with, and no longer do, keeps coming up in my own consciousness and in the consciousness of those around me, more and more, it seemed important enough to spend some time on. My engagement with writing is too interrupted for me to offer better, right now.
Suffice to say, I think it’s pretty simplistic to assume that I’m over here getting pro-Trump brainwashed, which is the accusation that’s been leveled at me several times now. I could introspect on this collective thought form called “Trump” too, and maybe will at a later time, but for now I’m going to wrap up.
R, I value your intelligence, your willingness to inform yourself thoroughly, your respect for what you assume or hope is a level of sophistication in my thinking, even where it deviates from your own, and of course you know I like to write for writing’s sake. So without beating any more dead horses, here’s where my head’s at lately. I know it’s not super accessible to most people, but if my head was full of super normatively accessible thoughts, I’d honestly worry lol.