Sunday, February 26, 2012

Is Love the Meaning of Life?

No, it’s not, contrary to the sentimental meme. Reading or hearing the sappier assurances that all you need is love triggers my gag reflex. For example, as quoted in Chris Hedges’ recent article, "Acts of Love," even the existential psychologist Viktor Frankl rhapsodizes “that love is the ultimate and the highest goal to which man can aspire,” that “the meaning of the greatest secret that human poetry and human thought and belief have to impart” is that “The salvation of man is through love and in love.” Luckily, Chris Hedges' defense of the meme is slightly more readable, so I'll summarize and discuss his article to elucidate why love is not our highest good after all, contrary to popular opinion.

Chris Hedges on Love

Hedges summarizes his view of why love is so great:
Love, the deepest human commitment, the force that defies empirical examination and yet is the defining and most glorious element in human life, the love between two people, between children and parents, between friends, between partners, reminds us of why we have been created for our brief sojourns on the planet. Those who cannot love--and I have seen these deformed human beings in the wars and conflicts I covered--are spiritually and emotionally dead. They affirm themselves through destruction, first of others and then, finally, of themselves. Those incapable of love never live.
According to Hedges, love is opposed to loneliness, which is the “most acute form of human suffering.” As he explains, “The isolated human individual can never be fully human. And for those cut off from others, for those alienated from the world around them, the false covenants of race, nationalism, the glorious cause, class and gender compete, with great seduction, against the covenant of love.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Sex is Violent: Why the F-Word is Taboo

Romantic love is frequently touted as the chief politically correct prerequisite for being happy in secular society. But because the causal relationship between finding a life partner and being happy is politically correct, you can be sure that the idea of this relationship is metaphysically, naturally, and in all other ways that matter to those who care about knowledge, wrong. Politically correct notions are propaganda signals that beam back and forth between social interest groups to maintain power imbalances; these notions are tools of social manipulation, not propositions backed up by critical thinking, scientific investigation, or artistic vision. A connoisseur of human folly evaluates mainly the aesthetics of politically correct blather, appreciating the efficiency with which PC notions distort reality sometimes in the service of human vice. (See Political Correctness.)

That the idea that romantic love makes you happy is merely politically correct, and thus substantively erroneous, is apparent from the attendant language game. Of course, romantic love culminates in the sex act, and yet the double standard in our treatment of words that refer to sex is most curious. The clinical word “sex” is perfectly acceptable in the mass media, but the F-word is taboo even while superficially those two words are synonymous. The trick is that their connotations differ. “Sex” calls to mind the biological process of having sex, as in “sexual intercourse” or “copulation.” The F-word, however, has metaphysical rather than mere scientific force, calling to mind the sex act’s deeper meaning. What is this deeper meaning? Well, the F-word gives away the game in its nonsexual uses, as in “Fuck him up,” “Fuck off!” or “He’s fucked.” In these uses, the F-word refers to violence or ruination. You might be wondering what violence has to do with the sex act, with the consummation of romantic love which is supposed to elevate us like nothing else, according to the PC happy-talk.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Sacrificial Offering to Our Lord, the Dentist

Undergoing a dental cleaning is well-known as being a painful experience, but assuming the hygienist doesn’t mishandle her instruments and accidentally cut your lip, no one’s to blame for the pain caused by the scraping of plaque from your teeth with blunt metal tools. On the contrary, this pain serves the greater good of keeping your teeth and gums healthy. However, there’s a subtler but more profound form of suffering inflicted on these occasions--and by the dentist himself rather than by the hygienist. (All the hygienists I’ve ever seen have been women, while all the dentists have been men, but this is neither here nor there.)

Assuming your teeth are healthy, the dentist nevertheless perpetrates the scam of his “Examination and Diagnosis,” as it’s called on the bill. What happens is the following. You lie back in the dentist’s chair for about an hour while the hygienist uses various instruments to remove the plaque buildup and then to polish your teeth. So far no swindle, but just pain for the greater good. Then the dentist drops in, looks inside your mouth for about twenty seconds, absentmindedly touching your teeth a few times with one of his metal instruments, and he pronounces your teeth healthy and walks out. Those twenty seconds of his “work” cost you $30 CAD on top of the fee for the teeth cleaning. You can protest at the outset that you don’t need to see the dentist himself, since you know your teeth have always been fine and there’s been no recent change. But from my experience, dentists will insist that you undergo their personal “examinations” at least every once in a while or else the office will refuse to accept you as a patient even for a cleaning. So a hidden cost of having your teeth professionally cleaned is that you’ve got to let the dentist perform a cursory look-see; hence I speak of the extortion, which is to say, of the wresting of money by an abuse of authority. Unlike the removal of plaque, the dentist’s examination serves no greater good unless, of course, you have a history of problems with your teeth, such as cavities, which requires expert monitoring.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Games, Sports, and Mixed Martial Arts

In species of social animals, rules emerge to govern the animals’ behaviour, complicating biological and other, more general natural laws. The more a species is preoccupied with its social conventions, the more it develops a culture that makes no sense from a foreigner’s perspective, the more the members tend to detach themselves from natural reality, especially if they’re not informed by the link to nature provided by an objective empirical investigation. Without that link, or when citizens favour antiscientific sources of information, which marginalize science in decadent, self-centered and xenophobic societies, the citizens can fiddle while Rome burns. In the latter years of the ancient Roman Empire, gladiators engaged in mock combats and other brutal “games” to distract the citizens from the signs of Rome’s collapse. Had the citizens then a crystal ball in which they could have foreseen the horrors of the Dark Age that would follow the collapse, they might have regarded the games as absurdly, even shamefully divorced from reality. While the barbarians pounded at the gates, the uninformed or deluded masses preferred the spectacle of more controlled warfare which maintained the illusion of Roman hegemony. Just as the emperor dictated whatever happened on the mock battlefield in the microcosm which was the Coliseum, with a mere raising or lowering of his thumb, so too his military crushed foreign uprisings.

Today, there are numerous mainstream sports, including tennis, golf, baseball, soccer, football, hockey, basketball, curling, and cricket, which are relatively harmless diversions, although their players are often injured. Then there are more brutal sports, such as hunting, boxing, mixed martial arts (MMA), sumo wrestling, and dog or cock fighting. What's the relationship between these kinds of sport, and what does that relationship teach us about ourselves?