Monday, September 12, 2016

Hope, Possibility, and Sickness

When a sick old human being is dying--even a sick old evil human being--we don't do ourselves and others well by delighting in that person's infirmity. It is good for the world if a vile murderer--a criminal kingpin who has participated in robbery and extortion and rape and child-starving and the murder of both the criminal's purported allies and the defenseless and harmless among the criminal's purported enemies--is going to exit the world, and it is good for the world if such a killer is merely going to become sick and unable to commit crimes any more, or unable to commit them as effectively, but shameful joy should not be our response. Pragmatically, delighting in such fortunes, even if deserved, fosters a world of such delights, which will not serve us nor our kin nor anyone else well during our own weakness. Tribal passions wax and wane, and none are free of sin, nor every form of ambition. That sword that gives us so much pleasure now, whether publicly or privately, might come back to cut us.

We here are not God. We here do not impose sickness or health. If God sent the tsunami that destroyed the sinners, why did He also give Grandma cancer? Why did He give you cancer? Why all those miscarriages? If God made the dark lord sick, and if it was a just punishment after decades of malfeasance, why did He permit said malfeasance? The equations of perfect justice are beyond your ability here to appreciate, and if you try to do so, you are laughing at all the wrong parts of the movie, trying in vain to show that you understand the joke, and God is embarrassed for you.

Neither should inordinate curiosity be our response. If a sick old person is being used as a puppet, the sick person and the details of the person's condition are irrelevant. It is of vast importance--it is of epic, world-historical, undeniable importance, about which no curiosity can be inordinate--that a sick person is being used as a puppet. In such a case, we should indeed be curious, intensely curious, focusing on the disgusting and macabre horde of liars and schemers who are using the sick person; who are making themselves part of a terrible, inhuman, utterly wrong scheme, which can only be being perpetrated for the worst of reasons. But the sick, confused, dodderingly incapable puppet, vaguely motivated by decades of habit and the shadows of dimly-remembered dreams, merits pity, or perhaps rescue, or perhaps indifference, but not the sort of cruel, prodding joy that reveals us sadists only waiting our turn. The armed soldiers, the mystics and the healers, the confidential agents and the serious advisers: these monsters are treasonous and cruel, both to us and to history and to their sad, half-aware puppet, and it is by their terrible props and strings, and the binding and horrifically punitive agreements that encourage them to abandon their honor, the jealous secrecies they uphold, that we have shown ourselves incapable of crafting a society that can protect us and them at our darkest. The precise details of the decaying puppet's incapacity are irrelevant, worth only exhibits at the trials of the attendants who violated oaths of word and spirit in order to obey.

* * *

Years ago, this one lamented the death of Robin Bush. Not because the demoness Barbara Bush or her steaming spawn deserved no ills in life, or because the many millions of children she would later help her husband rend and poison deserved their lives any less than Robin, but because of the precious one-trillionth percentage chance that Robin would have been a good person who might have dissuaded her older brother George W. to call off the invasion that one time. In that moment, the confused young version of Dubya, who looked in the thesaurus for synonyms and wrote "the lacerates flowed down my cheeks" on his school assignment, was just a little boy describing his baby sister's death. We know not what the world would have been if she had charmed her father, or begged her brother, into selecting a different path.

We do not exonerate the thief or the killer for these might-have-beens, oh no. We do not free them of the responsibility of choice, the origination and nurturing of foul desire, or the final surrender to wrongness which precipitated each of their acts and, indeed, set them on the paths down which they find themselves. For ourselves, we do not forgive the evil of those who fully expressed it at every crucial point in their lives. We may ask ourselves, "What would Roosevelt have become, if he had not been so feeble of mind and body; not been so reliant on Hopkins and Stalin and those lurking bankers?" We may ask these questions, and we should ask them, without growing dangerously wistful and permitting the subject of our retrospective inquiries the freedom to wreak further rape and ruin. Being prone to the full extent of dark whispers may serve as a defense in trials held beyond this existence, but here, such weakness is a crime tantamount to originating those same plots.

And so the just must protect. Yet they are just only when it is not a rotting pleasure, but a burdensome duty, which compels them to act. Schadenfreude at the misfortunes of the evil ones is the first step toward finding your own self surrounded by handlers, serving as a conduit for powers you no longer generate from within, on behalf of unseen faces in the murky darkness of the remains of your mind. Cruel laughter tastes the sweeter when it is deserved, we tell ourselves, and there begins our own journey toward an end that, from here, seems impossible. We marvel at those far down the path: how could someone become so very wrong?

Pity the lost. Take care that you do not go to join them.


  1. Damn!
    The idea is probably to let Hillary die/become incapacitated after the election, and for the dark horse Tim Kaine to take the reins.
    For that reason precisely it is not as fun to watch her go down - it's not as if she had any agency to begin with.

    1. If she goes before, Bernie's triumphant return could suddenly galvanize the white masochist vote, and make a Democratic victory seem more plausible. If she goes later, they would love to attribute it to a white gunman with a history of mental troubles motivated by a De Niro movie and use it to justify a Cohen Act, some kind of atmospheric somatic, or both.

  2. But what if we try really really hard to be good, but then, despite our best efforts, a little bit of schadenfreude still slips through? Will we go to hell then? (After all, we can't really control our own thoughts.)

    1. To some extent, only we know how genuine our efforts really are. That genuinity is crucial. We test ourselves by floating different urges and satisfactions, et cetera, through the various media by which we exist here, and choosing among those is one of the ways we shape and understand who we were, are, and will be.

    2. .....Or, at least, who we pretend to be.

      Then again, as Kurt Vonnegut once said (I think it was in Cat's Cradle, but it might have been in Mother Night), "We are who we pretend to be."

      You seem to be channeling Kurt.

    3. Is that a reading recommendation? I'll put him on the list.

    4. I hadn't meant it that way, but I'd definitely recommend them. A lot of the stuff I liked in high school hasn't aged well, but I actually reread Cat's Cradle in 2010 and enjoyed it a lot. Haven't read Mother Night in a long time, but I'll vouch for that as well. That one came out of Vonnegut's WWII experience of watching the bombing of Dresden, and you can almost feel the shell shock (what PTSD was called back in those days) he felt coming through from between the lines of the book.